The GOP Presidential race has had its share of joke candidates — all of whom rightbloggers have taken seriously. There was Donald Trump; then the black Trump, Herman Cain; then Paul Ryan, Michelle Bachmann, Rick Perry, Chris Christie, and Herman Cain again.
As erstwhile frontrunner Cain’s campaign wilts under a steady onslaught of sexual harassment accusations, rightbloggers are casting about for a new Great Right Hope. And many of them think they’ve found him. Feast your eyes, America, on Newt Gingrich, the Next President of the United States.
This may seem strange to normal Americans, who are likely to remember Gingrich as the former Speaker of the House who put over the Contract with America in the 1990s, in which House Republicans pledged to term-limit themselves to 12 years (which didn’t work out) and other reforms, and briefly shut down the U.S. Government. Some might also remember horrible stories about his first few marriages, and his reprimand by the House of Representatives for ethics violations.
Rotund, argumentative, and well past his sell-by date, Gingrich would seem a poor choice for America’s Sweetheart. So why are rightbloggers pushing Gingrich when there’s already a longstanding, well-funded GOP candidate — Mitt Romney — who polls well against Obama?
Because they find Romney less conservative than they would like. True, Romney mouths the same anti-Obama stuff all the other candidates do, but his sincerity is in doubt because he created a health care plan while Governor of Massachusetts, a socialist enterprise at least 1/50th as treasonous as Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
So rightbloggers have been running frantically from non-Romney to non-Romney, with no apparent interest in the effect each non-Romney might have on an electorate not solely comprised of themselves. Now it’s Gingrich’s turn, and many are rushing in the former Speaker’s direction, confident that this time they’ve picked a winner.
Gingrich had not before now been taken very seriously as a 2012 contender. In fact, some of the brethren once found him too liberal for the job. In December 2010 Robert Stacy McCain wrote, “Scratch Newt for 2012.” Why? Because regarding illegal immigration, Gingrich had said, “we are not going to deport 11 million people.”
“What Newt is saying here is simple: Surrender,” said McCain. “Raise the white flag, forfeit national sovereignty and admit that we are no longer a nation of law…” Thus, “Every dime donated to a Newt Gingrich presidential campaign is a waste — but it’s worse than a waste, because it distracts attention from candidates who might possibly win.”
When Gingrich spoke slightingly of Paul Ryan’s draconian Welfare plans as “right wing social engineering,” Ryan said, “With allies like that, who needs the left?”
But thereafter, Gingrich straightened up and flew extreme-right. He backtracked on the Ryan plan. He denounced Obama for attacking Muammar Gaddafi. He called Obama “the most successful food stamp president in modern American history.” In short, the former history professor recast himself as a yahoo, albeit one who occasionally used big words.
Still, Gingrich’s campaign was troubled, with consultants bailing out by the dozen last summer. But because he had started making the rightwing noises they like, the brethren began to warm to the candidate.
Roger L. Simon, for example, while admitting the “problem that Gingrich has with human engagement” and some of the “creepy” stories attached to him, was nonetheless pleased that he had spoken up so strongly for Israel and also “made clear he would name our enemy in the War on Terror, not hide its identity seemingly deliberately in the manner of the current administration, which won’t even brand the Ft. Hood murderer an Islamist…”
Therefore, Simon declared, “I’ll give Newt a second (or tenth) chance if he can put an end” to the Obama Administration, which we must admit was leaving a huge amount of wiggle room.
Over time their other favorites tumbled, and by November, as the recently-ascendant Herman Cain was besieged by accusations of sexual misconduct, rightbloggers started pimping Gingrich.
“Time to Give Newt a Second Look?” asked Gay Patriot, a former Gingrich intern, adding, “like the Gipper, this guy can see the big picture.” “Newt’s Back, This Time with Forward Momentum,” said Peach Pundit, who added a bit of conversation with Gingrich that might be put in a time capsule to explain modern conservatism to future generations, if we have any: “I asked him how someone who was once Speaker of the House becomes anti-establishment. He reminded me that real conservatism is anti-establishment…”
No Runny Eggs was sold, but felt obliged to lower his readers’ expectation for the candidate very drastically: “Yes, Newt is flawed,” he pleaded, “but show me a candidate who isn’t AND show me a candidate at this point who isn’t SERIOUSLY flawed!” Also: “he’s the smartest guy in the group [of candidates],” which should be the dictionary entry for Faint Praise.
FullosseousFlap was also convinced: “the ONLY real choice for GOP voters will be Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich… At present, it is a hard choice, but I am leaning towards Gingrich.” He did add, “unless there is a draft candidate movement…” (Hope springs eternal!)
They seem to have their finger on the Republican pulse, at least for the moment: Some recent polls show Gingrich in second place, just behind the hated Romney. “The Gingrich Surge has come,” Nate Silver declared at the New York Times. Now they only had to explain why Gingrich would actually be a good candidate to put up against Barack Obama.
The best (and by that we mean funniest) explanation was that Gingrich had the great advantage of being an intellectual — a species very unrepresented among American Presidents in recent years, and one not traditionally embraced by conservatives, who usually consider their heads to be pointy and full of impracticable utopian notions.
“What specifically about Newt is resonating with voters?” asked Daniel Doherty at TownHall. Doherty thought they were responding to Gingrich’s bold ideas — not those borrowed from Alvin Toffler, as in olden times, but new, though equally strange ones. For example: “Gingrich suggests the government needs to abolish all federal loan programs and fundamentally reform how our current system operates,” wrote Doherty. “By implementing a work-study curriculum – modeled on the College of the Ozarks, for example – Gingrich believes we can drive down costs and make higher education programs more efficient, affordable, and transparent.”
At a time when many grads struggle to find work, it’s hard to see how such a plan would excite Americans — even if they believed that the government (which conservatives normally assure us is useless) could enforce it under President Gingrich. “Whether or not Gingrich’s bold proposal can be practically applied anytime soon is up for debate,” admitted Doherty, “but what is increasingly clear is that the former House Speaker is the most learned candidate running for president.”
Ann Althouse also found Gingrich’s intellectual cred appealing. “There’s something I like about Newt Gingrich. He reminds me of a law professor… he has the style to want to perform reasoning for us.” She gave an example from a recent debate, in which Gingrich responded to a moderator’s questions “in a puzzled and slightly peeved way that creates drama about whether he might be confused or combative. It puts us on edge.” After charming Presidents like Clinton, Bush, and Obama, perhaps America is finally ready for President Puzzled, Peeved Professor.
The question, by the way, was whether Gingrich would sign a “death warrant for an American citizen overseas who you believe is a terrorist suspect.” No wonder Gingrich was peeved. (So were many rightbloggers, who declared that Gingrich had “schooled” and “played… for a fool” the insolent moderator, and thus given America a new reason to love him — after all, they loved John McEnroe when he yelled at umpires, too.)
At the Wall Street Journal, Dorothy Rabinowitz praised Gingrich’s “flow of thought rich in substance, a world apart from the usual that the political season brings.” Then she mused, “‘Substance’ is too cold a word, perhaps, for the intense feeling that candidate Gingrich delivers so coolly in debates. Too cold too, no doubt, to describe the reactions of his listeners, visible on the faces of the crowds attending these forums — in their expressions, caught on C-SPAN’s cameras…”
What rich flow of substance thus excited Rabinowitz and audiences at Republican forums? Rabinowitz claimed at one such event Gingrich “would detail the key policies he would put in place if elected, something other Republican candidates have done regularly to little effect,” but she didn’t bother to tell us what those were — though she noted that they were “interrupted by thunderous applause at every turn.”
What Rabinowitz did note was that Gingrich denounced “decades of leftward drift in our universities and colleges, our newsrooms, our judicial system and bureaucracies,” “bureaucratic socialism,” and “the menace of radical judges”; declared the job of a U.S. President “to be a salesman for the United States of America”; and announced he “would challenge President Obama to seven Lincoln-Douglas-style debates.”
If that makes Gingrich an intellectual, then Rick Santorum is Reinhold Niebuhr. But the brethren carried the message: Gingrich is a smart guy, and would easily beat the intellectually inferior Obama.
“I couldn’t help but feel giddy as this man with his encyclopedic knowledge of history, his quick and facile recall of facts, chose to use them at just the right moment to eviscerate this clueless [debate] moderator,” said The Last Refuge. “There’s absolutely nothing better than watching a Conservative make a Progressive member of the media look stupid… absolutely nothing. I can feel myself swooning.” (The “Progressive” media member to which he referred, we should note, is Maria Bartiromo of CNBC’s “Wall Street Journal Report.” Yeah, she had us fooled, too.)
“Get behind this solid Conservative who happens to be the smartest and most prepared candidate we have running for President,” said Robbie Cooper at Urban Grounds. “You have to relish the thought of him on a stage against the dim-witted, out-of-his-league Obama…”
“He is so intelligent,” gushed Kathleen McKinley at Right Wing News. “He has great ideas. He would wipe the floor with Obama in a debate.” “He has the ability (with half his brain tied behind his back, as Rush says) to kick the hell out of Barack Obama in next year’s presidential debates,” affirmed The Constitution Club.
“A Newt Gingrich candidacy would go a long way to fight the left-wing smear that the GOP is anti-intellectual,” claimed Alexander Marlow at Big Government.
Their faith is touching and we would dearly love to see Gingrich sent by the Republicans to hector his way into our hearts. But there are months of campaigning left, and a few minor candidates who haven’t had a turn as frontrunner yet. Rick Santorum, come on down!