Former House speaker Newt Gingrich threw his hat into the presidential ring on Wednesday. Republicans should toss it back onto Gingrich’s head and kindly ask him to go away. He is the wrong man to lead the GOP to victory in November 2012.
Gingrich’s intellect, tenacity, and perseverance helped the Republican party secure the House of Representatives in 1994, ending the Democrats’ 40-year majority. That achievement notwithstanding, Gingrich’s flaws glowed beneath the glare of national leadership. And there they remain.
Gingrich is no happy warrior. He snarls more than he smiles. Rather than speak, he hectors. Gingrich lectures more than he inspires audiences, as if he were Daddy, and they had misbehaved. His abrasive tone will chafe voters long before he ever gets an opportunity to snap at them from the Oval Office.
Also grating, Gingrich cannot say “America.” It’s pronounced A-MEHR-i-ca, not A-MORE-i-ca, as Gingrich puts it.
While “frankly” is a fine word, it’s a verbal tic for Gingrich. As a drinking game, sip a mimosa every time Gingrich says “frankly” on this Sunday’s Meet the Press on NBC. You will be bombed before the first commercial break.
Gingrich’s non-stylistic failings are far graver. After admirably holding promised House votes on the Contract with America’s ten planks, Gingrich had no Act II. He waffled on fighting big government. Among other things, he rescued the notorious sugar program and let Republicans launch their disastrous expansion of earmarks. Just last January, Gingrich defended ethanol subsidies and complained that a pattern of attacks on ethanol by “folks in big cities” “hurts the farmer. It hurts rural America, and it’s fundamentally unfair to America’s future.” Rather than advocate ending ethanol mandates, Gingrich wants a new one: a federal requirement enabling all cars to consume ethanol or methane.
Gingrich’s man-crush on Bill Clinton made him falter in legislative negotiations with the then-president. “I melt when I’m around him,” Gingrich purred in January 1996. “After I get out, I need two hours to detoxify. My people are nervous about me going in there because of the way I deal with this.”
Gingrich also ensnared himself in needless controversies such as an ill-conceived multi-million-dollar book deal and a hissy-fit regarding the utter humiliation of deplaning from Air Force One via a rear door. As the Wall Street Journal editorialized, “It’s time for him to finish growing up.”
Gingrich’s biggest vulnerability, however, is his Technicolorful personal life.
Like him or not, Barack Obama has been married for 19 years to Michelle — his first and only wife. By every indication, he has been faithful to her.
In jarring contrast, Gingrich — inexplicably a hero to many social conservatives — has lived like a guest at the Playboy Mansion. While married to Jackie Battley, his first wife, Gingrich became involved with Marianne Ginther, who soon became Wife No. 2. He then strayed from Ginther with House staffer Callista Bisek, now his third wife.
Gingrich cavorted with his legislative underling during Bill Clinton’s impeachment hearings for lying under oath about cavorting with his subordinate Monica Lewinsky. Gingrich’s failure to zip his zipper under such volatile circumstances confirmed his breathtaking immaturity. Had this dalliance surfaced before the November 1998 midterm elections, the staggering hypocrisy would have triggered America’s gag reflex. Voters would have catapulted the Republicans from the Capitol dome and given the Democrats the House and the Senate. Gingrich’s lack of self-control jeopardized the entire conservative agenda. Luckily for the Right and its ideas, Gingrich did not get caught with his pants down.
Gingrich now calls patriotism his aphrodisiac. As he told the Christian Broadcasting Network: “There’s no question at times in my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate.”
If Republicans nominate Gingrich, Democrats will carpet-bomb him relentlessly with a simple message: “Ladies, can you trust a man who treats women like this?” Although Gingrich’s daughter has recently said the account was false, look-alike actors still may recreate the scene of Gingrich’s request for a divorce from Wife No. 1 as she was hospitalized after breast-cancer surgery. Democrats might organize breast-cancer sufferers to haunt Gingrich with picket signs that read “Newt: Mean to breast-cancer patients; mean to America.”
Given such tawdriness, if Republicans endorse Newt Gingrich for president, they will earn the ensuing electoral shellacking.
– Deroy Murdock is a nationally syndicated columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University.