Newt plummets: The Republicans may have just dodged a bullet

The familiar sight of Gingrich’s numbers collapsing should be welcomed by the GOP; they’ve dodged a bullet

Not looking good for Newt
Ewan Watt
On 21 December 2011 14:18

Before honoring 49 Nobel Laureates at the White House in April 1962, President John F. Kennedy remarked that the gathering was “the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever gathered at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.” Although I’m not necessarily privy to Newt Gingrich’s dining arrangements, one can be sure that in the former speaker’s mind such a quip would immediately become redundant if he ever chose to snack in solace at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  

Back in April when his campaign appeared perilously close to death’s door, it was occasionally stated that Gingrich’s sole chance of redemption was through his undeniable intellect. Nobody, of course, knows this more than the former speaker himself.

As a self-confessed “ideas man,” Gingrich has taken to the plethora of GOP debates with such confidence he often resembles a professor lecturing a petulant band of college kids. But as the tired line goes, Newt “has 100 ideas before lunch, and one of them is good.” Luckily, as Iowa draws closer, Republicans are seeing this up close.

When even his lone idea appears to have gone wanting, Gingrich is no longer a man of ideas, but an egotist with a big mouth. And rather than solidifying his support amongst the conservative base, Gingrich is now espousing such absurd policy utterances commonly advocated by progressives that he sounds strikingly similar to the very liberal “elite” college professors that the GOP’s base despises.

Take the fact Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac paid Gingrich $1.6 million for his advice “as a historian.” Mitt Romney recently called on Gingrich to return the funds only for the former speaker to claim that he would never heed the former governor’s advice on financial matters because “he's earned from bankrupting companies and laying off employees over his years at Bain.” For those familiar with Romney’s Senate run, this line could easily have been used by the late Senator Ted Kennedy’s campaign.

In fact, it basically was. Equating private equity with unnecessary job lay-offs is one of the most tired polemics used by the Luddites on the left. To make such proclamations and still profess to be “Reaganite” is simply laughable.

Gingrich defends this influence peddling on the grounds that it was in the private sector. This defence is not just problematic because of his attack on Bain Capital, but because Fannie and Freddie are government sponsored enterprises, something Ron Paul and Michelle Bachmann were quick to highlight. Gingrich, however, kept digging claiming that GSEs were just like credit unions and justified on the grounds that they helped millions of Americans own property. Whether you blame Bill Clinton or George W. Bush for the housing market crash, Gingrich, of all people, ignores history. Congressman Barney Frank could probably not have put it better.

As if using Kennedy’s attacks on private equity and embracing Frank’s stance on GSEs wasn’t enough to turn the stomachs of most conservatives, Gingrich has repeatedly channeled Franklin Delano Roosevelt—and not for his prescience of the Nazi threat. Alas, Gingrich not only subscribes to the myth that that FDR pulled the United States out of the Great Depression, but he’s also entirely comfortable with one of FDR’s more egregious acts: the assault on the Supreme Court.

Whilst assailing activist judges – the bête noire of the Republican base – will always bring a cheer from the conservative bleachers, it also brings with it a deeply sinister agenda.

In Gingrich’s eyes, despite the overwhelming power that’s been accumulated by the executive, the judiciary has become dictatorial. There is no doubt that the judiciary makes some baffling, insidious decisions, but it’s just a shame that Gingrich seems bent on embracing the very measures that helped create the trend of judicial activism.

Judicial activism can be traced not to the actions of judges, but to the political motivations of the executive. FDR’s attempts to overcome the Four Horsemen’s opposition to the New Deal with “court packing” may well have failed, but it ultimately set the stage for a diminished adherence to the constitution on the Supreme Court. If a President Gingrich simply ignored rulings from the Supreme Court or arrested ideologically errant justices, what’s to prevent later Democratic presidents from doing the same thing? It’s akin to tearing up the document completely.

When asked to respond to Gingrich’s claim that he was engaging in “right-wing social engineering,” Congressman Paul Ryan shot back that “with friends like these, who needs the left?” It’s a remark that conservatives should look closely at.

The familiar sight of Gingrich’s numbers collapsing should be welcomed by the GOP; they’ve dodged a bullet. What’s most perplexing, however, is that for a party that’s so desperate to find an outsider with solid conservative credentials, it’s taken them this long to see this.

Ewan Watt is a Washington, DC-based public affairs consultant. He lives in Alexandria, Virginia. You can follow him on Twitter @ewancwatt

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