Saturday, May 14, 2011

Some Newt thoughts

There are a lot of Gingrich gems in this Business Week article. My favorite, of course, is that he compares next year's presidential election to that of 1860, which involved a progressive Illinois politician facing off against racist white southerners. I'm not sure how far he wants to push that metaphor. I also enjoy his odd claim that GE would pay more in corporate taxes if we lowered them. And then there's this nice juxtaposition:
In an interview with The Associated Press earlier Friday Gingrich said he's grown more mature since his days as House speaker, and before that, when he was often described as a bomb-throwing insurgent member of the House Republican minority.
Last year, he suggested U.S. Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor was a racist, said Obama is best understood by his "Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior," and argued that placing a mosque near ground zero in New York City was akin to placing a Nazi sign next to the Holocaust Museum.
These statements, ridiculous as they are, are not the reason that Newt won't get the Republican presidential nomination. The main reason is, as Jon Bernstein has been pointing out for some time, major parties just don't nominate House members for the presidency, and they certainly don't nominate people who retired from the House over a decade ago. In disgrace. The man has never won an election outside suburban Atlanta, and he's provided no evidence in recent years that he ever will. Really, it's hard to imagine that a guy whose last electoral victory was over Cooter feels prepared to take on Obama.

More specifically, Newt faces the problem that a lot of Republicans really don't like him. John Podhoretz's takedown is pretty epic along these lines.

I'm not quite so quick as Bernstein to dismiss Newt as a complete charlatan. While I think he received (and claimed) too much credit for the Republican takeover in 1994, he was responsible, as far as I know, for recruiting quite a few high quality House candidates that year and seeing that they received proper funding. Recruitment matters a great deal in elections, and he was one of very few DC insiders who saw a GOP House takeover as a real possibility long before it happened. And he actually does stumble across clever ideas once in a while, and if you heard his 1995 speech upon becoming Speaker, you know that he can, at times, be quite interesting, historically-minded, and gracious. But those moments are rare.

For the record, I have personally encountered Gingrich twice. Once was in the summer of 1990 -- I was interning on Capitol Hill and got to eat in the House dining room at the same time that he was there. He was eating alone at a table, deep in thought. The second time was at the Irish Times bar on Capitol Hill on the 100th day of the 104th Congress. Republicans were out celebrating all over town. I was actually sitting with some NARAL employees when Newt walked in. A friend of mine invited him to sit with us. He very politely declined. (To my relief -- it would have been an awkward evening.) Oh, and a friend of mine got to use the urinal next to Tony Blankley that same evening. Good times.

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