The Corner

Giving Newt a Pass

I can’t understand why Newt Gingrich is getting such a pass on his Freddie Mac consulting. He claims to have been a historian for this outfit? FHLMC needs a historian like the U.S.A. needs a Department of Education, like Europe needs a common currency, like … like … I dunno, like Michelle Obama needs another $12,000 accessory.

I sputtered about this on last week’s Radio Derb:

Newt’s trying to ju-jitsu the thing, telling us that his experience as a shill for Freddie Mac gave him valuable insider understanding of governmental affairs. Isn’t that what we want in a candidate, valuable insider understanding of governmental affairs? Quote from Newt, on the campaign trail in Iowa Wednesday, quote: “It reminds people that I know a great deal about Washington. We just tried four years of amateur ignorance, and it didn’t work very well. So having someone who actually knows Washington might be a really good thing.”

That’s a bit like a rabbit applying for a management position on a lettuce farm. Why not? He knows all there is to know about lettuce.

Newt’s chutzpah knows no bounds, though. Back during the 2008 presidential campaign, he told a Fox News interviewer that then-Senator Obama ought to return contributions he had received from Freddie Mac and its sister racket, Fannie Mae. Just last year Newt brought out a campaign book in which he argued for getting rid of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. Now here he is in Iowa this week defending Freddie Mac. Quote: “Every American should be interested in expanding housing opportunities.”

As a conservative Republican, I’d reply that every American should be interested in getting government out of activities where it has no legitimate function, and that would include mortgage lending to home buyers. The phrase “expanding housing opportunities” is pure Democrat-speak, the kind of phrase that drops naturally from the lips of a Pelosi or a Barney Frank. It has no place in the vocabulary of a Republican. An American has a “housing opportunity” when he’s saved up enough for a deposit, and has a good enough credit record to ask a bank for a loan under proper, objective credit criteria, undistorted by political interference.

Mortgage lending has been utterly corrupted by government manipulation, by administrations from Jimmy Carter’s to George W. Bush’s, to the immense detriment of our economy at large. We now know that Newt Gingrich was a willing agent of that corruption. If he can survive our knowing that, the anti-Romney sentiment must be mighty indeed.

I don’t believe it is that mighty. I say Newt’s toast.

Apparently he isn’t; but I still think he ought to be.

John Derbyshire — Mr. Derbyshire is a former contributing editor of National Review.

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