Signs of Hope, Part 5

December 6th, 2011 at 11:54 am | 66 Comments |

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Make sure to read previous entries in the ‘Signs of Hope’ series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.

As Newt Gingrich surges in the polls in Iowa and other early primary states, several leading conservative columnists are explaining why Gingrich should be rejected by Republicans voters. Their arguments deserve a wider audience.


Ramesh Ponnuru:

Gingrich’s fans say that he isn’t the same man he was then; he has “matured” in his 60s. Maybe so. But he’s still erratic: This year he flip-flopped three times on the top issue of the day, the House Republican plan to reform Medicare. He’s still undisciplined: He went on a vacation cruise at the start of his campaign. He still has the same old grandiosity: In recent weeks he has compared himself to Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher and said confidently that the nomination was his.

He still has the same need to justify his every petty move by reference to some grand theory. Plenty of politicians competing in Iowa come out for ethanol subsidies; only Gingrich would proclaim that in doing so he was standing up to city slickers in a culture war invented in his own mind. He still has a casual relationship with the truth. In recent weeks he has said that Freddie Mac (FMCC) paid him to condemn its business model, only for reporters and bloggers to find out that he had in fact shilled for the organization in return for about $1.6 million.

He still has the same penchant for sharing whatever revelation has just struck him, as with his recent musings about getting rid of child-labor laws. “He goes off the deep end and throws things out there,” says Joe McQuaid, the publisher of the Manchester Union Leader, which has endorsed Gingrich. He means it as a compliment, but it doesn’t strike me as one of the top traits to seek in a president. Many voters may have the same reaction.


John Podhoretz:

We remember him going through one of the great political flameouts of our time — first helping to engineer the 1994 GOP takeover of Congress, then resigning after the 1998 midterms.

We remember the brilliant political design of the Contract with America — and how little of it actually made it into law. That would prove to be very much the pattern with Gingrich, who loves to think in grand terms but who tends toward not grandeur as a result but grandiosity, instead.

We remember how he tarnished his own “Republican revolution” even before it started between the 1994 election and the swearing-in of the new Congress by getting himself a $4.5 million book deal (that would be $6.5 million today) — a PR blunder and possible ethics violation that backfired so badly that he had to forswear his advance.

We remember the wildly wrongheaded conviction some of us shared with him that he was powerful enough to go mano a mano with Bill Clinton in 1995 — because he and we hadn’t taken account of the fact that in his races for his House seat, he’d get 100,000 votes while Clinton in 1992 got 40 million.

We remember how that conviction led to perhaps the greatest political blunder of our time — the showdown over the budget in October 1995 that led to the three-week government shutdown and the subsequent GOP cave-in that brought the “Republican revolution” to an end only nine months after it began.

We remember how, by 1997, Republican members of Congress who had once believed they owed him everything actively plotted a coup to remove him from the speakership.

We remember the fact that he led the moralistic charge against Clinton in 1998 — notwithstanding the fact that he himself was having an extramarital affair at the time.

And we remember things from after his time in office, like how he opposed the 2006 “surge” that turned around the Iraq war.


George Will:

Gingrich, however, embodies the vanity and rapacity that make modern Washington repulsive. And there is his anti-conservative confidence that he has a comprehensive explanation of, and plan to perfect, everything.

Granted, his grandiose rhetoric celebrating his “transformative” self is entertaining: Recently he compared his revival of his campaign to Sam Walton’s and Ray Kroc’s creations of Wal-Mart and McDonald’s, two of America’s largest private-sector employers. There is almost artistic vulgarity in Gingrich’s unrepented role as a hired larynx for interests profiting from such government follies as ethanol and cheap mortgages. His Olympian sense of exemption from standards and logic allowed him, fresh from pocketing $1.6 million from Freddie Mac (for services as a “historian”), to say, “If you want to put people in jail,” look at “the politicians who profited from” Washington’s environment.

His temperament — intellectual hubris distilled — makes him blown about by gusts of enthusiasm for intellectual fads, from 1990s futurism to “Lean Six Sigma” today. On Election Eve 1994, he said a disturbed South Carolina mother drowning her children “vividly reminds” Americans “how sick the society is getting, and how much we need to change things. . . . The only way you get change is to vote Republican.” Compare this grotesque opportunism — tarted up as sociology — with his devious recasting of it in a letter to the Nov. 18, 1994, Wall Street Journal (http://bit.ly/vFbjAk). And remember his recent swoon over the theory that “Kenyan, anti-colonial” thinking explains Barack Obama.

Gingrich, who would have made a marvelous Marxist, believes everything is related to everything else and only he understands how. Conservatism, in contrast, is both cause and effect of modesty about understanding society’s complexities, controlling its trajectory and improving upon its spontaneous order. Conservatism inoculates against the hubristic volatility that Gingrich exemplifies and Genesis deplores: “Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel.”

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66 Comments so far ↓

  • medinnus

    So… the signs of hope here are that the GOP establishment remember and dismiss Newt? Setting that “hope” bar a little low, there, aincha?

  • rbottoms

    “Oh Michael!”

    ~ Hope, Thirtysomething

  • Nanotek

    go Newt go! You are the avatar of today’s GOP.

  • margoharris1

    Let’s face it the Newt is a bloated, egomaniacal, amoral gnome who represents everything that is AWFUL in politics. As a Democrat, I hope he gets the nomination.

  • ottovbvs

    The Newt Panic-ometer installed at FF is going critical…..stand way back.

  • Secessionist

    The Beltway GOP elites, sundry RINOs and the faux conservative intelligentsia are closing ranks around Romney at a breathtaking pace.

    The roll call is amazing: Charles Krauthammer, George Will, Ramesh Ponnuru, David Frum, The Weekly Standard, The Wall Street Journal, and the National Review.

    Anyone but the candidate their own base supports.

    • Secessionist

      I seriously doubt Newt will be the nominee. The monied powers behind the GOP are very adept at neutralizing threats to their candidate. In 1992, they used dirty tricks against Pat Buchanan to clear a path for Bush I. In 1996, they used dirty tricks against Pat Buchanan and Steve Forbes to clear a path for Bob Dole. In 2000, they used dirty tricks against John McCain to clear a path for George W. Bush.

      • ottovbvs

        You think Newt has some black illegitimate daughters scattered around? And I certainly don’t remember them using dirty tricks against either Forbes or Buchanan. They were just the clown candidates of 1991/6 and sank themselves.

      • Frumplestiltskin

        You replied to yourself?

        If Newt wins Iowa and Romney comes in worse than third, and then Newt pulls an upset in NH and beats Romney there money will make no difference. in 2008 the Democratic money was behind Hillary and Bill but the voters went with Obama in Iowa. You can’t manufacture votes where none exists.

        • TerryF98

          “You replied to yourself?”

          Can’t be accused of contradictions with himself can he? Maybe yes!

        • ottovbvs

          “Maybe yes!”

          Actually DSP constantly contradicts himself.

        • Secessionist

          The software won’t let you edit after 5 or 10 minutes.

        • drdredel

          This blog exists in a perpetual state of functional alteration where every few days some new behavior is introduced that is slightly broken.

          To the developers at FF… It’s 2011!!! Threaded commentary has been thoroughly figured out for ages. Pick a working blog software (off the shelf) and implement it! No need to keep noodling around with your own custom (half-assed) solutions!

    • jdd_stl1

      If you read his piece, George Will trashes Romney also.
      I think he is actually in favor of Huntsman.
      He wants Republicans to reconsider Huntsman and Perry before
      they settle on Romney or Gingrich.

  • JohnMcC

    Should Mr Gingrich actually get the nomination all three of the quoted gentlemen above and the FF Editors too will have long ago forgotten what we see here. Until, of course, he loses like Goldwater. Then the problem will be that he wasn’t conservative enough. We know this because it’s an old old movie that we watched when we were children.

    • tommyudo

      The base of both parties have always resented the so-called “elites” who tell them who to vote for. Whatever happened in the past with Buchanan is not relevant. This is an even more right wing base than what it was in 2000. If Newton G wins IA, SC, FL and comes in first or second in NH then Willard will probably be toast. Much of his “dirty laundry” has been exposed, and if the base don’t care, then any series of ads run againsyt him won’t matter.The ususual suspects will then fall into line, since the goose step mentality is part of the GOP gene.

      • ottovbvs

        “If Newton G wins IA, SC, FL and comes in first or second in NH then Willard will probably be toast.”

        Exactly my take. Newtster still the outsider but the odds have shortened dramatically.

        • Kevin B

          Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.

          – I. Newton

    • think4yourself

      JohnMcC: +1

  • MSheridan

    He’s clearly got a higher approval ceiling among Republicans than does Mitt Romney, but Gingrich has a considerably lower approval rating from everyone else. Only a guy with an ego as self-inflated as his could think that his past wouldn’t matter to the nation at large. So go ahead, GOP voters, nominate him if you want, but don’t hold your breath expecting the rest of us to swoon over him.

  • TAZ

    I love Newt, even with all his flaws. Hell. it makes him who he is….

    I must agree Newt is without a doubt the true face of the modern Republican Party.

    I would love to see him get the nomination and have to take his political concept to the American people.

    • Lonewolf

      “true face of the modern Republican party” … I assume by that you mean erratic, rapacious, arrogant, hypocritical, judgmental, sanctimonious, and unethical?

      What, precisely, is his “political concept”? Forsaking the Federal Reserve for a national line of credit at Tiffany’s? Or is it having indigent 9 year old kids climb three story ladders to change lightbulbs in the school gym? Making them tend high-pressure steam boilers? Getting them to mix toxic chemicals and strip hallway floors? Nine year old powder-monkeys in Lord Nelson’s navy had better working conditions than what Newt offers American youth.

  • lilmanny

    The fact that Newt has become a statistical probability in the last three weeks is, of all things, the opposite of a sign of hope.

    • wileedog

      The fact that a joke of a candidate as bad as Herman Cain had to be outed as a serial philanderer to make that even happen makes it that much worse.

      • AnBr

        Or the fact that multiple accusations of sexual harassment to what could even be described as sexual assault didn’t do him in, but the revelation of a consensual affair did.

  • ottovbvs

    I favor Newt as the nominee for two reasons. Firstly, he is genuinely the face of the GOP, he is today’s Republicanism not some imitation which as Frum says is only pretending to be crazy. Secondly, it’s going to be an electoral debacle where there can be no doubt about the conservative credentials of the candidate and therefore the right have no wiggle room to claim their candidate “wasn’t conservative enough.” It’s only by this means that the GOP can be nudged back to center right. If Frum had any sense and Republican renewal was his genuine goal he’d go with the flow and push for Newt.

    • think4yourself

      If Newt won the nomination and got killed in the general, I don’t think the GOP would say it was because the Party was too Conservative. I think they would say Newt lost because he implodes upon himself and he is a creature of the Washington establish, i.e. not Conservative enough.

      The Party would again splinter between those wanting a moderate and those wanting to purify the Party with someone like Bachmann or Santorum, a culture warrior.

      • ottovbvs

        If Newt win the nod with their votes they can hardly say he’s a moderate. The schism in the GOP exists and imho the only hope of fixing it is if the hard right are demonstrably beaten. You posit indefinite warfare because this is a dispute that can only be resolved in one of two ways. The crack up of the party or coming together around a more or less center right program. I think the latter more likely but this is only accomplished with electoral defeat.

        • think4yourself

          I think the hard Right would say that Newt was the compromise candidate because they didn’t get Bachmann or Santorum (for one kind of Conservative) or Paul (for the Libertarian kind). I think they would point to Newt’s inconsistent statements as examples that he wasn’t a “true conservative”. I think with Gingrich, Romney or Huntsman as the nominee, if that person lost, the hard Right would still wrest control of the party away from the moderates. I think only if Bachmann, Santorum or Paul won the nomination (not plausible for any of them) and got slaughtered would it allow the moderates to pull the Party back towards the center.

        • ottovbvs

          So if Gingrich wins the nomination who will have given him victory? The left wing of the Republican party?

  • jdd_stl1

    What I see is the groundwork for hope. There are pockets of conservatives,
    who still hold to the core beliefs who are in position to step up when
    the opportunity presents itself. When will that opportunity come?
    I believe, only after a major catastrophe. Things have to get much worse
    before they will get better. A rude awakening has to occur.
    It will either come as a landslide loss in an upcoming election where
    the Republican standard bearer is a “face of the party” or a true
    Tea Party favorite. Or it will come when such a person is actually elected
    President and the country takes a major nosedive because of the policies that
    are put in place.

    I don’t think a Romney loss or presidency will achieve that
    rude awakening. It just puts it off and perhaps pushes the party even
    further into craziness.

    A Gingrich loss or presidency might do it.
    He does seem to be the “Face of the GOP” especially given the
    partisan nature of things. He is the poster-child for partisanship.
    (And of course, I’m sure he would tell us he is the smartest
    poster-child we have ever had…)

    We will know we are on the verge of something when Republicans
    start listening to people like Bruce Bartlett:

    http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/12/06/raising-taxes-on-the-rich-not-whether-but-how/

    and stop listening to people like Norquist.

    Until then, I don’t have any hope for the Republicans.

    • medinnus

      The narrative is already being laid that any loss will because Romney isn’t Conservative enough. The best thing for those who hope for sanity is either Huntsman to win, or someone who the tea Party thoroughly supports to go down in flames.

  • HighCountry

    Sadly, these so-called “signs of hope” are faint glimmers at best. They’re not making me very hopeful.

  • think4yourself

    George Will is a blowhard (kind of like Newt), but you have to like this turn of phrase:

    “There is almost artistic vulgarity in Gingrich’s unrepented role as a hired larynx for interests profiting from such government follies as ethanol and cheap mortgages. His Olympian sense of exemption from standards and logic allowed him, fresh from pocketing $1.6 million from Freddie Mac (for services as a “historian”), to say, “If you want to put people in jail,” look at “the politicians who profited from” Washington’s environment.”

    • ottovbvs

      “but you have to like this turn of phrase”

      The bowties may have gone but the elegant (if often empty) language remains.

  • think4yourself

    Other than that first “Signs of Hope” article, I’m not seeing too many positive signs in the GOP. I do see them on the other side of the aisle though.

    Today, the President is giving a speech where is invoking Teddy Roosevelt as he spoke about a “square deal” and income inequality – “right to regulate the use of wealth in the public interest is universally admitted.”

    Prior to this Obama has invoked Dwight Eisenhower’s Federal highway system (not too mention the speech about the military/industrial complex), Richard Nixon’s EPA, Ronald Reagan and Abraham Lincoln.

    The current President is much closer in policy to previous GOP President’s (including Bush ’41 who I think was really underrated), than any current Republican leader.

    • ottovbvs

      TR speaks…..

      “The Square Deal”

      Let the watchwords of all our people be the old familiar
      watchwords of honesty, decency, fair-dealing, and
      commonsense…. We must treat each man on his worth and
      merits as a man. We must see that each is given a square
      deal, because he is entitled to no more and should receive
      no less…. The welfare of each of us is dependent
      fundamentally upon the welfare of all of us.”

      – New York State Fair, Syracuse, September 7, 1903

      ********

      “MALEFACTORS OF GREAT WEALTH.”

      Too much cannot be said against the men of wealth who
      sacrifice everything to getting wealth. There is not in
      the world a more ignoble character than the mere
      money-getting American, insensible to every duty,
      regardless of every principle, bent only on amassing a
      fortune, and putting his fortune only to the basest
      uses —whether these uses be to speculate in stocks and
      wreck railroads himself, or to allow his son to lead a
      life of foolish and expensive idleness and gross
      debauchery, or to purchase some scoundrel of high
      social position, foreign or native, for his daughter. Such
      a man is only the more dangerous if he occasionally
      does some deed like founding a college or endowing a
      church, which makes those good people who are also
      foolish forget his real iniquity. These men are equally
      careless of the working men, whom they oppress, and
      of the State, whose existence they imperil. There are
      not very many of them, but there is a very great number
      of men who approach more or less closely to the type,
      and, just in so far as they do so approach, they are
      curses to the country.

      Is TR a member of the OWS movement you might well ask!!!

      • JohnMcC

        Thank you for those quotes, Otto. Well done.

      • think4yourself

        +1 Otto

        • tommyudo

          Yes, here, here. TR was possibly the most interesting and complex individual to ever occupy the WH. If guys like him and Lincoln were still around they would be Dems.

          Obama’s speech today was needed. If that message is carried by all the Dem challengers in the Congressional races they will then win back the House. Occasionally voters have to be reminded that the post Lincoln era Republican Party are there solely for the 1%. They don’t care about YOU.

        • ottovbvs

          Actually I was able to put my hands on them easily because I was having a long drawn out argument with a conservative diarist (one Jenkins) here yesterday who disputed my characterisation of TR as a radical conservative despite these speeches, mountains of historical sources, dictionary definitions, et al. What is wrong with these people? I find their total denial of even historical reality completely amazing.

          As to Obama’s positioning he knows what he’s doing. Read that speech and all the themes of the campaign are there. The Dems are the party of the middle classes while the Republicans are the party of millionaires. And there’s mountains of material captured of Republicans digging a hole for themselves. I can’t believe he’s going win the lottery twice and draw Newt as an opponent but you never know. Even if he’s not that lucky it’s the Wall Street asset stripper with more baggage than Paris Hilton.

  • think4yourself

    Lastly, as I’m watching images of Newt with Donald Trump last night, I was surprised that it was possible for my disdain for Gingrich to grow anymore than it did (but it did). Anyone who would kiss the Donald’s ring (or some other part of him) does not deserve consideration for the office of dogcatcher, much less President.

    Huntsman and Paul went up in my opinion, if only because of what Trump had to say about them.

    Any GOP candidate who appears at the Trump moderated debate, should plan to see themselves re-created on Saturday Night Live the following week.

  • Graychin

    Lots of crow for FF Editors to eat when they endorse Newt for president.

    He’s running against the Hated Kenyan, for Pete’s sake.

  • LFC

    As Newt Gingrich surges in the polls in Iowa and other early primary states, several leading conservative columnists are explaining why Gingrich should be rejected by Republicans voters.

    I love the smell of Republican electoral panic in the morning.

    • ottovbvs

      It is hilarious. They’ve even got the scary, Newt as Boston Strangler picture up.

  • Reflection Ephemeral

    So, some longtime GOP pundits are willing to say negative things about an ethically compromised, despised (by the pro-America parts of America) failed Speaker. Hope is on the way!

    Meanwhile, in reality, this is happening: http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2011/12/iowan-conservatives-rally-to-gingrich-citing-experience-core-gop-values/

    Newt Gingrich has leapt to a sizable lead in preferences for the Iowa Republican caucuses, drawing on a rally from conservatives, positive views of his political experience and a sense he best represents “core Republican values” to push Mitt Romney into a trailing tie with Ron Paul. Gingrich also scores evenly with Romney as the candidate best able to defeat Barack Obama, a mantle Romney long has sought. And this ABC News/Washington Post poll finds Gingrich ahead of the GOP field in trust to handle the economy, the top issue in Iowa, as it is nationally. Given these views, 33 percent of likely Republican caucus-goers currently favor Gingrich for the GOP nomination, with 18 percent apiece for Romney and Paul. Rick Perry garners 11 percent support; Michele Bachmann, 8; Rick Santorum, 7; and Jon Huntsman, 2 percent. There’s room for movement. Just over half of likely caucus-goers, 52 percent, say there’s a chance they may yet change their minds before the Jan. 3 event. Indeed, about one in four, 27 percent, say there’s a “good chance” they’ll switch their first preference — more than enough to shift the standings if the bulk of them were to move in the same direction.

    (I mashed those all into one paragraph because block quoting around here is no fun).

    Four decades of the Southern Strategy, at least one decade of pure identity politics supplanting any ideological justification for GOP allegiance, may well backfire on GOP elites this time around. After all, the media and history are hopelessly biased against the pure American volk, right? Isn’t that what you’ve been telling them for the past forty years? So why should they care what some namby pamby bowtie-wearing elitist might say about anything?

    You took bite of that poisoned chalice, and now you have a tiger by the tail. (R.E. EXCLUSIVE, MUST CREDIT R.E. FOR THAT METAPHOR).

    (FWIW, I still think Romney will win the nomination; the grass roots liked Huckabee quite a lot last time around, but the elites hated him, so he couldn’t raise any money. As Jonathan Bernstein’s been pointing out, endorsements, which Romney has in spades above all others, have been a better predictor than polls of victory. I could be wrong– that’s a big lead, pretty close to the Iowa election, and maybe the Tea Party & online fundraising have changed the way things work– but until it happens, it hasn’t happened).

  • LFC

    So the old guard GOP establishment wants Gingrich out and Romney in. If Romney does get the candidacy, can you imagine the TV commercials we can expect from this video?

    http://andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com/2011/12/romneys-accidental-honesty.html

    Watching Romney drone on and on about flip-flopping is just surreal.

  • pdxcitizen

    Newt Gingrich is the personification of the Republicans’ political and communication strategy of the last 30 years, coming home to roost.

    I guess republican primary voters never got the memo circulating among Republican “elites” that all of the name calling, race baiting and stereotyping (“socialist”, “leftist Kenyan”. etc…) are merely tools to separate white blue collar voters from the Democratic party, to be put aside when the reins of power are actually within reach.

    No one wields the empty phrase better than Gingrich, so can you blame Repub. voters for backing the guy who has the best wolf whistle?

    For 30 years, Republican voters have had to look past the screaming hypocrisy of a “Family Values” platform advocated by outright pederasts, adulterers, closeted homosexuals and crooks, from Hyde to Delay to Craig to Abramoff to Vitter to Gingrich.

    Newt is the ultimate hypocrite, but now you tell Repub. primary voters that hypocrisy actually matters?

    Its a little late for that, don’t you think?

  • jdd_stl1

    Here is David Frum’s take from his piece on November 26:
    “A Gingrich presidency, if such a thing can even be imagined, would be a
    chaotic catastrophe. A Gingrich nomination would yield an Obama landslide.”

    “Any other nominee would gravely test my commitment to the political party I’ve
    supported since I entered the United States as a college student in the fall of 1978.”

    Where “Any other” means anyone other than Huntsman or Romney.

    http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2011/11/26/david-frum-in-the-republican-race-its-romney-huntsman-or-bust/

  • _will_

    and in other signs of “hope” news: Huntsman walks back climate change stance, trends up 8% on Intrade.

    crazy works!

    • jdd_stl1

      Mr. Huntsman, welcome to the clown car. We’ve been keeping your seat warm
      for you.

      • medinnus

        Disappointing, but perhaps a tactical necessity; his statement is ambiguous enough that he can say that science has provided more information after he looked into it.

        As has been noted, he does have a valid window for success in 2012, but not if he keeps calling the GOP base a bunch of intellectual idiots – even if its the truth.

        • ottovbvs

          “Disappointing, but perhaps a tactical necessity”

          Aka pandering to the far right in the Republican party. But no matter eh Medinnus?

  • Oldskool

    The entertainment value of this primary is off the charts. They really should charge for this kind of stuff.

  • catfishjuggling

    Every time I have seen David Frum interviewed he said that he he’d voted for any Republican over President Obama.

    The only sign of hope I’d take from this site is if he said he wouldn’t vote for Newt.

    But as horrible as Gingrich is, David would still vote for him.

    So there is that.

    • TJ Parker

      Turd-polishing is an important skill for politicians and their pundits. How could any pundits resist the lure of the GOP’s greatest of turds, a great man who was sadly driven to adultery because of his profound patriotism!

  • ottovbvs

    Chait gives his usual objective and realistic assessment of Newt’s chances which sounds entirely plausible to me. Yep Newt is still the outsider but claims from the Republican establishment about the impossibility of Newt are fast losing their resonance.

    http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2011/12/newtwening-it-cannot-be-denied.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+nymag%2Fintel+%28Daily+Intelligencer+-+New+York+Magazine%29&utm_content=Google+Reader

    It’s going to be very funny watching Frum and others do the volte face if the Newtster pulls it off.

  • jdd_stl1

    Anybody here have any experience with this site:

    http://www.republicansforobama.org/