The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Newt? No Problem.

Posted on | May 14, 2011 | 13 Comments

While I usually quote Time magazine’s David von Drehle only to mock him, he’s inarguably right when he says:

The main problem Newt Gingrich faces in his campaign for President is not going to be the number of liberals who don’t like him. It’s going to be the number of conservatives who don’t like him.

Von Drehle quotes John Podhoretz among others, as Gingrich’s rightward opponents. His problem is perhaps not so much that conservatives don’t like Newt — who is now, as always, an extremely articulate critic of liberalism — but that they don’t trust him. He is a distinctly slippery politician, whose ideological commitments are not entirely solid and sound. His 2008 global-warming ad with Nancy Pelosi is a case in point:

If Gingrich could be forgiven for that stunning lapse of judgment, there are yet other lapses to explain:

Callista Bisek’s friends from rural Wisconsin were stunned when, well over a decade ago, she confided that she was secretly dating an older, married man: Newt Gingrich.
Still in her 20s when they met, Ms. Bisek had been raised in a town of 1,500, the only child of a meat packer and a secretary. A churchgoing Roman Catholic, she had attended a Lutheran college where she practiced piano five hours a day. “Is this the wisest course for you to be taking?” Karen Olson, her best friend, recalled asking.
Today, Ms. Bisek is Mrs. Gingrich, married for 11 years, but perhaps best remembered for the six-year affair that contributed to her husband’s political downfall. His critics cast Mr. Gingrich, the former House speaker, as a hypocrite who sought to impeach a president over infidelity while engaging in it himself with Ms. Bisek, who was a Congressional aide. . . .

Set aside your moral outrage over adultery, and focus instead on this Capitol Hill rule: Members don’t date staffers. Period.

Congressional staffers are hired at taxpayer expense to conduct the people’s business, not to serve as “comfort women” to lonely politicians. In the hierarchy of D.C. sins, dating a Hill staffer is not as bad as shagging an intern — interns are absolutely off-limits — but it is still a breach of trust, in part because of its demoralizing influence on other staffers. Granted, the future Mrs. Gingrich worked for Rep. Steve Gunderson, so Newt wasn’t her boss, but still: It simply isn’t done.

Despite all that, however, I feel no need to mount an anti-Gingrich campaign, for the simple reason that I don’t think Gingrich has a realistic chance at winning the nomination. He will be an important voice in the 2012 debate, but I don’t see him sparking a grassroots brushfire of enthusiasm. In fact, at the Georgia state GOP convention, Gingrich was at risk of being overshadowed by another 2012 candidate:

MACON, Ga. — It had all the trappings of a homecoming. Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker who helped Republicans rise to power in this once-solid Democratic state, returned Friday deliver his first speech as a presidential candidate before thousands of state GOP delegates.
But ahead of Gingrich’s scheduled address Friday evening, party activists were buzzing about another favorite son — Herman Cain.
“He doesn’t talk political,” said Jeanette Bean, a Gwinnett County delegate who was passing out Draft Cain stickers. “He talks straight. He doesn’t mince his words and says it how it is. It’s so refreshing,”
Plenty of other attendees seemed to agree. Kicking off the two-day convention, Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss gave a shout out to both Georgia natives. “We’ve got Newt Gingrich,” he said, which earned a whistle of approval from one member of the audience.
When Chambliss added, “We’ve got Herman Cain,” loud whoops, cheers and applause were heard.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: “Georgia Republicans to Newt Gingrich: Sorry, but you’re no Herman Cain.” I believe the word is, “Heh.”


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