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Newt Gingrich is the latest Republican presidential candidate to beat. Aside from the fact that he’s “not Mitt Romney”, I don’t understand what about him appeals to potential voters. He’s not particularly charismatic or charming—in fact, he’s downright condescending. He doesn’t have impeccable conservative credentials. He doesn’t even have catchy soundbites.
While I’m certainly not a Newt Gingrich fan, I don’t agree with the reasons why he’s being attacked. “Personal baggage” is how pundits have put his personal transgressions as well as what are seen as his media missteps. There is plenty to disagree with Gingrich on politically (whether you’re a prospective primary voter or you’re a progressive like me who’s taken an interest in the candidates because if Obama were to lose you’d want it to be someone who is at least potentially palatable as president). If, however, the focus is to be on Gingrich’s personality flaws, I’d like to focus on issues that should be of much greater importance to voters than Gingrich’s multiple marriages, the affair he had while his previous wife had cancer, his hypocrisy during the skewering of Bill Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky affair, or—worst of all in the eyes of conservative pundits—Gingrich’s “Al Gore sponsored” commercial about using alternative energy to power America because of the devastating effects of climate change with none other than that she-devil Nancy Pelosi (gasp).
A quick word on the Pelosi/Gingrich commercial: Whether you personally like Nancy Pelosi or not, the reason both politicians were in the commercial was not accidental. At the time of the commercial (beginning in 2007), Pelosi was Speaker of the House. Gingrich was a former Speaker of the House. A not so subtle parallel was to be drawn. This commercial was supposed to be post-partisan. It was a step forward. Both Pelosi and Gingrich admitted that they may not agree on everything, but they agreed on renewable energy for the country they both served. How refreshing. Remember the days when members of Congress could actually agree on things and cross party lines? Yeah, I don’t really either. This commercial, however, was a glimmer of that long lost time. Now, after being dragged through the mud for appearing in a commercial with Herman Cain’s “Princess Nancy” about that liberal myth meant to bankrupt America by the hippie commies known as climate change (double gasp), Gingrich has back pedaled on his participation in the commercial and with the organization behind it.
What happened to principles? What happened to leadership? Taking allegedly unpopular positions because you know they would benefit the country and the world—as opposed to cow towing to the extremes of the party—is true leadership. This is the kind of thing I want to see, and it should be the kind of thing that Republicans want to see, as well. And since when did believing in science become a disqualifier for attaining the nation’s highest office? Jon Huntsman, who is a definite conservative on the traditional issues that matter to Republicans, has been labeled a moderate in no small part because of his open support for evolution and for his belief in anthropogenic climate change. Especially in an election where the true differences between Democrats and Republicans are supposed to be on the economic front, punishing a candidate—whether it be Huntsman or Gingrich—for supporting “Al Gore’s agenda” is ridiculous and shameful.
Newt is sleazy. He is an immense political opportunist. He is arrogant, self-serving, and snarky. In a word, he is not presidential. He wants Americans to look at his record. A standout point from said record was the way he conducted business while in the House of Representatives. Before ascending to the Speakership, he fed his popularity by giving passionate speeches to the chamber. These speeches were televised on C-Span, a method Gingrich purposely employed in an effort to use broadcast media to his advantage. These impassioned speeches seemed to defy opposition. So good was he that he captivated the esteemed room. The only problem was that he was being entirely disingenuous to both the audience and the other House members. Gingrich purposely gave long, secret, after-hours speeches to empty House chambers in the late 1980s. He did this so that his ideas would not be opposed, and he would come off seeming like some kind of invincible genius. This Karl Rove-esque trick is no longer allowed to occur in Congress. It was cheating. You can read about Gingrich’s sneaky tactic here: http://books.google.com/books?id=NmCL26aE00wC&pg=PA169&dq=%2Bgingrich+%2Bcspan+%2Bafterhours&hl=en&ei=NFTdTs3GBcf30gGV7pzSDQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CDwQ6AEwAQ
Watch Newt Gingrich in any debate and you will see how he responds to his fellow candidates. I had the special pleasure of seeing him debate Howard Dean at a George Washington University event a few months before he formally declared his candidacy. He oozes disregard and condescension. Republicans love to call Barack Obama an elitist. Newt Gingrich is the elitist archetype.
As if these aren’t turnoffs enough, Gingrich’s cozying up to Donald Trump is downright sickening. It’s shameless opportunism. Seeking out Trump’s endorsement and courting Trump on both his recent trip to Manhattan and lauding Trump’s debate makes Gingrich look desperate and low.
Gingrich’s smugness knows no bounds. His “look at me” ethic and his constant declarations of “I’m going to be the nominee” belie insecurity shrouded in arrogance.
One thing I like about Newt Gingrich is that he is the only candidate to come out publicly in support of NASA. It seemed like he would be for increasing funding to NASA, and at the most recent Republican debate in Iowa (Saturday, December 10, 2011), Gingrich responded to a Romney jab by saying that he remembered growing up during a time when children could dream about being astronauts. He declared that he was unapologetic about wanting to encourage science and math and promoting missions to the moon and Mars. He seemed stronger on this issue than Obama.
I’m not a one issue voter, though, and it’s times like these that I have to remind myself that Gingrich wants poor kids to work janitorial jobs in schools and doesn’t believe in financial aid payments for college. One can’t forget his stance on not taxing the “job creators” and his complete denigration of Palestinians (which is a whole other issue that I could spend hours writing).