Monday, November 28, 2011

The Return of Newt Gingrich

Some thoughts on Newt Gingrich.

At least he is ready to be President.  Having been Speaker of the House (and thus third in line to be President), and years more in the internecine battles of Washington politics, Gingrich is the most experienced of the Republicans running for President, in both economic and foreign policy arenas.  (Granted, he's never been a businessman or a general.)

He's also probably the most intelligent of the candidates, with only the two Mormon candidates coming close (and Ron Paul also approaching that level, I suppose).  One of my peeves with Palin, Bachmann, Perry, and Cain is that they just don't seem to have the necessary level of intelligence (and intellectual preparation) to possibly be President. 

As a self-styled 'futurist', Newt occasionally comes across as very 'unconservative' in his willingness to consider innovative and bold solutions to problems.

The problem is that Gingrich is very unself-disciplined in both his words and his actions, in a very unPresidential way.  His three marriages are a basic symptom of that trait, as is the fact that he also only lasted four years as Speaker of the House of Representatives, before resigning in a the face of a rebellion in his own party against his leadership.

And Newt is like a volcano spewing molten lava when it comes to saying strange, outrageous, even crazy things.  He loves to put things in a way that startles and provokes his listeners.  And he often comes across as extremely arrogant and condescending, in a very unlikable way.

Consider some of his remarks over the last number of years:

(1) “I am convinced that if we do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America, by the time [my grandchildren are] my age they will be in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists and with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American.” [Address to Cornerstone Church in Texas, March 2011]

(2) “The idea that a congressman would be tainted by accepting money from private industry or private sources is essentially a socialist argument.” [To Mother Jones magazine, October 1989]

(3) “All I would say is, why did it take so long? The whole thing is strange.” [Speaking to TPM about the recent release of President Obama’s long-form birth certificate, April 2011]

(4) “What if [Obama] is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together [his actions]? That is the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior.” [To the National Review, September 2010]

(5) “It doesn’t matter what I do. People need to hear what I have to say. There’s no one else who can say what I can say. It doesn’t matter what I live.” – [Newt’s explanation for why his multiple affairs won’t damage his political fortunes, as told to his jilted wife.]

(6) “The secular socialist machine represents as great a threat to America as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union once did.” [In his book To Save America: Stopping Obama's Secular-Socialist Machine, May 2010.]

(7) “This is one of the great tragedies of the Bush administration. The more successful they’ve been at intercepting and stopping bad guys, the less proof there is that we’re in danger…. It’s almost like they should every once in a while have allowed an attack to get through just to remind us.” [At a book talk in Huntington, NY, April 2008]

(8) "A mere 40 years ago, beach volleyball was just beginning. No bureaucrat would have invented it, and that's what freedom is all about.” [At the Republican National Convention, August 1996]

(9) “I want to say to the elite of this country—the elite news media, the liberal academic elite, the liberal political elite: I accuse you in Littleton… of being afraid to talk about the mess you have made, and being afraid to take responsibility for things you have done, and instead foisting upon the rest of us pathetic banalities because you don’t have the courage to look at the world you have created.” [Speaking about the Columbine shootings, May 1999]

(10) “How can you have the mess we have in New Orleans, and not have had deep investigations of the federal government, the state government, the city government, and the failure of citizenship in the Ninth Ward, where 22,000 people were so uneducated and so unprepared, they literally couldn't get out of the way of a hurricane.” [Speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference, March 2007]
Number four above--about Obama's "Kenyan anti-colonial behavior"--is my personal favorite for sheer zaniness.

And then, of course, in the most recent debate, speaking about the Occupy movement, Gingrich scornfully said they should first get a bath, then get a job.  Which is of course a very 'Newtonian' thing to say.

Newt Gingrich, in his normal modus operandi, is very unPresidential.  While he is smart enough and politically experienced enough to be President, it all seems very unlikely, given that he is, well, Newt Gingrich.

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