The Churchill Comparison

by Ramesh Ponnuru

My friend Steven Hayward isn’t exactly for Gingrich’s nomination. He just thinks we ought to consider the possibility that he might turn out to be a great statesman — just as Churchill did, even though people criticized him in terms similar to the ones Gingrich’s critics use. “[W]e cannot prospectively identify those whom we will later come to laud as great statesmen.” He wonders whether we need someone unconventional given the special challenges of our time. And he thinks it’s possible that Gingrich has learned lessons from his earlier failures, as Churchill did.

These strike me as equally good arguments for giving the presidential nomination to Alan Keyes. People have called him grandiose and erratic, just as they said of Churchill. We can’t rule out with 100 percent confidence that he will be a fine statesman. He is certainly unconventional. And we can’t rule out the possibility that he has learned from his mistakes.

If Hayward for some unaccountable reason prefers the more conventional choice of Gingrich, though, I’d love to see a follow-up. Presumably in this analogy it’s the country’s economic slump, overextended government, and debt crisis that are the equivalent of the Nazi challenge Churchill faced. I don’t know a fifth of what Hayward does about Churchill’s career, so perhaps he can let me know: Did Churchill ever take $1.6 million to cheerlead for the enemy? Or attack attempts to fight the enemy as too “radical”?