Monday, January 23, 2012

Can conservatives count on Newt?

I've got to strongly disagree with the Economist's RLG here (via Sullivan):
It's not that Mr Gingrich would be the best president. But watching Mitt Romney pivot to the centre with the smoothness of a consultant flipping to his next slide, a manoeuvre we can all expect him to execute the minute he wraps up the nomination, will be depressingly predictable. The perception that he will say whatever he feels he must to become president is not founded on sand. Mr Gingrich, by contrast, can almost certainly be counted on to be the same Mr Gingrich we've seen in the primaries. Say what you like about the man, but he has ideas, says arresting things, and most of all, would make the clearest possible contrast with Barack Obama in the general election. [emphasis added]
On the contrary: Newt is an enormous flip-flopper! Does anyone out there recall his big debate with then-President Bill Clinton in New Hampshire in 1995? This was the first opportunity for Americans (well, C-SPAN viewers, anyway) to see these two titans of the mid-90s -- the great intellectual leaders of conservatism and liberalism, the warriors anointed by rival tribes -- duke it out mano a mano. And this was right after the 1994 elections, during which Gingrich had led his team to victory claiming that Democrats were the party of incest-perpetrators and child-killers. How did he do against Clinton?

He was civil, pleasant, and conciliatory. He spoke about saving Medicare, he praised Americorps, he shook hands with the president over lobbying reform. They shared some laughs. The bomb thrower vanished in the presence of the Democratic president.

In general, Newt's policy positions are famously unstable, to the point where he makes Romney look like a rock in contrast. But the idea that he's going to stick it to Obama in the debates? Well, there's just no evidence for that. Picking a nominee solely because he'd be a good debater is generally a silly idea, but particularly so in Gingrich's case.

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