Newt Gingrich’s Improbable Rise
So, how did we get to the point where a fat, condescending, serial adulterer who left office in disgrace twelve years ago is the latest challenger for the conservative mantle?
Newt Gingrich has pronounced himself a “co-frontrunner” for the Republican nomination. The polls bear him out. So, how did we get to the point where a fat, condescending, serial adulterer who left office in disgrace twelve years ago is the latest challenger for the conservative mantle?
The Atlantic‘s Molly Ball argues that there’s been a pattern to the Not Romneys:
The revolving-door nature of the 2012 Republican primary has been much noted. But it’s not Groundhog Day. Conservative voters don’t wake up every day with no memory of what came before and then decide en masse, like goldfish, that there’s some new candidate they want to reward with their momentary favor.Rather, it helps to consider each candidate who’s found temporary favor as a reaction to what came before. Michele Bachmann was legitimate, compared to Donald Trump, and authentically passionate, compared to Tim Pawlenty. But she lacked heavyweight experience — so along came Rick Perry. Perry had a great resume, but he was a terrible salesman, so Herman Cain, the ultimate salesman, came along. Cain, though, ultimately couldn’t be taken seriously, and he was too much of an unknown quantity.Gingrich, whose persona is multifarious, manages to embody the response to all the the flawed contenders who preceded him. He has the credentials Bachmann lacks. He’s articulate, and then some, as Perry is not. Unlike Cain, he’s already been vetted — his baggage, though ample, is already well known. As Garp says after watching a plane hit the house he wants to buy in the movie version of The World According to Garp: “It’s pre-disastered. We’re safe here.”
Well, he’s certainly that. And, in fairness, while the path to his getting the nomination, much less defeating President Obama, is hard to envision, Gingrich is actually qualified for the office in a way that the other Not Romneys were not. Gingrich toots his own horn:
“None of them have the national experience and depth that I do,” he said. “I think that what I’ve done for 53 years is a solid, intense effort to find out what America needs and how to explain it and implement it.”
Gingrich is a bright guy who’s voraciously interested in ideas and the world around him. He has his PhD in European history from Tulane. He served 20 years in Congress, the last 6 of them as Speaker. He’s written more books than some of his opponents have read. So, he’s by far the most plausible of the Not Romneys to emerge thus far.
The reasons most of us have written him off are manifold.
First, he’s got a long history of morally dubious behavior. The circumstances surrounding his two divorces are disturbing. While the first is the stuff of urban legend, I’m actually much more troubled by the second which occurred when he was a middle aged man serving as Speaker of the House and leading the impeachment of a president for minor crimes surround his own affairs. And then there is the flurry of ethics charges while he was in Congress and his questionable lobbying activities afterwards.
Second, he’s simply not a good manager–which is a serious issue for someone vying to run the executive branch of our government. He’s a shrewd tactical politician and, while some might question those tactics, he was instrumental in taking over the House for the Republicans after decades of Democratic control. But he was horrendously bad as Speaker, allowing Bill Clinton to come back from the dead by the sheer ineptitude of his decisions.
Third, his prickly personality and ego issues are not conducive to either a general election campaign or four years in the White House. Not only is he decidedly not a guy most people would like to have a beer with, he’s genuinely unlikable at times.
Fourth, his moment passed quite some time ago. One gets the sense that he’s ready to dust off the Contract With America again.
Fifth, he’s hardly an antidote to Mitt Romney’s serial flip-flopping. While Romney has certainly taken different positions as a candidate for the presidential nomination of a conservative political party than he did as a candidate for and governor of one of the most liberal states in the country, Gingrich has often taken three contradictory positions on the same topic in a given week.
Gingrich is an interesting character and it’s good to have him in the race. But it’s virtually inconceivable that he’ll overcome his flaws to win the nomination. I honestly can’t see him winning Iowa or New Hampshire. And we’re running dangerously low on Not Romneys.
That sentence was a clunker. Gingrich is a moral negative, and his presence in American politics reduces us all.
And I admire that Pat Buchanan is unvarnishedly exactly what he appears to be–not an ounce of artifice in him.
But I still would never vote for him for President. Newt has the same problem. He’s easily the best “not Romney” (aside from Michael Reynolds, that is), but it is exactly who and what he is that makes me not willing to vote for him.
@john personna: Having him in the race means that we hear more intelligent conservative viewpoints and less from the nimrods. That’s a good thing. But he’s a non-starter as a nominee.
FWIW, the things that has really cinched it for me have been the old clips of Gingrich calling down fire and brimstone on those who accepted Freddie and Fannie dollars … while we now know he was also accepting those same dollars.
That goes beyond accidental or humane hypocrisy. It has to be willful deceit … either that or authentic insanity.
(Really the “damn them for their freddie money, never mind my freddie money” thing is a lot like the “pizza as vegetable” thing. It is moral bankruptcy, and the high ground is to tell these clowns to get the hell off stage.)
Lines like this are why I always try not to skim posts.
@john personna: I view Gingrich now much like I viewed Ross Perot in the mid-1990s. In Perot’s case, he was crazy as a loon. In Gingrich’s case, he’s just a repulsive figure. But both are strangely compelling at the talking head level.
I doubt many Americans share your Gingrich fetish, James.
Does Newt have faults? He certainly does, but it still doesn’t take away from the fact that he still more qualified to run the country than his fellow candidates and the current, sitting president…
What basis do you have for saying that?
It’s been 13 years since he held elected office. He’s never been an Executive in any position. He spent the decade after he left office selling himself to a wide variety of interest groups dedicated to getting the government to act in ways that benefit them.
He may be intelligent. He may have written a lot of books. Ready to be President? I don’t see it, really.
That’s like saying Jerry Sandusky is more qualified to run a charity that helps troubled boys.
@ponce: Oh, Ponce! What a shot! I’ll save that for coffee house chat.
I would rather vote for Newt than any of the above. We know his faults. He’s honest about them. I would rather have a flawed candidate who is honest about his flaws than an intellectually dishonest fake who pretends to be perfection. I find his honesty about them to be refreshing.
The Pink Flamingo
There is no way I would vote for Gingrich…but I would vote for Romney. I think his flip flopping has been exaggerated and I think he is more qualified than the other nominees…and more qualified than Obama too…as far as that is concerned.
It’s amazing seeing people who almost certainly voted for Bush calling Obama unqualified.
TRanslation: He’s a conservative and Persona doesn’t approve.
Not at all. IIf anything, Romeny’s flip flopping has been played down by the press. Once again, the leftist press is instrumental in picking the GOP candidate. We saw this with McCain. The results will be the same.
You can tell who the frontrunner is this particular week by noticing which candidate gets clobbered the most by the press and the liberals. It’s gonna the point where I’ve begun to include this site in the latter.
Whenever on other real conservative shows up on the front lines, the press and the GOP establishment insurer to go after them. Every single time. All the assaults on their character their integrity first it was Michelle Bachman well know, before that it was syrup Allen. Herman Cain. Rick Perry. Now it’s Gingrich.
Notice, however that there is one candidate who does not receive this a null inspection; that Romney. The reason seems fairly clear; he’s not a real conservative.
To understand that comment, you really need to understand the republican voter . The republican base is looking for someone who articulates their point of view. Gingrich for the most part does that pretty well. Romney, meantime has yet to come up with anything approaching a reasonable explanation of Romney care nee Obama care. I strongly suggest to you that nobody who is a true conservative is going to come up with anything of like. I would suggest you also that the majority of republicans see it that way as well, particularly the tea party.
Now I grant, that Gingrich is on record as having supported most of the key aspects of Romney care. Sometime in may of this year, if I’m not mistaken. if I’m not mistaken also, that was the same interview in which he called Paul Ryan’s plan right wing social engineering. There was some hell raised in the press over that, but not among the base.
Obviously, though, there is something about his current state of mind as expressed in his recent interviews and whatnot, that rings true with the American people, at least with the GOP base. So what’s changed? Clearly Gingrich has learned from these errors. As a result of that learning process he now articulates the conservative position. Certainly, he does so better than Romney. Which parenthetically, is why Romney still does not have widespread support among the GOP base. He just doesn’t. Indeed, it has more support among people like Persona and Anjin, than he does the base.
you would think that would be a clue.
@Eric Florack: “Romney, meantime has yet to come up with anything approaching a reasonable explanation of Romney care nee Obama care. I strongly suggest to you that nobody who is a true conservative is going to come up with anything of like. ”
Hate to break your little heart, Bitsy, but Newt spent years saying that an individual mandate for health care would be a requirement to fix the system. Of course he was being paid to say that, so maybe you can discount it.
But I can see why Newt’s your guy. As long as youj’re willing to remain ignorant of everything he’s said or done more than two months ago, he’ll say anything you want to hear. And staying ignorant really doesn’t seem to be a problem for you or the others who meet your qualifications for a “real conservative.”
@WR: Oh, my, I’ve got to learn to read all of Bitsy’s manifesto of the day before responding. I see he’s aware that Newt was pimping a form of Romneycare, but now that he’s running for office he “now articulates the conservative position.” Of course the fact that Newt is willing to change his opinion on the most basic of issues doesn’t bother a “real conservative.” No one who’s telling the rabid Republican base what they want to hear could possibly be lying to them.
So name a liberal slimeball and see if I stand up for him. I doubt you can.
That is true if government is involved with it. The conservative position is government shouldn’t be involved with it. Which is specifically why Ronnie can’t explain it away. He doesn’t believe that. He is not a conservative.
Right… and the different GOP campaigns leaking opponent research to the press would have oh, so little, to do with that. Or the fact that numerous conservative newspapers have participated in things like running stories on Perry and Cain’s faults.
BTW, who do you consider “teh realz konzervatiff’s” in the race right now? I thought Perry disqualified himself over the vaccines and the immigration stuff (and the real possibility his camp was involved with the leaking of the stuff on Cain)…
Also, in all seriousness, if Romney did get the nod, will you vote for him?
Thank goodness you have your knee pads handy and are ready to give ol’ Newt some positive vibrations…
@Eric Florack: Yes, but your current fave Newt was arguing that government SHOULD be involved with health care, and should impose the mandate. And yet you’re swooning over him like he’s the second coming of Saint Ronnie.
Romney and Huntsman would seem to be the only ones who don’t qualify.
First, I’ve already stipulated to that, though perhaps in another thread. The question is whether not he’s been successful at learning that that was an error. Apparently, he has sole earned. And far from swooning over him, I’m simply stating facts; anyone who has the courage to competently and proudly articulate conservative principles is going to be at the top of the polling. There’s no way around that one.
Clearly he has learned the core principle of the modern conservative movement. Ideology is not everything – it’s the only thing…
Ideology, or principles?
@Eric Florack: “The question is whether not he’s been successful at learning that that was an error. Apparently, he has sole earned. And far from swooning over him, I’m simply stating facts; anyone who has the courage to competently and proudly articulate conservative principles is going to be at the top of the polling. There’s no way around that one. ”
If you haven’t figured out yet that Newt will say and “believe” anything that will bring him a buck, then you deserve the candidate you get. The fact that this clown is willing to say the words he knows people like you want to hear should be balanced agains the fact that he’s equally willing to say the opposite if someone with a checkbook wants him to. And yet, because he repeats your mantra, you decide that this time he must be sincere.
A canny political observer, indeed.
@anjin-san: “Clearly he has learned the core principle of the modern conservative movement. Ideology is not everything – it’s the only thing… ”
If by ideology you mean “fleecing the rubes.”
If your principle is lining your pockets and standing for nothing, sure.
As I have suggested elsewhere, it strikes me that any politician is capable of doing that. The comes down to a personal judgment of whether not you consider the words being spoken our sincere. You may note perhaps that I’ve used the sincerity judgment as a deciding point previously in other threads on the subject.
actually it’s those values that have turned people away from the democrats. It’s your lack of ability to figure that one out that makes me question your sanity.
??!! Ok… I understand Romney. But why not Huntsman?
The only two issues one could say disqualify him are his serving as a diplomat under Obama and his stance on Climate Change.
The first — a decision to serve his country — shouldn’t have anything to do with whether or not he’s conservative (unless, in your book, being conservative means packing up your toys and going home when your party is out of power).
As for the second — a nuanced take on CC — I don’t see how that is any worse than gaffes made by Bachmann (we need to be more like China) and Cain (cannot even begin to get started there), Gingrich’s past support for things like the Individual Mandate and lobbying for Freddie/Fanny, or Perry’s (progressive) take on Immigration.
At the moment, that’s not an easy question to answer. The reason is simple enough; the difference between the politics of Obama and the politics of Romney are so close as to make it nigh on impossible to judge who;s the better of the two alternatives.
At this point, Romney has a slight edge over Obama, but then again so too did George Bush over Al Gore. Bush got himself into problems for the same reason that Romney would given the position; the tendency to lean to the left when it was expedient.
Can you tell me any real conservative appointed to ANY position by Obama? Clearly the reason that Huntsman was appointed to was he is not in all bombers judgment a real conservative. I suppose that to speak louder than any judgment I could make on Huntsman.
As for other positions than what you list, as disqualify him as conservative,, I would point out that his stance on gun control is odious at best. also there’s the idea that Huntsman has on several occasions refused to call himself conservative. You may notice I said proudly articulates conservative values. You can figure the rest out I’m sure.
Regardless of what you think about the validity of civil unions, his statement that his support for civil unions wouldn’t hurt him among social conservatives, seems at best a little bizarre. Disconnected.
Admittedly, despite these, he may well be more conservative than Romney, as he claims, but that strikes me as an extraordinarily low bar to jump. We can do far better.
>Once again, the leftist press is instrumental in picking the GOP candidate.
That argument makes no sense. Of the current GOP candidates, Romney has by far the greatest chance of beating Obama. Even if you refuse to believe it, the idea that the MSM secretly agrees with you and is propping Romney up only to make Obama’s reelection easier is absurd. Among all the Democrats I know, the prospect of a Newt or Cain or Bachmann or Trump or Palin nomination is all that we could hope for. This comment by Michael Reynolds summed up exactly how most Dems feel (even for the non-atheists among us); that’s why it got a +13 rating. Nominating any of those jokers would likely have about the same effect that nominating Sharron Angle had in the Senate race with Harry Reid: allowing a vulnerable incumbent to win a race he would otherwise have no business winning.
>We saw this with McCain. The results will be the same.
So, in other words, McCain didn’t lose because of the terrible economy, or Bush’s record-low approval ratings, or McCain’s campaign missteps, or Palin’s disastrous interviews. No sir, it was only because of McCain’s relatively moderate political views. If he’d been sufficiently conservative, he’d have trounced Obama. This is because not only is the American electorate hard-right, despite that fact being curiously absent from public opinion polls, but the MSM secretly knows it and deliberately props up centrist Republicans to prevent the GOP from winning elections. Got it.
i dont much care if the GOP wins the white house.
If a real conservative doesnt take that office we as a country win nothing.
The exit polling tells the tale…. the base sat on its hands when McCain was the offering.
Same thing will happen with Romney.
>The exit polling tells the tale…. the base sat on its hands when McCain was the offering.
The exit polls also showed that 60% of voters felt Palin was not qualified to step in to replace the 72-year-old cancer survivor should the circumstances require it–even though the base loved her.
I’ll grant you that the enthusiasm of the base can make a difference in very close races (e.g. 2004), but the center is far, far more important in determining the outcome of elections, because they’re quite simply a lot more of the electorate.
Furthermore, I suspect that once Romney wins the nomination, the base will largely develop considerable enthusiasm for helping him unseat Obama. I hope you’re right, though.
Agreed. I full expect Eric, G.A., and the rest who have attacked Romney or swore that they can’t support a member of the republican castrate will fall in line by the time next November roles around, dutifully announcing Romney’s imminent victory and pulling the lever for him when the time comes (just as they did with McCain, GWB, Dole, and GHWB).
And then, regardless of if he wins or loses, they’ll lament the fact that a real conservative never wins.
I’m sure Eric questions the judgment and sanity of anyone who wants to see the President reelected, and yet, most of those people probably strongly agree with Eric’s position that the GOP candidate should be anyone but Romney…funny how that works…
Just my weekly vocabulary reminder:
Right-wing != Conservative
Republican* != Conservative
* As a general rule, there are a few exceptions – amongst them is (contra to Mr. Florack’s assertion) Mr. Huntsman who is an actual living, breathing Republican conservative.
@de stijl: You really think he qualifies as a conservative even with his stance on, for example, Gun control? Sorry. You lose.
But that doesn’t account for the base who didn’t vote at all, now, does it?
The exiting polling, once you read past the usual BS, shows a serious lack of real conservative voters…. and had McCain had their support, he’d have won. He did not have such support and justifiably so
And then along comes the race between Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter which stands that conventional wisdom on its ear. I suggest to you that this race is very similar. The real conservative in there, and you’d be surprised how many people will vote for the real conservative. The country has had it with lukewarm conservatism.
First of all, I don’t believe that for a moment. But let’s assume that you’re talking about attracting the mythical centrist voter. Granted, the Romney could attract such Centris. But as McCain showed, without the base, it means nothing.
And even if Romney succeeds in winning the white house, what have we have changed? What we end up with his Obama lite. Somehow, that doesn’t sound overly attractive.
Oh, sure. WHich is why, of course Romney as I’ve pointed out is the only GOP candidate that hasn’t gotten the anal exam from the liberal press and the blogs.
We saw this happen before with McCain; they thought he was a “reasonable” candidate. So much so that there were a number of democrat efforts to throw the votes in various open primary states toward McCain. These are documented if you need reminding. Of course that love affair only lasted until he won the nomination, at which point all bets were off.
The pattern is fairly well established. And we’re seeing the same thing happening now with Romney.
>The exiting polling, once you read past the usual BS, shows a serious lack of real conservative voters
According to CNN’s exit polls, the proportion of conservatives to liberals to moderates was virtually the same as in ’04:
2008: 34% conservatives, 22% liberals, 44% moderates
2004: 34% conservatives, 21% liberals, 45% moderates
>And then along comes the race between Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter which stands that conventional wisdom on its ear.
Carter at the time was presiding over a recession that had struck on his watch, and he had an approval rating in the low 30s. The idea that Reagan’s victory over such a weak incumbent had anything to do with his being a conservative as opposed to a moderate requires a very selective reading of the situation. The possibility that Reagan won despite his conservatism, and not because of it, isn’t just speculation. There have been studies to back up this hypothesis:
“During the campaign, the Center for Political Studies (CPS) survey data make clear, Reagan stood well to the right of the electorate that ultimately chose him, in the voters’ own view. On every one of the nine issues…on which voters were asked to place their own and the candidates’ positions on a liberal-conservative scale, a majority considered Reagan’s position to be more conservative than their own. From all the evidence, Reagan finally won the support of a majority of voters only because he was able to moderate his image. Particularly in his final-week debate with President Carter, he went out of his way to convince the decisive bloc of doubting viewers that he was no saber-rattling militarist or enemy of social security, and by election day the impression of amiability and reasonableness prevailed with enough voters to give him the 50.7 percent majority by which he won.”
You obviously have not been paying attention to Newt’s career over the years. If you had you could not miss the fact that the one thing that Newt is NOT is honest-about anything.
Correct. Which means conservative voters stayed home…. on both occasions. Thanks for backing my point.
>Which means conservative voters stayed home…. on both occasions.
That is…ahem…a pretty novel interpretation of the 2004 election. But never mind.
If your point of comparison is the 1980 election, let’s take a look at exit polls back then. According to a CBS News/New York Times Poll at the time (the link includes a PDF file that’s a little hard to read, but I was able to extract the data), here was the ideological breakdown of voters in 1980:
20% liberal, 51% moderate, 29% conservative
In other words, the voters in 1980 included a slightly lower percentage of conservatives than in 2004 or 2008!
I guess you’re gonna have to start arguing now that conservatives stayed home in 1980 as well. That would actually make some sense, since in no way would Reagan (the real guy, not the myth) be considered a “true conservative” by the standards of today’s right.
All we need is a castration reference and bit will have deployed his entire bag of tricks…
Or perhaps it was because he speaks fluent Chinese, had spent a fair amount of time in China, and actually knows a lot about the country and its history. In other words, he was well qualified for the post.
I suspect more than anything though, it’s Huntsman’s relative sanity, especially in a field full of lunatics, that qualifies him as non-conservative for Eric. Eric is, however, right about Newt “articulating” the latest lines of what passes for conservative “thought” in this country. Of course, articulating a position he thinks will score him brownie points with the base is a far cry from being genuine. Newt has shown time and again that he’ll sell himself and his viewpoints to the highest bidder. In doing so, he’s made millions. Not bad for some dude who couldn’t even get tenure at East Podunk U. But does it make him qualified to be president? Nope. His own party turned on him when he was Speaker for good reason–the guy’s an unprincipled douche bag whose ego far overshadows his intelligence.