Reservations on Newt

by Sal on February 2, 2009

in Election 2012,Politics

One of the names being thrown around for the Republican nomination in 2012 is former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich.  Gingrich definitely has Conservative credentials, was the architect of the 1994 Republican Revolution, and is a good ideas-man.  However, do the skills that can be attributed to Newt translate well to that of the Chief Executive of the United States?  Rick Moran at Right Wing Nut House doesn’t think so.  In a post today, he writes about how Newt is a great problem-identifier, has a great grasp of history, and is good at coming up with all kinds of ideas to solve problems.  What Newt lacks, according to Moran, is the ability to formulate a plan to execute his ideas effectively and the political calculus necessary to move through an agenda, comparing him to liberal icon Adlai Stevenson in this regard:

Gingrich is afflicted with the same disease that brought down another brilliant conceptualizer in politics Adlai Stevenson. Stevenson set liberals on fire with the suppleness and power of his intellect but his problems in taking the next step and putting those concepts into a framework that was politically actionable had the Kennedy’s dismissing Adlai as a lightweight. That feeling of disdain persisted right on up to the Cuban Missile Crisis when, after proposing the solution that inevitably became the basis of agreement between the Soviets and the US - removal of the Jupiter Missiles from Turkey and a “no-invasion” pledge for Cuba – Stevenson was lambasted by Bobby Kennedy as “an appeaser” and there was serious thought given to replacing him at the UN (Bobby calling anyone an appeaser was a joke dripping with irony considering his father was the world’s #1 appeaser of Hitler.).

In the end, Stevenson performed more than adequately at the UN and history has judged him correct with regard to the eventual concession on the Turkish missiles – a fact not revealed about the crisis until fairly recently due to the Kennedy’s fears that the luster would be lost on JFK’s “victory” over Khrushchev in the crisis if it became known we gave up the strategically relevant Jupiters for missiles in Cuba. There was also the immediate matter of the 1962 mid term elections where Kennedy did not wish it known he had folded on the Jupiters thus giving the Republicans a club to beat him with.
Gingrich and Stevenson are similar in that they could mesmerize an audience with their brilliance but when it came to offering solutions to the problems they so exquisitely described, they were already on to talking about the next problem that needed addressing. Such men do not make good executives which is why any talk of Newt in 2012 scares me.

I don’t know if I buy the comparison to Stevenson, but Moran does have a point.  Gingrich was a much better minority leader than Speaker.  Once the initial honeymoon associated with the Republican Revolution and the Contract with America ended, Gingrich failed to put together and execute an agenda to move beyond the contract.  He struggled politically against Bill Clinton, and mostly lost (remember the budget battles).  True, this may be because of the bully pulpit of the Presidency is no match for that of Speaker, but does this show that Gingrich will have a hard time combating congress should he have an opposition party?

As stated before, I have not made up my mind on who I support for the nomination for 2012 — that is still a long way off — although I am leaning towards Sarah Palin at the current time.  Newt, for all the praise and respect he deserves for what he has done for the Conservative movement, may just be too flawed to do the job.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Ryan February 2, 2009 at 5:20 pm

I love Newt as an ideas man. I don’t always agree with all of those ideas, but he is able to think outside the box with an eye on history and what he thinks is best for America. Newt himself has said that the party needs to focus less on 1 office, but on the over 500,000 offices around the nation. The “American Solutions” group is his current project which is trying to focus on the grassroots, where I think he is at his best. That being said, I don’t think President Newt would be the best utilization of his talents in my opinion.

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Mike February 2, 2009 at 6:03 pm

I disagree. Newt Gingrich was an excellent Speaker. He led a Congress that reduced taxes from what they were when he started, controlled spending to the point where our nation had a balanced budget, reformed welfare, and increased defense spending, all with a Democrat in the White House.

It’s true that Newt lost political battles with Clinton in that Newt had low numbers and Clinton’s were high. It’s also true that Newt was a better minority leader than Speaker. But neither of those facts undermine Gingrich’s legislative accomplishments. The legislation was shoved down Clinton’s throat (no pun intended). Every politician would be a better minority leader than Speaker simply by nature of the position.

That’s not to say I back Newt in 2012. He sees government as having a role in too many situations for my liking even though he would keep spending under control. The only two candidates on my radar that seem to understand government’s proper role are Sarah Palin and Mark Sanford. I just wouldn’t call Newt flawed because he’s better in opposition than in government. All politicians are.

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