The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

If Newt Criticism Makes One a RINO, I Guess Steyn Is, Too


Today’s Morning Jolt has more about things going “boom” in Iran, Mayor Bloomberg boasting that he has an army, and . . . more Newt.

Before I begin, that noted RINO Mark Steyn on Hugh Hewitt last night:

MS: I think Newt is a great salesman for Newt. But if you ask me, he hops and skips like a giddy frog across lily pads across the pond, from one, little, itsy-bitsy novelty idea to another, not awfully well thought out. And when I look at some of the things he’s managed to sign onto over the last fifteen years, I find that very worrying. Even the Contract With America, by the way, all the programs it was supposed to eliminate not only weren’t eliminated, 96 of them or whatever, but by 2000, the spending on them had gone up 30%. He’s very good. He’s a very plausible salesman when he wants to be. But the idea of Newt as the Republican presidential candidate is, I have to say, extremely dismaying to me.

The similar vibe from today’s Jolt:

The Newton Bomb

You read the grand collection of easily-forgotten what-was-he-thinking Newt quotes on Campaign Spot Wednesday, right? I went to Memeorandum Wednesday night to find it at the top of the page.

Unsurprisingly, those who preferred somebody besides Newt loved it; Newt fans insisted that it was A) evidence that NR will endorse Romney B) evidence that I’ve been bought off by Mitt Romney C) a tirade (somehow quoting Newt constitutes a tirade) D) RINO!

It’s just so farshtunken tiresome.

Streiff at RedState suggests I’m a “gnome,” scoffing, “I’m sure there is an army of gnomes out there, this very instant, researching every exotic statement Gingrich has uttered in his career. This will be a full employment plan not only for those gnomes but their children because every time Gingrich has had a thought he has told a newspaper somewhere about it.”

Of course. I suppose all true conservatives shrug nonchalantly at the thought of a candidate and potential president who feels the need to publicly proclaim every thought that comes into his head.

I don’t doubt that Gingrich is brilliant. But he’s also extraordinarily undisciplined, quick to come up with ideas, quick to tout and celebrate them, and quick to discard them, a form of intellectual Attention Deficit Disorder that marks his post-Congressional career. For example, in 2003, he offered an explosive and provocative argument that President Bush’s foreign policy was being undermined by his own diplomatic corps, and he passionately declared, “only a top-to-bottom reform and culture shock will enable the State Department to effectively spread U.S. values and carry out President George W. Bush’s foreign policy.” This was (and still is!) bold stuff, his article caused a big stir, his contentions outraged then-Secretary of State Colin Powell and every diplomat, Gingrich a lot of attention . . . and then nothing happened. No reforms were enacted. Gingrich moved on to his next big idea for American renewal, and for all the hubbub, we have the exact same culture at Foggy Bottom that we always had.

Most of Newt’s big initiatives since leaving office have had this big talk, little action pattern: the task force on U.N. reform, the Hart-Rudman Commission (it talked a lot about terrorism in 1999, but nobody was listening). I suppose you could argue that his Center for Health Transformation was an exception, as it helped create the prescription drug benefit for Medicare . . . but then again, a lot of conservatives see that as another unfunded expansion of an entitlement program. He proposed U.S. efforts to remove Yassir Arafat from power in April 2002. Bold idea, went nowhere (became moot in late 2004). Later that year, he attacked Walter Mondale (the Democrats’ Senate candidate in Minnesota after Paul Wellstone was suddenly killed in a plane crash) by saying that Mondale wanted to privatize Social Security and raise the retirement age. He constantly blurts these things out, and because he’s a former speaker, there are rarely any lasting consequences. As the Republican nominee or as the American president, there would be big consequences.

Hey, look, if you’ve written me off as a hopeless RINO, how about Mark Steyn? Jeff Poor at the Daily Caller caught Steyn sitting in for Rush earlier this week:

Filling in for Rush Limbaugh on his radio show Tuesday, Steyn referenced a Pundit & Pundette blog post that suggested Gingrich sounds smarter on the debate stage because he uses so many adverbs.

“You watch him in the debates,” Steyn said. “It’s all ‘profoundly, dramatically deeply compelling. All the action is in the adverbs. One of my problems again with Newt is like he’s bursting with ideas that sound all as if they are coming from a self-help manual. If you remember back in his heyday, he had something called ‘The Triangle of American Progress.’ And that evolved into the “Four Pillars of American Civilization,’ which in turn expanded into the ‘Five Pillars of the Twenty-First Century.’”

And the growth of those programs, from three-to-four-to-five points, doesn’t lend a lot of credence to any hopes Gingrich would scale back government.”

“And by the way, just the sort of grade inflation going on in his plans,” Steyn added, ”makes him sound as a wee bit of a dodgy prospect when comes to actually slashing back government.”

A couple people wondered when we would see a similar list of Mitt Romney’s deviations from conservative thinking. Well, there’s this thing that Tim Pawlenty called “Obamneycare,” and he used to emphasize that he was pro-choice, and he used to boast that he was an independent during Reagan-Bush and . . . what’s that? You’ve heard all of that? Yeah, me too. In fact, we spent most of 2007 and the beginning of 2008 hashing this stuff out. The primary difference (no pun intended) between last cycle and this cycle is that the enactment of Obamacare has put the issue of the individual mandate front and center, and Romney’s view is that we must fight all the way to the Supreme Court to ensure that the federal government never thinks it has the authority to make us buy health care . . . so that the states are free to make us buy health care, instead.

Despite having deep worries about Gingrich’s temperament in office, I’m not that anti-Newt; if he gets the nomination I’ll be strapping on my helmet and doing my best to replace President Obama with President Gingrich. And I’ll really be hoping for some kick-tush veep who will hopefully be able to keep Gingrich focused on enacting his best ideas. (Hint, hint.)

If you prefer Gingrich to Romney or any other candidate, fine. But don’t tell me you’re choosing Gingrich over Romney because the latter is an inconsistent, unreliable, fair-weather conservative and the former isn’t.

Tags: Newt Gingrich


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