Ethanol lobbyist Newt Gingrich and us — and the future of the GOP
The last time these columns were lambasted by a presidential candidate in Iowa, he was Democrat Richard Gephardt and the year was 1988. The Missouri populist won the state caucuses in part on the rallying cry that “we’ve got to stop listening to the editorial writers and the establishment,” especially about ethanol and trade. Imagine our amusement to find Republican Newt Gingrich joining such company.
The former Speaker blew through Des Moines last Tuesday for the Renewable Fuels Association summit, and his keynote speech to the ethanol lobby was as pious a tribute to the fuel made from corn and tax dollars as we’ve ever heard. Mr. Gingrich explained that “the big-city attacks” on ethanol subsidies are really attempts to deny prosperity to rural America, adding that “Obviously big urban newspapers want to kill it because it’s working, and you wonder, ‘What are their values?’”
Mr. Gingrich traced the roots of these supposed antipathies to the 1880s, an observation that he repeatedly tendered “as an historian.” The Ph.D. and star pupil of futurist Alvin Toffler then singled out the Journal’s long-held anti-ethanol views as “just plain flat intellectually wrong.”
Mr. Gingrich is right that ethanol poses an intellectual problem, but it has nothing to do with a culture war between Des Moines and New York City. The real fight is between the House Republicans now trying to rationalize the federal fisc and the kind of corporate welfare that President Obama advanced in his State of the Union. We’ll dwell on this problem not merely because Mr. Gingrich the historian brought it up, but because it and he illustrate so many of the snares facing the modern GOP.