This post originally appeared in March of 2007 when Gingrich was contemplating getting into the 2008 race. I thought it would be a good idea, given Newt’s recent surge upwards in the polls, to remind us all why Gingrich would be slaughtered in any one on one presidential contest and why if he did happened to get elected, why his presidency would be a disaster.
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I must confess to having a great admiration for the oratorical and intellectual gifts of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. No doubt about it, Newt is an “idea man” - suffused with a passion and curiosity about government, about the world around him to the point that ideas pour forth from his supple and inquisitive mind in a rapid fire fashion reminiscent of the staccato bursts from a machine gun.
Let me make clear that Newt doesn’t do nuance. The dirty details of how to put his ideas into actionable form he leaves to others while he moves on to the next challenge. A former staff member explains:
A former aide, Ladonna Lee, said â€œHe would always get people started on a project or a vision, and weâ€™re all slugging up the mountain to accomplish it. Newtâ€™s nowhere to be foundâ€¦Heâ€™s gone on to the next mountaintop.â€
Former Congressman and personal friend Vin Weber said pretty much the same thing:
â€œI never saw a lot of crackpot ideas. I saw a lot of good ideas. But there was difficulty in assessing a cost-benefit ratio. Even if every idea is good, resources are limited. With Newt, it didnâ€™t matter if we were overreaching, we had to do everything.â€
This is basically why nearly two years ago I wrote a piece entitled “Please Don’t Run, Newt.” Gingrich is a man whose calling is probably in the classroom or perhaps as a back bench legislator. Because what becomes clear after listening to one of his jaw-dropping presentations where ideas flow like the riffs created by a good blues guitarist, seamlessly moving from topic to topic with a breathtaking rhetorical ease, is that Newt is not executive material. In fact, he would be a disaster - a coherent Carter where his Administration would start down one road only to be sidetracked as President Gingrich discovered some other shiny intellectual bauble that would distract him from his course and doom his initiative.
And then, there’s his personal baggage.
Like many of the great conceptualizers, Gingrich sees his own personal morality as a fluidic creation. He is able to rationalize many of his foibles as sacrifices to the cause. That’s right; Gingrich, as many before him, see straying from the straight and narrow as just one of the burdens he must bear in order for him to give the world the benefit of his ideas and intellect.
No where is that more clear than in this interview he did with the TV evangelist James Dobson where the former Speaker and Clinton nemesis reveals that he had an extra-marital affair at the time he was pursuing the impeachment of the President:
“The president of the United States got in trouble for committing a felony in front of a sitting federal judge,” the former Georgia congressman said of Clinton’s 1998 House impeachment on perjury and obstruction of justice charges. “I drew a line in my mind that said, ‘Even though I run the risk of being deeply embarrassed, and even though at a purely personal level I am not rendering judgment on another human being, as a leader of the government trying to uphold the rule of law, I have no choice except to move forward and say that you cannot accept â€¦ perjury in your highest officials.”
Suffering for the greater good of impeaching Clinton while enjoying the ill gotten fruits of a relationship outside of his marriage? I don’t know any other way to read that except that Gingirch feels himself a victim of his own moral failings. Drawing a line in one’s mind between public and private morality is not new in politics. But to basically be accusing someone of doing so and then enjoying the advantages yourself of such moral schizophrenia is almost beyond belief.
We are all, as I said earlier today, fallible people. And conservatives are willing to forgive. Whether they’ll buy into Gingrich as the best standard-bearer for the party and most deserving candidate for commander-in-chief–as opposed to anything more than the quick-thinking debater, cable TV guest, and lecturer that he now is–is another matter.
Indeed, as Malkin shows, Gingrich has negative vs. positive ratings that make Hillary look positively unbeatable:
Part of that is almost certainly the fact that people remember Gingrich as one of the most polarizing political figures in recent memory. And it also could be due to a list of ethical lapses that call into question his fitness for any office, high or otherwise:
1. Bouncing 22 checks in the House Banking scandal.
2. A 1984 book deal backed by campaign contributors and put together in his district office using taxpayer money.
3. Financial irregularities with Gingrichâ€™s personal Political Action Committee GOPAC.
4. Use of tax exempt groups (the Abraham Lincoln Opportunity Foundation for one) to fund a TV program on grassroots political activism.
5. A multi-million dollar advance for a book deal with Rupert Murdoch that gave rise to charges of hypocrisy on Gingrichâ€™s part because it was the same thing he accused ousted Democratic House Speaker Jim Wright of doing.
And the story of his divorce from his first wife - where the Congressman filed for the split while his wife was lying in a hospital bed battling cancer:
After the separation in 1980, she had to be operated on again, to remove another tumor While she was still in the hospital, according to [Lee] Howell (former press secretary), â€œNewt came up there with his yellow legal pad, and he had a list of things on how the divorce was going to be handled. He wanted her to sign it. She was still recovering from surgery, still sort of out of it, and he comes in with a yellow sheet of paper, handwritten, and wants her to sign it.
No. I can forgive many peccadilloes in a man both personal and political. But that doesn’t mean I think he would make a good president. And in Newt’s case, his curious sense of personal morality along with his inability to stay focused on one goal at a time would doom his candidacy in the general election and doom his presidency even if he were to be elected.
I think this latest revelation means that he has resigned himself to not running for president in 2008. Only overarching hubris would allow him to think that he could not only win the nomination but get himself elected. And I think all Republicans should breathe a sigh of relief if this is so.
Ed Morrissey has it about right:
Gingrich didn’t commit perjury. However, Gingrich had the affair with his staffer at the same time he pursued Clinton’s impeachment for perjuring himself about sex with an intern. Given that Republicans made a great deal of noise about Clinton’s sexual escapades with an employee/volunteer in the Oval Office itself, that comparison is not completely apples to oranges.
Especially when the left will ignore - as they always have - the perjury of Clinton and concentrate on the sexcapades. It was one of the more successful PR operations in the last decade to formulate The Narrative that demonized Starr, accused Republicans of hypocrisy for their failings in staying true to their wives, while completely obfuscating the base charges against Clinton.