Newt Gingrich is a Ridiculous Candidate for President -- Which Explains His Rise
Last week, when we told you Newt Gingrich was the GOP's flavor of the month, you could have been forgiven for being skeptical. That Newt Gingrich? The former Speaker of the House who pissed off most of the country by shutting down the government? Who was fined by Congress for ethics violations? Who treated his wives like Kleenex? Who left Congress in disgrace to become a classic Washington glad-handing money-grubber? Really?
Yes, really: Gingrich continues to rise in Republican Presidential polls. And by pointing out these negative attributes of his candidacy, rightbloggers tell us, we're just making him more likely to win the Republican nomination! Well, it's a risk we're willing to take.
Normal people react to the situation as you might expect: "Newt Gingrich Is Actually on the Rise," said Joe Coscarelli with appropriate surprise at New York Magazine. "And the undercurrent of it all," he added, is that "Mitt Romney just can't get voters to like him."
By "voters," Coscarelli means Republican primary voters, with their large contingent of diehard conservatives who don't want a wet like Romney representing them on the ticket. From that perspective, Gingrich, who only recently was telling Bill O'Reilly that there is "a gay and secular fascism in this country that wants to impose its will on the rest of us, [and] is prepared to use violence" (one of what Caffeinated Thoughts called Gingrich's "substantive positions on social issues") is just the thing. And the effect such a candidacy would have on the rather more mixed electorate that will be voting in November 2011 doesn't matter to them.
In fact, Gingrich is so beloved of the base that rightbloggers rhapsodized him even when he was shown to be the sort of political fixer they usually claim to be against.
When, for example, it was revealed that Gingrich had taken $1.6 million to advise government mortgage guarantor Freddie Mac -- a curse word among conservatives -- Dick Morris and Eileen McGann didn't even flinch.
"Doubtless Freddie hired him to show that it was not an arm of the Democratic Party and to buy some credibility on the right," they shrugged. "His contract started after he left office and there is no evidence that he brought any concrete influence to bear on Freddie's behalf." Presumably it was Gingrich's image alone that Freddie Mac was paying for. Think what he could have gotten to endorse Priceline!
"But this scrutiny gives Newt an incredible opportunity," said Morris and McGann. "He can produce memos and e-mails that show that he warned Freddie about its mortgage policies. In one of the presidential debates, Newt said that he warned Freddie that they were 'creating a bubble' that would burst and have enormous implications when it did." A lone voice crying in the wilderness, he, though presumably crying in a very low voice as demanded by a confidentiality agreement.
"This scandal can either hurt or help," they admitted. "But if Newt used his contacts at Freddie to warn them and to try to change the Titanic's course before it hit the iceberg, it could be a good credential for his candidacy." One pictures Gingrich, wearing ladies' clothing, being hauled off a Titanic lifeboat and crying, "I tried to tell them, but they wouldn't listen," whereupon he is raised on the shoulders of cheering sailors.
At the Weekly Standard, Fred Barnes told readers who thought Gingrich couldn't make it, "consider this: In 1980, when Ronald Reagan emerged as the likely Republican presidential nominee, President Carter's advisers were thrilled... they assumed it would be easy to characterize him as a right-wing extremist."
They were wrong, said Barnes, because "bigger things were at stake, like Soviet aggression and a stagnant economy. And Reagan had better answers than Carter." Similarly, Americans in 2012 will turn to Newt Gingrich, as soon as they are taught to respect his policy prescriptions (and their tendency to suddenly mutate) as wisdom, and to regard what oozes off him as Reaganesque charm.
But wait, Barnes had other reasons to believe: Gingrich excites conservatives who "already talk about how sweet it would be to see Gingrich crush Obama in presidential debates," a spectacle which would be hard for ordinary people to envision without psychedelic drugs. Plus Gingrich's press secretary told Barnes that "the only thing Newt says to himself before each debate is, 'My goal tonight is to not screw anything up,'" a clear sign of a winning campaign.
Not convinced yet? "[Gingrich] has told friends he's like Richard Nixon," said Barnes triumphantly, "not particularly likable and hated by the press and the left." Oh, well, when you put it that way...
Actually Reagan biographer Craig Shirley saw the Nixon thing, too: "Gingrich's durability might be one of his greatest assets, like Clinton's and Nixon's and Reagan's resilience was for them," he told Matt Lewis at the Daily Caller. "...All were pronounced politically dead by the intelligentsia but they had other ideas, as does Gingrich."
"But of the three," added Aaron Goldstein at the American Spectator, "I think Gingrich's situation most closely resembles that of Nixon... Nixon's political career appeared to be over when he lost the California gubernatorial race to Pat Brown in 1962... Almost six years to the day of that press conference, Nixon was elected the 37th President of the United States."
Goldstein did note that "if he goes on to become the 45th President of the United States, [Gingrich's] absence from public office would have been nearly twice as long as that of Nixon." But that just means Gingrich will have to out-Nixon Nixon. And who can doubt that he's game to try?
Henry Louis Gomez of Babalu had a more flattering comparison: to Winston Churchill, "a high profile member of parliament who ended up in the political wilderness for 10 years before emerging again to become prime minister..." For purposes of brevity we will mention only one point of comparison here: Churchill, a future Nobel Prize winner for Literature, wrote several books before his time at 10 Downing, including a four-volume history of the first Duke of Marlborough; Gingrich has written such classics as Rediscovering God in America, Rediscovering God in America II: Our Heritage, and, with his wife Calista, A City Upon a Hill.
(Be John Galt drew a similar parallel: While "Neville Chamberlain was a gentleman in every sense of the word... Winston Churchill was not 'renowned" as a gentlemen'.." And we saw how that worked out. "A standard legalese disclaimer is: 'Prior results do not guarantee future results or outcomes,'" continued BJG. "This certainly applied to Chamberlain and Churchill... and it may also apply to Gingrich, for better or worse." The lesson is clear: People who seem able sometimes fail, so why not just go with the guy who seems incompetent? He could be another Churchill!)
"It is quite possible,"added Gomez, "that the American electorate is moving toward Newt, where he's been all along." How so? "The situation is dire," he explained, "and requires someone with the knowledge and track record to get things done." Thus Gomez was "not worried about Newt's 'popularity,'" that scare-quoted quality having no place in American Presidential politics. "I want someone who is a fighter. His cantankerous nature may have been out of sync with the late 90s prosperity but it may be just what the doctor ordered to get us out of this mess."
If the idea of a cantankerous old former Congressman doesn't strike you as electoral magic, even in hard times, you're missing the point, which goes like this: bad news about Gingrich tends to turn up in media; therefore, the media is against Gingrich; rightbloggers hate the media, so rightbloggers are on Gingrich's side.
Thus the Freddie Mac thing was not a blot on Gingrich, but an "MSM Hit Piece," Conservative Daily News suggested ("this article is in no way a defense of what Newt Gingrich did. It simply illustrates how the MSM can, through selective reporting, manipulate most of the U.S. population"). In fact, a popular general defense of Gingrich was that he hated the media almost as much as rightbloggers did, which cut a lot of ice.
At the Fresno Bee, Ruben Navarrette Jr. felt that Gingrich might rise above his history, particularly as Republican voters "may resent the media for trying to tell them that they should feel otherwise, and appreciate even more the fact that Gingrich is so good at putting reporters in their place." He may be a hypocrite and/or a jerk, but he lectures reporters, and that's what counts.
At American Thinker, C. Edmund Wright felt similarly: Though Gingrich "has not always acted like a conservative," he said "...unlike Bachmann and Huntsman, he slammed the media when the Herman Cain harassment stories first broke and refused to join in the self-important 'charges are serious and must be answered' meme no doubt written by the political hacks working for the other candidates."
"Has [Gingrich] not made it clear he'll tackle the MSM one personality at a time?" asked Tina Korbe at Hot Air. "Newt's a hell of a debater," said The Rhetorican. "And incredibly adept at smacking the bias off the face of your average MSM talking head."
Even rightbloggers who were skeptical of Gingrich got into the act. "My biggest worry with Newt is that he seems to yearn for approval from the wrong people," said Left Coast Rebel. "So he'll be too easily influenced by the Journolist MSM. But I've been slightly reassured by his willingness to attack the media lately." Maybe if Gingrich punches an anchorman, Left Coast Rebel will come around.
The best example of this kind of thing may be found in a post by neo-neocon. A Washington Post reporter filed a piece that questioned the story, popular among Gingrich's opponents, that Gingrich demanded his cancer-ridden wife sign divorce papers on her hospital bed. neo-neocon at first allowed as this might be a fair bit of journalism. Then her knee jerked back into its accustomed position: "Perhaps, somewhat paradoxically," she wrote, "they're trying to temporarily promote the Gingrich candidacy because they think he'd be easier to beat than Romney. Oh, who can fathom the Byzantine workings of the MSM?"
Mark it well, readers: when the Gingrich boom goes the way of all the other GOP 2012 booms -- Trump, Cain, Perry, Bachmann, Christie, et alia -- the story will be that the Lame Stream Media tried to foist the absurdly unsuitable Gingrich on Republicans, and almost got away with it. And, as there's plenty of time left before Mitt Romney's inevitable coronation, we're sure to get in one more Republican savior before it gets too late. Maybe by late March Scott Walker will be available.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.