Newt Gingrich is under fire. Again. Negative perceptions of him are on the rise from within the Republican party. Again.
A handful of anti-Gingrich commentaries by prominent Republicans/conservatives appeared on January 25 and January 26. This is intended to urge primary voters in Florida to abandon Gingrich as a possible presidential nominee.
Indeed Gingrich has always been controversial. His negative ratings are as high as for any politician in recent memory. This is not an opinion. This is a fact. And this is not a good basis for a presidential bid.
No matter what you think, Newt would have a hard time getting elected president. And this comes from someone who has admired Gingrich’s intellect and his feistiness, but who is simply observing political common sense now that he is running for president.
No matter how strong you may perceive Gingrich as being, he will be targeted by the same media that have beaten up on him for decades as the extreme caricature of a Republican – an older, gruff, know-it-all, overweight white guy who often seems full of himself.
Indeed the man who claimed repeatedly in 2011 that the Republican nomination for the presidency is his for the asking has run up against a juggernaut of opposition to his candidacy in his own party after he surged by winning the South Carolina primary.
This opposition is to be expected. After all, this is politics. But this seems to be somewhat different than politics as usual.
Republican stalwart Bob Dole, the 1996 presidential candidate and a former US senator from Kansas, recently blasted Gingrich for historically being a "one-man-band who rarely took advice."
In supporting Mitt Romney, Dole has written a letter to conservatives saying that he, Dole, personally assisted former House speaker Gingrich to pay off a penalty imposed by the House Ethics Committee.
Wrote Dole about Gingrich: "In 1997 a number of House members wanted to throw him out (after 2 years) as Speaker. But he hung on until after the 1998 elections when the writing was on the wall. His mounting ethics problems caused him to resign in early 1999. I know whereof I speak as I helped establish a line of credit of $150,000 to help Newt pay off the fine for his ethics violations. In the end, he paid the fine with money from other sources."
Dole wrote many other unflattering things about Gingrich to add to the rising tide of concern over a potential Gingrich presidential candidacy, including:
"If Gingrich is the nominee it will have an adverse impact on Republican candidates running for county, state, and federal offices. Hardly anyone who served with Newt in Congress has endorsed him and that fact speaks for itself. He was a one-man-band who rarely took advice. It was his way or the highway."
Dole added that "Gingrich had a new idea every minute and most of them were off the wall. …He loved picking a fight with Bill Clinton because he knew this would get the attention of the press.”
This is pretty powerful stuff. And Dole’s statements are going to have an impact because everybody knows that they have truth in them, and that the Republicans themselves forced Gingrich out of his speakership. This is not just the ‘Republican Establishment’ going after Newt. It is much bigger than that.
Indeed there are major figures all across the Republican spectrum who just don’t like Newt and who are terrified that he will bring down the entire GOP if he is the nominee.
Wrote Dole: "In my run for the presidency in 1996 the Democrats greeted me with a number of negative TV ads and in every one of them Newt was in the ad. He was very unpopular and I am not only certain that this did not help me, but that it also cost House seats that year."
For those who know history, this is all established fact.
To put Gingrich into perspective, just imagine the reverse situation - that liberal Democrat former House speaker Nancy Pelosi were running for president. Conservatives and Republicans would be ecstatic because she has much the same template as Gingrich does – she ushered the Democrats back into power but then she overreached and became personally unpopular.
Republicans would be preparing the attack ads today, that Pelosi is unpopular, unstable, unelectable, a caricature of the far-left party. While at the same time some liberal Democrats would be arguing that Pelosi is a good liberal who could be president - just like some conservatives are arguing the same about Gingrich.
Controversial quotes by Newt also have been dredged up. During Ronald Reagan’s tenure Gingrich made some unflattering statements about The Gipper. And while these are said to be isolated comments, Gingrich still made them, and in very public venues like the House floor.
These types of negative comments do not go over well with many conservatives. Meanwhile today Newt is making films about Reagan and talking highly of him. This paradox in itself is troubling and indicative of a credibility problem with Gingrich.
And while Gingrich repeatedly ties himself to Reagan, his name is only mentioned two times in four significant books about Reagan, according to Albert Hunt of bloomberg.com.
Has Newt been a good conservative?
Well, yes… but
Indeed Gingrich has a 90% conservative voting record. And we all have admired him for it. He led the 1994 revolution in which the Republicans took back the House of Representatives after 40 years out of power. He has taken on the media without fear, and criticized Obama, Democrats and their policies ruthlessly and smartly.
But he often shoots from the hip and has way too many ideas - such as his suggestion that school kids take on janitor jobs – rather than focusing on a few big ideas. This is the type of intellectual rumination that belongs in a think tank, not on the campaign trail. This is what Dole meant when he said that Newt “had a new idea every minute…”
And Gingrich certainly did attack congressman Paul Ryan’s Medicare reform plan as “right-wing social engineering”, almost sinking his current campaign from the start. And he did viciously impugn capitalism in his assault ads on Romney. And he has supported the individual health insurance mandate. He has repeatedly praised FDR. He appeared in a ‘global warming’ ad with Pelosi. And when Newt sidled up to Al Sharpton in 2009 to talk about education, that was not good. Sharpton is America’s #1 political hustler.
Gingrich supported the ‘global warming’ theory early on saying in 2007 that “the evidence is sufficient to move towards the most effective possible steps to reduce carbon loading." This was at the height of GW hysteria, and shows Gingrich playing to the media. So conservatives must understand that Newt has shown streaks of unadulterated opportunism.
We conservatives also have embraced Gingrich’s toughness against the Media Left. In the January 26 debate, however, Newt tried taking on CNN moderator Wolf Blitzer as he had taken on moderators in two previous debates. But his attack was muted by Blitzer because the media are onto Gingrich’s anti-media strategy.
Thus it will not work any longer, silencing one of Gingrich’s potent weapons. In fact it may end up backfiring as the media focus their energies on tripping up Gingrich, whom they always have hated.
And the fact that the media always have hated Gingrich is another huge problem. Because whatever you think about Gingrich, it is true that the media hate him like they hated Nixon, with a special vitriol beyond their standard hatred for most Republicans.
Newt also has had a chaotic personal life that is completely out of synch with conservative beliefs. And that is very troubling. He is in his third marriage. He cheated on his first two wives. His second wife charged that Gingrich demanded an “open marriage” where he could continue to have relations with his now-wife Callista.
Conservative commentator R. Emmett Tyrell even called him ‘William Jefferson Gingrich’ for his repeated marital lapses. And these lapses are real, not imagined.
And don’t think for one second that independent feminist and leftist groups, armed with tons of Silicon Valley cash and Follywood cash and Warren Buffett cash would not mount vicious independently-funded (i.e., unlimited) TV and radio assaults in critical electoral states in the general election in order to savage Gingrich over his personal life and turn women voters away from him. This is just one of the fears of Republicans.
Who knows what else might come up. You know, the October Surprise that we don’t know about yet.
This is all observation of fact, not opinion. It is something that we all must think about. And cumulatively it is very troubling for those of us who understand the absolute necessity of defeating Obama. So stay tuned. The Florida primary is tomorrow, Tuesday, January 31. Romney is rising strongly in the polls and Gingrich is falling as the anti-Gingrich forces ramp up and spread their message.
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