Friday, April 01, 2011

Newt Gingrich: The Classic Right-Wing Republican

Unlike most right-wing Republicans, Newt Gingrich, the former House Speaker, is actually smart. Of course, that has not translated into a trip to the White House. The reason that Gingrich has not fulfilled any number of ambitions is largely due to the lack of a moral compass. That's actually another way of saying that he doesn't really believe what he says.

One of my favorite sites, The Mahablog, has a post quoting Mr. Gingrich, the former representative from Georgia, who manages to tie himself up in knots with his own words:

A lot of people are snickering about this pronouncement from Newt –

“I have two grandchildren — Maggie is 11, Robert is 9,” Gingrich said at Cornerstone Church here. “I am convinced that if we do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America, by the time they’re my age they will be in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists and with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American.”

As Joe Klein said, “There is genius in this: no other human had located the secular humanist wing of radical Islam before.”

My goodness, Newt uses all the popular devices in that paragraph. He mentions his grandchildren, patriotism, atheism, Islam, secularism and a slight reference to "My Struggle," otherwise known as Mein Kampf.

No doubt touching all those bases is required after reading any number of reports by Republican right wing focus groups. But Newt has a problem. He's never been able to make up his mind which group should be the scapegoat used for enabling his political ambitions. Should it be unions? Gays? Immigrants? Muslims? Socialists? Rational people? All of them?

Newt Gingrich became a politician when communists and Russians were the convenient scapegoats—convenient indeed given the behavior of the Soviet Union. But when the Soviet Union fell, the life of the right wing conservative became difficult. It required work to figure out who to blame from month to month.

Mind you, like most right wing Republicans running for office, Newt Gingrich has no solutions. Perhaps it requires empathy to actually care about the people of the United States and then to identify the problems real people are facing. And then to think about what might be done about them besides looking for a convenient scapegoat, which incidentally has never been particularly successful at improving people's lives, though it usually works out well for the wealthiest Americans since their taxes usually get lowered and the government throws more money their way, even if they don't need it. Most right-wing Republicans know exactly who their real customers are and who's paying the bill. Like Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich is raking in the dough.

Is Newt Gingrich's quote above cynical? Of course it is. This is a family man who handed his wife divorce papers while she was in the hospital. This is a responsible politician who shut down the government because he didn't like his seat on Air Force One. This is a moral crusader who tried to impeach a president for having sex with an intern, while he himself was having sex with an intern. This was a brave young politician who hurled accusations on the House floor against Democrats who refused to answer him back, largely because Newt was talking at 1 in the morning to an empty House on C-Span. Moral crusader indeed!

And yet, after all is said and done, it is a mistake to underestimate Newt Gingrich. I don't believe he's really running for president. But he just might be running for Vice President, with thoughts of being another Dick Cheney. Dick Cheney and George W. Bush drove the U.S. economy into the ditch. Today's Congressional Republicans are doing their best to kill jobs (with lots of help from right wing Republicans in places like Wisconsin).

The Tea Party folks, of course, are completely out of their minds. It's pitiful that they misunderstand the American Revolution. United we stand, divided we fall, is not about politicians saying my way or the highway but about cooperating on our common problems in a pragmatic way. Most average Republicans I know are just as patriotic and American as other folks. But the Tea Party people, for all the noise they make, sound like British Tories trying to protect the corrupt privileges of the wealthy and well-connected than average Americans trying to move forward into the 21st century.

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