Jewish World Review Nov 30, 2011 / 4 Kislev, 5772
Not writing off Newt
By Jay Ambrose
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Newt Gingrich says a TV ad on global warming with Nancy Pelosi was "one of the dumbest things I've done in recent years." Let's list some of the others.
It was unbelievably dumb to call a brave, compassionately conservative, carefully devised, Republican Medicare reform plan "right-wing social engineering."
His devious dodging on $1.8 million of influence peddling for Freddie Mac was pretty dumb, and doing good deeds for this economic malefactor was worse than dumb.
It is dumb to be for ethanol, the subsidy that starves people, and it was dumb to favor a requirement that every citizen be obliged to buy health insurance. It was also a betrayal of the Constitution and thumbs up for limitless government.
Put all of this together and you've got a dumb man? No way. Gingrich is smart and knows stuff. He's a superb in those TV debate travesties in which eight Republicans get no more than 30 seconds a question to be profound. I can think of few democratic delights that would equal the kind of multi-hour, Lincoln-Douglas debates Gingrich says he would like to have with President Barack Obama. But in a funny kind of way, it's being smart that sometimes leads him to dumb acts.
He's got a brain that whizzes along at 100 mph when he ought to slow down enough to give wisdom a chance. He sometimes thinks he's sufficiently clever to get away with just about anything. And he is so taken by his own intelligence that he is an unabashed egotistical showoff, as shown in a book called "Showdown."
Written by Elizabeth Drew, it focuses on political combat between Gingrich as House speaker and President Bill Clinton, after Gingrich had done something truly brilliant in 1994. He had helped cook up a strategy seemingly vital in Republicans gaining control of the House for the first time in 40 years. Early in the book, Gingrich talks about how he just might be a transformative leader on the order of Franklin D. Roosevelt. His vision was to bring the country to a new conservatism. "Reagan didn't quite pull it off," he told Drew.
Gingrich did win some important battles, though I'll never forget sitting in a office one day back then and watching dueling, televised press conferences between him and Clinton. The issue was Medicare expenditures and the possibility of shutting down government. On the substance, Gingrich was better, in my view. He was also angry and antagonistic, someone whose growling drowned out his message. Then it was Clinton's turn. He was charming and congenial. Clinton wins, I thought to myself.
While it is still inconceivable to me that Gingrich could be a worse president than Obama, aren't there better alternatives in the Republican field? Not Herman Cain. I think his experience as a business leader is remarkable, and have said as much, but I also think someone aiming to be the most important political figure in the world ought to scan headlines sufficiently to know the U.S. position on Libya.
Rick Perry has actually done better on the campaign trail than I had imagined. I don't think he has done well enough, however. I think the media treatment of Michele Bachman has been grotesquely bad, but that does not convince me she should be president. Ron Paul is refreshingly candid about what he believes, but some of what he believes is scary. Rick Santorum mostly seems to think he is holier than anyone else. I pass.
Mitt Romney is one of the most accomplished leaders out there, and I wish I knew what he really stood for. I don't. He is either evasive or timid or altering views in accordance with audience calculation. Is Jon Huntsman too liberal? In some ways, but no more so than Romney and ultra-smart Gingrich have been at one time or another, and he actually has some economic and health care proposals almost as bold as the times call for. I do not write him off.
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Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado.
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