The Gingrich Gestalt
From the Dec. 31, 2011, issue of NR


Mark Steyn

Warned against his tendency to self-glorification, Gingrich reacted to his amazing revival by modestly comparing himself to Reagan, Thatcher, and the founders of Walmart and McDonald’s. He left it to Joe McQuaid, publisher of the New Hampshire Union Leader, to produce a comparison more appropriate to a statesman-historian of his stature: Winston Churchill. Like Churchill resigning as first lord of the Admiralty after the debacle of Gallipoli, Gingrich resigned as Speaker after the humiliation of the 1998 midterms. Like Churchill spending years in the political wilderness, Gingrich spent years in the wilderness of K Street. Like Gingrich demanding that Barney Frank and Chris Dodd be sent to jail for political profiteering, Churchill favored summary execution for the Axis leaders. Like Gingrich getting $1.8 million for services as a “historian” to Freddie Mac, Churchill was on a seven-figure retainer from Goebbels. No, hang on . . . Like Newt on Air Force One, Winston was made to exit King George VI’s Gold State Coach from the rear door. No, that’s not it . . .

Newt, says former New Hampshire governor John H. Sununu, is “inconsistent, erratic, untrustworthy, and unprincipled.” But, up against an untrustworthy, unprincipled opponent of consistently non-erratic soporific caution, that’s more than enough. Mitt Romney flutters no hearts. If you believe, as many Republican voters do, that a second Obama term is an existential threat to the republic, the house-trained torpor of the Romney campaign is an affront. Whether Newt is the antidote to it is a thornier question. The 44th president doesn’t loom especially large on the Gingrich canvas: If Newt were a disaster movie, Obama would be one of those bit players who get swept away in the general avalanche of devastation. As Gingrich laid it out to Newsweek, “‘You take brain science, you take personal and Social Security savings, you take offering the poor the opportunity to work and have a paycheck instead of food stamps, you take Lean Six Sigma’ — a management-efficiency doctrine, his latest fascination — ‘and suddenly you have a Gestalt that is in many ways conservative, but in many ways very moderate.’”

“You have a Gestalt”? Would Rick Perry have a Gestalt? Or Herman Cain? Romney might, but the consultants would have advised against mentioning it after it tested badly with the focus group. Bush was never in danger of having a Gestalt, nor Dole. And, with Newt’s Gestalt, brain science and Social Security savings accounts are only the beginning! You take the repeal of Obamacare, you take a 12.5 percent corporate-tax rate, you take community illegal-immigrant-legalization boards, you take airborne lasers and fire them at North Korea, you take the oceans and pump nitrogen into them to end global warming, you take Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus and apply it as a business model to the Congressional Budget Office, you take Deepak Chopra on deep-pan pizza, and suddenly you have a candidate who knows the difference between Gestalt and Gstaad in a way that is kind of conservative but also very . . . 

Whoa, hold up there. What exactly is so conservative about the Newt Gestalt? When Romney dared him to return his Freddie Mac windfall, Gingrich responded by demanding that Mitt “give back all of the money he’s earned from bankrupting companies and laying off employees over his years at Bain.” That’s a cute line if you’re a 32-year-old Transgender and Colonialism major trying to warm up the drum circle at Occupy Wall Street, but it’s very odd coming from the supposedly more-conservative candidate on the final stretch of a Republican primary. When Romney attacked Perry’s views on Social Security by accusing him of wanting to shove Granny off a cliff, he was recycling the most shopworn Democratic talking point. Newt effortlessly trumps that by recycling the laziest anti-globalist anarchist talking point. At Freddie Mac, Newt was peddling influence to a quasi-governmental entity. At Bain Capital, Mitt Romney was risking private equity in private business enterprise. What sort of “conservative” would conflate the two?


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