Wednesday, May 18, 2011

2012 Contender: Newt Gingrich

When a circus loses a clown, another steps up to take his place. Hence, Trump bows out and Gingrich butts in. Newt Gingrich has been playing the role of high oracle to the conservative movement for about a decade. But as you are about to see, his policy positions are poorly defined and there is a serious disconnect between his rhetoric and his actions, which more often than not are self-aggrandizing, liberal and highly disloyal.

Lack of Judgment: The biggest issue with Newt is also the hardest to put your finger on definitively: he lacks judgment. This has expressed itself in many ways. For example, he had an affair with a staffer at the same time he was attacking Clinton for the Monica Lewinsky scandal. He got himself into enough trouble that he paid a $300,000 penalty to end a House ethics investigation. In 2009, Gingrich endorsed obvious RINO Dede Scozzafava. And he doesn’t know when to shut up.

Just this week, in fact, he slammed Paul Ryan’s budget plan. Specifically, he attacked Ryan’s proposal to reform Medicare as “right-wing social engineer” and he said:

“I don’t think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering. I don’t think imposing radical change from the right or the left is a very good way for a free society to operate.”
Way to undercut the one guy making conservatism work, Newt! As is his pattern, once everyone from Rush Limbaugh to Laura Ingraham to every House Republican blasted him, Gingrich retreated entirely on his criticism, but not before he had given significant aid and comfort to the enemy.

This is actually entirely consistent with my memory of Gingrich’s time as Speaker. Whatever the issue, Gingrich ran to the camera and did his best to frame conservatism in the most extremist, thoughtless, and indefensible way possible. He seemed to revel in being outrageous. Then the inevitable liberal backlash came. Suddenly, without warning, Gingrich rushed back to the camera to cut the legs out from underneath his conservative allies who were still trying to explain his remarks. Then he would agree to leftist policies to try to win the approval of his enemies. His entire political career actually fits this pattern because this is a man who desperately wants to be loved.

Economics: Gingrich’s economic plans can best be described as “conservative sounding but vague”:
● Gingrich wants to cut corporate taxes to 12.5% and eliminate the inheritance tax. Ok, that’s clear, but just wait.
● He wants to “move toward” an “optional 15% flat tax,” whatever that means.
● He wants to “strengthen the dollar” somehow.
● Break up Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac into something.
● Modernize the FDA in some way.
● “Fundamental reform” of entitlements “with the advice and help of the American people,” i.e. he has no idea how to do this.
● Balance the budget by “controlling spending, implementing money saving reforms, and replacing destructive policies and regulatory agencies with new approaches,” whatever this means.
ObamaCare: Gingrich opposes ObamaCare and wants it repealed. But of course, that’s a mandatory position for candidates. What does he really believe? In 2003, Gingrich supported creating the prescription drug benefit entitlement in Medicare. He still supports it. In 2005, he and Hillary Clinton worked to spend federal money on information technology for health care. In 2007, he became an advocate for increasing spending on old-age care for baby boomers.

In his criticism of Ryan this weekend, Gingrich stated that Republicans should not seek to reform Medicare and he came out clearly in favor of individual health mandates. His spokesman has since tried to “clarify” both positions away. But he has also said before that the problem with our health care system is “freeloaders. . . who are uninsured,” i.e. he wants to force people to buy insurance.

Beyond this his positions on health care are conservative-sounding pabulum: make insurance cheaper, stop Medicare fraud, stop junk lawsuits and get the FDA to allow new treatments faster.

Global Warming: In 2007, Gingrich proclaimed his belief in global warming and he wrote a book called “A Contract With the Earth,” in which he proposes “accelerating the incentive to reduce carbon emissions,” i.e. cap and trade. In other interviews at the time, he favored “mandatory carbon caps combined with a trading system,” i.e. cap and trade. Then, in 2008, he snuggled up next to Nancy Pelosi to do an ad favoring global warming regulation: “we do agree our country must take action to address climate change.”

Now, Gingrich wants to deny his former self. In the past year, he told Human Events: “I don't think we're faced with a crisis of global warming. I think in fact that the scientific data is still very unclear.” But it was apparently clear enough for him to support Pelosi’s drive to regulate? He also now claims that he “never favored cap and trade”. . . despite the quotes above.

Gingrich also heavily favors ethanol subsidies because that wins votes in Iowa, subsidies for “clean energy,” and “flex-fuel mandates for US cars.” At least he claims to favor more drilling.

Abolishing the EPA: Gingrich claims he want to abolish the EPA. But this is pure pandering. For one thing, this is a nonstarter with the public, so picking this issue shows a lack of seriousness. Further, he has no effective plan, i.e. this is just hyper rhetoric. Moreover, before you get excited that he might actually do it, his fine print involves replacing the EPA with a new agency named the “Environmental Solutions Agency.” In other words, while he talks boldly about eliminating the EPA, his actual plan is to just rename it. . . as if that will solve the problems caused by the laws it is enforcing.

Islam: Gingrich is calling for a federal law to stop the “onslaught of Sharia on American jurisprudence,” which he calls a “mortal threat to the survival of freedom in the United States and the world as we know it.” Uh huh. Sharia law has not been recognized by US Courts and indeed recognizing it would violate the Establishment Clause of the Constitution. Gingrich knows this. So rather than address the more serious issues with Islam, Gingrich is pandering to a false fear because it sounds good and it doesn’t require him to do anything.

Gays: On gays, Gingrich says “I think there is a gay and secular fascism in this country that wants to impose its will on the rest of us, is prepared to use violence, to use harassment.” Sounds like a strong position against something, but he takes no stance on gay rights or gay marriage that I can find, including on his website.

Abortion: Gingrich is opposed to federal funding of abortion, but takes no other position that I can find, including on his website.

What he’ll believe next week is anybody’s guess.


Tennessee Jed said...

He shot himself in the foot so badly, I think he is history. His spinners are not too bad though, given the impossible task they were handed. Even if one forgets every other point you mention, Newt has a tendency to show bad judgement, and, as you say, that rules him out damned near in and of itself.

T-Rav said...

I suppose you heard about the Iowa voter who walked up to Newt and told him he was an embarrasment to the party and should get out of the race. (snicker snicker)

Honestly, though, I don't think any of this, except the attack on Ryan which has destroyed most of his remaining credibility, will hurt him as bad as the matter of his multiple marriages and the circumstances in which those occurred. It may not be fair, but it will make a big difference. A lot of Republican activists I know have been saying for many years that they cannot look past that issue, and unless it comes down to, say, a two-way race between him and Romney, it's going to show in the Southern primaries.

StanH said...

Newt is a true enigma, when he started using special order speeches to attack liberals most especially Speaker Jim Wright ‘89, and led the wave vote in ’94, with “The Contract With America,” I admired and cheered him on. Before he became Speaker they referred to him as a “fire-breather” I like that. He did many things that helped this nation, forcing Slick Willie to the center, we all know the story. Then you have Newt the man, unfaithful, hypocritical, and has to be the smartest man in the room, and many times he is - - however this gets his mouth ahead of his mind in the Paul Ryan case…that was dumb (enigma). He’s sadly now an inside the Beltway, big government statist, who loves government, exactly what we do not need, and his ever flapping jaw has doomed his candidacy, oh well.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I agree. I think the Ryan thing was the end for him. It's just inexcusable for him to throw Ryan under the bus at such a critical time -- especially when Newt praised the same place a few weeks before.

You know who he reminds me of? He reminds me of a conservative Clinton. He's got all of Clinton's problems with loyalty and controlling his impulses.

AndrewPrice said...

T_Rav, I think frankly there is something here for everyone to dislike. I didn't got into his three marriages because I just ran out of room frankly, but I know that this has been sitting very very poorly with values voters for a very long time -- and I think rightfully so.

But you've also got a guy here who repeatedly given aid and comfort to Democrats at a critical time; shown that he sees himself as larger than the party; shown that he sees the Presidency as a thing to exploit to earn money; shown that he lacks the smooth rhetoric needed to speak to anyone except the hard-core base; shown that he desperately wants to be loved and will do whatever it takes, no matter who it hurts to get that from anyone he can.

What's more, he's supposed to be a brilliant tactician with these great ideas, but when you look at them, they are just generic concepts re-packaged to sound impressive, but with no substance whatsoever.

Take shutting down the EPA. That's not going to happen, so the smarter play is to find a way to neuter it so it can be shut down in the long term. But he doesn't even offer a plan for either shutting it down or neutering it, he's instead using the rhetoric of shutting it down and then in the small prints just wants to change the name and "make it better." That's not a bold thinker, that just pandering.

AndrewPrice said...

Stan, I agree. When he took down the Democrats and then ran through the Contract With America, I was super impressed. He did some great things and really set this country on the right course.

But then he fell in love with himself and he started doing stupid things, both in personal life and in his professional life. Suddenly, he was all about self-promotion and he just wanted to see himself on the camera. Moreover, as you note, he fell in love with being inside the beltway. It's like he threw away his conservatism at that point just so that "the right people" would want to have lunch with him in DC.

Now he says stupid and bombastic things just because it keeps him in the news and when you look behind what he's really saying, you find that there's never any substance.

The Ryan thing is particularly galling because it came out of nowhere and because he'd just praised Ryan's plan before he decided to officially run. The minute he decides to run, the first thing he does it throw Ryan under the bus? That's unforgivable. Plus, it's so common with Gingrich.... he'll always toss his friends under the bus so he can get the acclaim of the establishment.

So, no thanks Newt.

Anonymous said...

I agree that he has done a lot of good things for the country, however, I was very disappointed when he, as you said, "snuggled up to" Nancy Pelosi on global warming. That pretty much tainted him in my eyes (along with the personal issues as well). Now with what he said about Ryan's plan, I think that has pretty much doomed his candidacy.

Herman Cain is looking better and better every day.


T-Rav said...

Andrew, the Ryan thing is probably going to destroy him. He may have apologized to Ryan, who may have accepted it and moved on, but the congressman is on fire with the base right now, and they don't forgive or forget. Look at the blogosphere's reception of Huckabee, even three years after the '08 primaries. Newt's goose is pretty much cooked.

AndrewPrice said...

TJ, I agree. The Pelosi thing was downright shocking. Even if he believes in global warming, that's no reason to lend legitimacy to the worst of the worst on the left. There are Republicans who have been pushing global warming regulation and have easily managed to do so without implying that they think Pelosi's ideas should be considered by the public. This was harmful grandstanding of the worst kind.

And I do agree that his personal life is highly despicable and shows a real lack of judgment.

And now the Ryan thing makes me really furious.

It's too bad because I really did respect what he did when he came to power and he had a chance to set us on the right course for decades, but he blew it because he stopped being a guy who believed in ideas first and became a guy who believed in Newt first.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, I agree. That was a big mistake -- especially given the stakes over what we are fighting for right now. I know people who were leaning toward him two days ago and now want him out of the race and gone.

And with EVERYONE from Rush to every Congressman attacking Newt, this thing clearly has legs, even if Ryan smartly has moved on.

What's more, this calls his judgment into question in several ways. First, there's the obvious that he keeps throwing Republicans under the bus to make himself sound important. Secondly, this is hardly controversial stuff on the right, yet he's opposed to it? So what exactly is his plan? More of the same only less so? How can we trust a conservative who freaks out at conservatism?

What troubled me just as much was that for a man who has spent the past decade talking about everything you could possible come up with, he doesn't have a lot of positions. In fact, when I toured his website, I was amazed to see that he hasn't taken positions on most of the hot button issues and even on the rest, he's only giving platitudes. If he really is the brain he likes to claim, then why doesn't he have actual positions on at least each of the big issues?

Unknown said...

Gingrich is brilliant in the manner of an idiot savant. If he's concentrating on a new idea, he forgets to wear his pants. He can't distinguish between the practical and the ideal, and his ideological anchor has slipped its chain leaving the boat adrift in stormy seas.

Arch-left pundit Bob Beckel described him best recently: "He'd be a viable candidate if he didn't immediately express every idea that comes into his mind."

Worst of all in the current environment, he violated the Eleventh Commandment when he attacked Paul Ryan. The statement was as much personal as political, and that alone disqualifies him. Begone, Newt.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, Beckel certainly has a point, though the problems with Gingrich go much deeper than him just shooting off his mouth.

I think you've put your finger on it in your first paragraph. He's sometimes brilliant, but he can't distinguish good theory from good practice and certainly can't grasp good politics. . . plus, he has slipped his anchor and no longer has a firm ideological foundation. And as they always say, "those whole believe in nothing are destined to fall for everything."

My biggest concern with Gingrich though, is that I really feel this is a man who needs to be loved, and those are horribly dangerous people to put your faith into.

DUQ said...

I would have voted for Gingrich years ago, but since that time I just get the feeling he loves the attention.

AndrewPrice said...

DUQ, That's my feeling. And like I say above, those are dangerous people to rely on because you never know what they'll do next to get more love from someone else. In other words, you'll never know when Newt will suddenly decide that he wants to be loved by the left and will suddenly start doing things to try to win them over.

rlaWTX said...

Maybe he'll keep mouthing off and the real conservatives can just keep going under the MSM radar and then suddenly after the primaries he'll be outta here and the real work can go on just as it has been...

Ed said...

Andrew, Excellent break down of Newt. I have to admit I was considering him. The Ryan thing troubled me a lot though. You've put the nail in the coffin now. I had no idea he favored individual mandates or that he was serious about the global warming. No thanks!

darski said...

Newt Gingrich lost me when he publicly called Hillary the B word. It doesn't even matter that it could be true *roll eyes* it was not the act of a statesman.

And that is where Bill lost me as well - he did not defend his wife.

We of The People's Cube love our MTE for many reasons - don't mess with TPC's winners. ROTFLMHO

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, I'm sure he will. My only concern with him mouthing off is the damage he does. When he sat with Nancy Pelosi, he effectively told a lot of people in the middle that she's an ok person to listen to. And when he attacked Ryan, he effectively told a lot of people that Ryan is a far-right extremist. That's the problem with a "recognized conservative" shooting off his mouth like this.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Ed. I think, as you can see from the response to him and his tepid poll numbers, that a lot of people have soured on him. I think he's thrived on the myth so far that the party really does love him and we just haven't had a chance to vote for him. Now he's testing that, and he's off to a horrid start.

AndrewPrice said...

darski, That is very unstatesman like and is the kind of thing that does call into question his judgment. And you're right about Bill, he's never defending Hillary against anything, which is pretty despicable behavior for a husband -- of course, he's got a lot of flaws in that department.

Notawonk said...

do you think trump and newt were in cahoots, so that when trump stepped down and newt stepped up, uninformed americans would think, "finally! a better clown!"

AndrewPrice said...

Patti, Now that is an interesting thought. In fact, I've often wondered if some of the candidates aren't there just to help other candidates by drawing votes from competitors or drawing flack from the media.

The thing that makes me doubt that though is that Trump has such an ego that there is no way he would play second fiddle to anyone.

Unknown said...

My favorite Newt quote from my favorite political writer/humorist, Mark Steyn: "No one is so obsolete as yesterday’s futuristic visionary, and Newt sounded way past his sell-by date."

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, LOL! Good quote. It is funny to look back on futurists every now and then and see where they utterly failed.

Writer X said...

For such a supposedly smart guy, Gingrich really comes across as an idiot, more so the older he gets. I'd say his political career ended about the time he posed for that cozy photo with Pelosi on the couch. He should stick to writing (mostly boring) books.

AndrewPrice said...

Writer X, I agree. That's a moment that's very hard to live down, especially since it was for global warming as compared to something like a charity.... which would be understandable.

At this point, I think you've described him accurate -- getting dumber as the years go by. I haven't read his books, though I know people who have read a couple -- they didn't buy more, if that means anything.

Pittsburgh Enigma said...

Yeah, I have to agree that Newt lost me for good when he sat on the couch with Satan. You've got to wonder what on earth he was thinking. Can you imagine Pelosi or any other hard leftist compromising on a position such as a flat income tax or personal accounts for Social Security? It would never happen. You've got to respect the leftists for that--they never stray from their ideology. When it came down to the last hour to stop ObamaCare, even the most moderate liberals like Joe Lieberman failed us. They all managed to get on board with it. And yet, there Newt was on the couch selling us out on one of the most no-brainer issues of all.

Great article Andrew. I agree, Newt was once great. Now he should just go away for good.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Pitts and I think that seems to be the consensus: he was great at one point, but really fell apart.

I think you're absolutely right about the leftists and the couch. They would never sit on a couch with anyone from our side and tell the world that they agree with us. They know that they can't give us an ounce of credibility if they are going to keep attacking us and our policies. For Newt not to recognize that and to decide to sit down with Satan (well said) and imply to the world that she's got some position that we should all be listening to is ridiculous.

Even if he agreed with her completely, he should have been out there pushing the idea independently without giving her the credibility boost. I just can't understand what he was thinking?! And that's really the problem, I can't understand half of what he does now.

T-Rav said...

Andrew, I think Newt may have sealed his own silliness today. His press secretary issued a statement today about the firestorm over his "reaction" to the Ryan plan. Here's the best part--and keep in mind everything we know about Newt's career as you read this:

“The literati sent out their minions to do their bidding,” Tyler {the press secretary} wrote. “Washington cannot tolerate threats from outsiders who might disrupt their comfortable world. The firefight started when the cowardly sensed weakness. They fired timidly at first, then the sheep not wanting to be dropped from the establishment’s cocktail party invite list unloaded their entire clip, firing without taking aim their distortions and falsehoods. Now they are left exposed by their bylines and handles. But surely they had killed him off. This is the way it always worked. A lesser person could not have survived the first few minutes of the onslaught. But out of the billowing smoke and dust of tweets and trivia emerged Gingrich, once again ready to lead those who won’t be intimated by the political elite and are ready to take on the challenges America faces.” Under any other circumstances, that would be almost poetic.

AndrewPrice said...

T_Rav, Wow! Just wow!

I would say this is delusional, but it actually strikes me as him trying to play us for suckers. We're supposed to believe that all the conservative activists who were so upset by his betrayal are actually part of some "establishment" plot to take down this true patriot. Give me a break!

If anyone is cozying up to the establishment, it's Gingrich -- he's the one proposing more of the same, he's the one who thinks he's more important than the message, he's the one sitting with Pelosi and fooling around on his wives... he's the one who bleeds Washington green. And I don't doubt the conservative credentials of any of the people criticizing him.

This is arrogance and cynicism personified. This is basically the conservative equivalent of crying racism. He thinks his use of buzzwords and the creation of a fantasy plot by "the establishment" is going to make us forget what we saw and heard and what we know to be true? F-him.

Also, how does he square this with his apology to Ryan? Was he lying when he apologized for criticizing Ryan or is he lying now that he's saying that anyone who criticized him is an establishment hack or sheep?

If we didn't know what he's about before, we certainly know it after the last couple days.

T-Rav said...

Andrew, that's all very true. Word is those totally anti-Gingrich DC insiders are already making hay out of these statements; plus, apparently people like Rush Limbaugh got brought up as part of the "literati." I don't generally listen to Rush's radio show, but I will tomorrow, just to find out what fireworks ensue. But, come on--with phrases like "out of the billowing smoke and dust of tweets and trivia emerged Gingrich," you know you want to hire these guys as your speechwriters should you ever become famous.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, The problem is that those kinds of words sounds great in a book or movie, but they don't make for very good political speeches. The most effect speeches are deceptively non-poetic with simple imagery. This sounds like someone swinging for the fences and it comes across as pretentious.

I rarely listen to talk radio because I can't stand most the guys with shows (shrill and stupid) and because I find the radio cadences impossible to work by.... but when I do listen, I listen to Rush because he's got the best combination of truly understanding conservatism, showmanship, and not taking himself too seriously. And one thing I can tell you about Rush, there is no legitimate way you can ever describe Rush as part of the "literati." Rush is a very regular guy who speaks his mind, he is not speaking for entrenched interests. And trying to slam a guy like Rush is a huge mistake as about 20 million people are somewhat regular listeners of his. That's a massive chunk of the electorate. And while Rush isn't the kind of guy to say "don't vote for him," attacking Rush is the kind of thing that makes his audience not trust you anymore.

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