Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Get Newt

The beat goes on. Or better, the conservative beat up on Newt Gingrich continues.

Jonah Goldberg has explained that establishment conservatives are so horrified at the prospect of a President Gingrich that they are doing everything in their power to stop him.

Reporting on his own informal contacts with Washington conservatives, he has found them all to be obsessed with destroying Newt Gingrich. 

Eric Tarloff is not a conservative. He is a liberal Democrat. He has written speeches for Bill Clinton and Al Gore. We do well to take his analysis of the Republican primary contest under advisement.

Yet, Tarloff describes a situation that coincides with what Goldberg has been hearing, so it gains credence.

His words are chilling, perhaps even more chilling than the prospect of a President Gingrich.

He writes: “… Newt Gingrich… may have the wind at his back right now, but one way or another, he will be brought down.  Opposition research will be leaked to compliant news outlets.  Devastating anti-Gingrich commercials will be produced by campaigns that have no chance of winning.  People who have served with and under Gingrich will trash him in public.  Personal scandals will be revisited, with new and uglier details provided.  Reputable conservative newspapers and magazines will run editorials questioning his fitness.  Much of this has already started to happen, and I'm willing to wager we ain't seen nothin' yet.”

Tarloff says that conservatives are doing it because they want to save the country from what they believe would be a political catastrophe: President Gingrich. Strictly speaking, they do not know what a Gingrich presidency would be like. It's impossible to know the future with certainty. If they are as convinced as Tarloff says they are, they are claiming that their opinions are "settled science."

One understands that a liberal like Tarloff would think this way. For conservative Republicans to launch a Get Newt movement, at the risk of dividing the party against itself, feels much less  reasonable.

If Tarloff has described it accurately, the conservative attitude toward Gingrich bespeaks arrogance. It shows, as I suggested yesterday, that elite conservatives do not respect the views of conservative voters. The disconnect helped found the Tea Party.

I and many others have been writing about this. Yet, the fact that conservatives would be waging rhetorical warfare to force people to think the way they do does not feel like a winning strategy. It implies an self-claimed intellectual superiority that can happily ignore the will of the people.

Forming a cabal to impose your will on the people does not feel like an honorable activity. It’s one thing to analyze and educate. It’s quite another to decide that you have to do everything in your power to Get Newt.

All of the Newtophobia has not produced an enlightening public debate. Since it only makes a case against Newt it suggests that the case for Romney is too feeble to expose.

One can certainly make a reasoned case for Mitt Romney. Many have done so. Most recently, Holman Jenkins did it this morning in the Wall Street Journal.

The system needs fixing, Jenkins argues, and Romney is someone who has spent his life doing just that. Even if his conservative bona fides are less than sterling, Romney is a superb manager, a man who can take charge of the situation and set it right.

And Mitt Romney knows how jobs are created. He created many new jobs at Bain Capital. 

One might reply that the President of the United States is not in the business of rationalizing businesses and creating jobs.The more Romney talks about his skill in managing job creation the more people start thinking that he should perhaps run for CEO.

The American president leads the national government. For all of his experience in business and state government Mitt Romney has had no experience working in the federal government.

So goes the case for Romney, coupled with some substantive doubts. Today, the Romney campaign is mired in the question of whether he or Gingrich is the truer conservative.

Most Republican voters, even those who support Romney, see Newt Gingrich as more of a true conservative than recent convert Mitt Romney.

Ezra Klein explained it well today: “Whatever Gingrich’s heterodoxies, conservatives never worry that he’s not, on some fundamental level, a committed member of their tribe. He’s an odd member, maybe. A member who has unexpected ideas about the moon, perhaps. But a member.”

Conservatives have serious doubts about Romney. If they are trying to overcome their doubts, the candidate is not helping out. He could have done much better than to choose John Sununu to make the case for his conservatism.

As Marc Thiessen writes in the Washington Post, John Sununu was instrumental in putting  David Souter on the Supreme Court. Making him your point man shows that the Romney campaign has lost its mind.

Or else, that it is a lot less effective than one might have expected.

And why, Thiessen asks, does the Romney campaign want to remind the voters of a famous 1990 dust-up between then Minority Leader Gingrich and the Bush White House. True enough, Thiessen explains, Gingrich refused to back a Bush-crafted budget agreement. But Gingrich did it because Bush (with Sununu) had agreed to a budget that caused him to go back on his “No new taxes” pledge. Is it smart for Romney to channel George Bush's ignominious surrender on taxes?

The question remains. How can someone like Gingrich, a man who is wildly reviled by conservative pundits and his former colleagues, be running ahead in the polls. Goldberg answers that voters might see the flawed Gingrich as the man most suited to the times.

In his words: “Moreover, the times may be ripe for precisely the sort of vexing, vainglorious, and all-too-human revolutionary Gingrich claims to be. That’s the argument a few people have been wrestling with (most notably John Ellis for and Steven Hayward for National Review Online). Gingrich, after all, is the only candidate to actually move the government rightward. While getting wealthy off the old order, he’s been plotting for decades how to get rid of it. To paraphrase Lenin, perhaps the K Streeters paid Gingrich to build the gallows he will hang them on?

“That remains a stretch. Mitt Romney is still the sensible choice if you believe these are rough, but generally sensible, times. If, however, you think these are crazy and extraordinary times, then perhaps they call for a crazy, extraordinary — very high-risk, very high-reward — figure like Gingrich.”

As I have mentioned in another post, supporting Gingrich means taking a risk. Not just the risk of losing the election, but the risk of electing someone who might be temperamentally unsuited for the job.

But then, Goldberg points out, those qualities might just be the ones that resonate best with the Zeitgeist. For all anyone knows Gingrich might be the right man for the job at this time.

Taking the argument one step further, Joseph Petros III offers a point that I and others have been making. Gingrich is best at articulating a conservative governing philosophy.

In his words: “Those in the media who are baffled by the rise of Newt Gingrich are overlooking one of the most valuable qualities a candidate can have — the ability to change the way people think.

He continues: “Newt’s strength is that he can convince people to agree with him. GOP voters are turning to him because they are tired of nominating candidates who simply pander to the electorate. They want a candidate who can teach, inspire and lead, and Newt fills that role by aggressively presenting specific ideas and a broader philosophy that they can get behind. While other candidates have been campaigning as salesmen for themselves, Newt has been campaigning as a salesman for conservatism. He treats the spectrum of public opinion not like a fixed quantity, but like a fluid variable that can be influenced.”

And also: “Ronald Reagan became one of the preeminent figures of the conservative movement because he was able to make people believe in conservatism. Holding the right philosophy was only half of the Reagan mystique — selling it was the other. There would have been no Reagan Democrats if he had been a less effective advocate of his deeply held conservative beliefs, or if he had chosen instead to campaign on what the establishment thought those centrist voters wanted to hear.”

Today the Gingrich message is being drowned out by the conservatives who are trying to save the country from him.

The conservative elite should take a deep breath. Its refusal to respect the will of the people is lead the same people to ignore its protestations. When people feel they are not being respected they will usually return the favor.


The Ghost said...

Its been clear for several weeks/months now that NRO stands for National Romney Online ...

With a handful of exceptions the staff of NRO are career writers or authors. Almost none of them have ever held a non media job, ever.

Basically the only experience they have is writing about other peoples experiences.

Their attitude exudes an overpowering stench of intellectual superiority backed by a thin skinned overreaction to any crtitique.

None of them have ever run for office or even worked on a campaign yet they all feel qualified to spout daily nonsesne about just what everyone besides Romney should or shouldn't be doing.

They all want to be the color guy in the booth yet none of them have ever strapped on a helmet.

Dennis said...

All so called journalists, even conservative ones, should be looked at with skepticism. Almost all of them make a living attacking those in the "arena" without ever doing any job that requires running a business. I think it was George McGovern who started a business after he retired from politics and then found out how bad Congress's enacting of laws hurt businesses, especially small business owners.
Journalists have lived in the "Church of "I'm better than everyone else" for so long that they represent no one except themselves.
What real qualification do any of these supposed journalist have? Large numbers of them could not meet the equivalent qualifications for their own jobs that they try to foist on people in the "arena" or those who have the temerity to challenge the insiders.
What a despicable lowlife one has to be in order to spend their whole career dissembling, et al.