Newt: the best of a bad bunch?

I can’t decide if Rich Lowry is praising Newt with faint damns or damning him with faint praise, but it’s still an excellent précis of the candidate that is Newt:

In many ways, Gingrich would be better-suited as an intellectual ombudsman of the GOP race than as a candidate himself; he has more baggage than Queen Elizabeth II on a road trip. But the hour is late and the pickings are slim. He ran when others didn’t, and his outsider-populism is tinged with brilliance. Republican voters not sold on Mitt Romney might have to decide that you go to political war with the alternative you have.

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  • jj

    I disagree with the premise.  I don’t think it’s a particularly bad bunch, just inarticulate.  They also seem easily led, though we – at last! – seem to be past the stage where Romney and Perry find it necessary to behave like children at each other, and have remembered that the object here is to unseat the excrescence in the white house.  Peeing all over each other was infantile, and wasn’t working for either of them.  They were goddamed slow to notice that, but they seem to be there now.
     
    I have always thought that Newt would be best suited, by his own predilections as much as anything else, for the post of party thinker, kind of like the soviets once had in Mikhail Suslov.  (I forget what his actual post was called, but his job was to think about things, and see if they met the test of being really commie enough.)  Newt would do that job well, though it really doesn’t seem to be a job that exists in American political parties.
     
    What I find most fascinating about his campaign to this point is that he doesn’t have any staff, and he doesn’t have any money.  So how’s he doing this?  He’s doing it through the sheer force of ideas, well-reasoned, clearly articulated, and on point.  He’s doing it by offering actual solutions to actual problems.  And that is resonating.  Newt is proving that maybe it isn’t the biggest budget that wins, but the best ideas.  I don’t know how long he can keep it up, the American voter is a halfwit, and sooner or later the repetitive sound-bite commercials – that he can’t afford – will have their intended effect, and probably overwhelm him.  But in the meantime it’s damned interesting to watch.
     
    And encouraging.  I may have to rethink how stupid the American voter is, as an actual reasoner moves up through the polls.

  • expat

    I worry a bit that Newt is too attracted to ideas, that he may find the day-to-day implentation boring, and that criticism of his next big thing may offend his ego. He is definitely smart and he likes to think about things in a big context. I would like some more specifics on his approach to implementation.
    I am also not completely critical of Romney. His emphasis now seems to be to reassure the citizens (not just the politically involved) that there are steps that can be taken to fix things and to do things that give them some control over their lives. Right now the people are scared and they are running from one flavor of the month to the next without serious vetting. It might be that a cool-off period is needed so that people can turn their attention to doing things, on the personal, local, state, and then national level, to really change the direction of the country. It really will take some time to change the mindset that federal funds shouldn’t determine whether a local school board spends money on a luxury project, and it will take time for “studies” majors to reassess what they want to do with their lives. There won’t be a federal solution to such problems. Whether Romney has identified the right steps remains to be seen, and whether he can sell them is an even bigger question. He has a big empathy problem.
    Cain has shown that the people want simple answers from someone willing to stand up for them. Even before the harassment charges, I had trouble with his attitude that foreign policy is something that can be picked up on the fly. How can anyone who experienced 9/11, the troubles with Pakistan, and the Chavez/Castro offensive take foreign affairs so lightly? I don’t even know what kind of advisors he would choose. I’m sorry but mentioning Kissinger was just name dropping. Getting our economy on track is certainly important, but does he realize how foreign policy mistakes can mess things up even on the economics level.
    Right now, I am content to let these guys talk. When we decide on a candidate, it should be with full knowledge that we will have to fill in the gaps.
     

  • Old Buckeye

    If you’re still foundering around for your perfect candidate, you might want to take this quiz: (offered in the spirit of fun)
    http://reason.com/quiz/GOP2011/match
    I imagine the choice is based on most-of-9 answers?

  • Oldflyer

    expat touches on a valid point with his question of whether Newt would be interested in implementing yesterday’s ideas, or more interested in leaping ahead to tomorrow’s.
     
    I have gone on record numerous times with my concern about electing a career Legislator to the quintessential executive position.  I still have that concern.
     
    Still, Newt does have ideas that resonate.  He did work through his Contract with America.  He does have a world view with which I agree.  He has been through the crucible, and I think he is capable of learning from experience.  I have no concerns for his toughness with the pressure  on.
     
    I am still mystified by the antipathy toward Romney expressed by so many nominal GOP supporters.  So, Romney has never perfected the easy style of the career politician.?  I do not care about style points.  So, Romney’s positions have morphed over the course of his life?  I think our Hostess has had the same experience. We applaud her epiphany.  What does Romney stand for now?  What are his governing principles now?  Is he capable of implementing these principles?   These questions too often take a back seat to superficial issues.  This certainly seems to be  true with Romney.
     
    I am still flitting about a bit.  I wanted to like Perry.  I do not.  I wanted to like Cain, and I do; but, he seems to have a  shallow, or narrow, grasp of the job.  I have long been intrigued by Newt, although concerned about some of the baggage, and the issues cited here.  I  have always admired Romney, and unless someone comes up with some substantive disqualifications, I would have no qualms about voting  for him when the time comes.  A choice between Romney and Newt could be a difficult one for me.  Based on comments he made in an interview in the past day or so, I suspect that Cain sees the hand writing on the wall, and is angling for a #2 spot, or a cabinet post.  I think it will be between Newt, Romney, and maybe Perry if there he can get his train on the track.

  • SADIE

    I heart Old Buckeye for the link ;) 
     
    I’d like to ask all of the readers with a better memory than I have of the 2008 debates (don’t ask, bad year taking care of my mother) – Why Mitt lost and we ended up with McCain? I am asking because every site I visit is pushing Mitt, even though his numbers have not exceeded 25%. 

  • Mike Devx

    Oldflyer in #4: So, Romney’s positions have morphed over the course of his life?  I think our Hostess has had the same experience. We applaud her epiphany.

    Oldflyer, the fear is that Romney has *not* had an epiphany, that he’s just making the proper noises.  The fear is that when the going gets tough – and it will get VERY tough – he will immediately cave to the establishment, who do not want the status quo to change.

    The government is spending 40% of its money via debt, and there are no plans to ever pay back this debt.  No plans, none at all.    All of this debt is going to your children and grandchildren.  That is so HIGHLY immoral that it takes my breath away.   Tax increases are not immoral.  Spending cuts are not immoral.  Those are political fights.  Indebting the next few generations *on purpose* is immoral.  

    Romney’s stated political positions would attempt to alleviate the debt problem.  But did you know that even if all 59 of his points were enacted, in 2012 government spending would be cut only 11% from its current projected amount?  And would be 8% higher than it is today?  That’s not exactly CUTTING the size and power of government.

    As is said at the following link, worth reading in full:

    Mitt Romney said he wants to “eliminate every government program that is not absolutely essential.” That sounds good until you realize that Romney’s goal of cutting $500 billion from projected federal outlays in 2016 would, at best, leave the budget about 8 percent higher than it is now and only 11 percent lower than it would be without any attempt to restrain spending. The implication: Mitt Romney thinks 89 percent of what the federal government does is “absolutely essential.”

    http://danieljmitchell.wordpress.com/2011/11/10/mitt-romney-mitchells-golden-rule-and-absolutely-essential-government-spending/

    So that’s the concern:  That Mitt Romney has trained himself to *say* all the right things, but he’s not going to mean any of them.

    All the candidates keep talking about “growing the economy” to get us out of our mess.  They’re correct in one way: You can’t get out of this mess without growing the economy.  Greece, Italy, and Spain all have flat GDPs and flat economies, and they are doomed to disaster because they can’t grow their economy.  But the other piece is spending that is too high and must be cut.  And that is where those countries fail as well, and that is where we’re going to fail, too.  “Growing the economy” is not enough, not when our debt is so high, and not when our yearly deficits are 40% of the government budget.

    We rightly sneer at the  university segment of the Occupy crowds, because their student debt has saddled them, and they feel entitled to have someone else pay it off because “they were deceived”.  Well, we are being deceived all the time concerning the national debt.  We’re not taking it seriously enough, and claiming anything about “being deceived” in the future will not excuse us.

     

  • jj

    Agree with Mike, Romney is a trained seal.  I don’t mind people changing their minds, but not as a result of wetting a finger and sticking it up every day at two-o’clock to see which way thew wind is blowing.  It should be a result of a change in perspective, or conditions, or something substantive; not just a semi-shrewd bet on what’ll be popular that day.
     
    It is interesting how McCain happened, Sadie.  I can tell you what happened here on the local level, and assume it’s not fundamentally different than what happened elsewhere.  To choose a candidate, first you go caucus.  This area tends to be a heavily-armed, pretty conservative, right-wing bastion – at least for the state of Washington – and when we caucused three years ago everybody wanted Ron Paul.  The problem with that was the same then that it is now: he’s not a serious candidate, and if the sky does fall and he gets the nomination he’ll lose in a landslide to just about anyone.  Guys with gun-racks in their pick-ups, and guys who come in to town to shop once a month will always vote for him, but nobody else will – and there’s the immediate collision between ordinary folks and the republican “establishment:” the establishment picks candidates on the basis of being palatable to the greatest number, and that lets out the real conservatives, real libertarians, etc.  These people have been “settling” all their lives, and they wanted – and still want – a chance to actually vote FOR somebody.
     
    Which was a driving force three years ago.  First of all the caucuses were chaos, the republican establishment – a bunch of old farts, none of whom is under 75, all lovely guys of course, but mentally negligible, I’m afraid – were instantly overwhelmed by the numbers of people who showed up to the caucus.  Half the day was lost trying to figure out who was in what precinct.  Then came the meetings themselves, and the election of precinct captains.  Then we’re supposed to pick delegates to the county convention, which will choose delegates to go to the state convention, and ultimately the national one.  Another three hours of democracy at its finest.  So now we have a bunch of people we wanted to be the precinct captains, including my wife, who was an enthusiast for Giuliani, a choice that seemed to strike our table/precinct as pretty good.  At this point, at least as far as our caucus was concerned, John McCain was nowhere in the mix: it was all Paul and Giuliani.
     
    So we come away feeling pretty good, until a letter from the local republicans arrives.  She is not made delegate to the county convention - I am.  I am also, interestingly enough – I told you they were stupid – not a registered republican, but a registered independent.  So how the hell am I a delegate to the county republican convention, and a potential one to the republican national convention?  But being an independent and more or less an observer at the animal act that was the caucus and precinct deal, I didn’t say much.  I think that was my qualification: I expressed no strong opinion (odd, eh?) and listened, because as an independent I didn’t really belong there, and they therefore thought I was “reasonable” and maybe even malleable.
     
    I declined to attend the county convention.  My wife really wanted the job, they pissed on her, so they don’t get to stand around in my presence, either.  And – who did the county convention get behind?  Anybody the residents of the county wanted, like Paul, or Giuliani?  Nah – the old war hero comes out of nowhere – and I mean nowhere, he wasn’t even mentioned, except derisively, at caucus level – and scoops the marbles.  Now if they chose delegates to the county convention on the basis not of what the people in the precincts wanted, but on the basis of people they presumed they could influence, as I’m sure was the case with me being chosen, than that explains McCain.  On some higher level, Paul, Giuliani, Thompson, Romney etc. were wasting their time, the party always wanted to be behind McCain, and they ignored everybody until they got their way.
     
    This time it seems they want Romney.  But – this time people are even less patient than last time, and if the turnout at caucuses was record-breaking three years ago, it’ll be a tidal wave this time.  If he truly does not win the damn primaries, and truly does not hoist himself past about 25%, it’ll be difficult for them to sneak Romney in there as the “people’s choice.”  I think the people are becoming fed up with being told whom they chose.
     
    But that’s how it happened here.  McCain went from being laughable to being the choice of the county convention in the blink of an eye, with the county delegates to the state convention pledged to him.  I have yet to meet anybody who voted that way at the convention – maybe I should have gone – but there you go.

  • suek

    >>he will immediately cave to the establishment, who do not want the status quo to change.>>

    He was the governor. He said that if left to themselves, his legislature would have voted for a plan that was disastrous, so he put together a plan that was at least “workable”. If he was truly a conservative, he would have _vetoed_ any plan that his legislature came up with. True, they might have overridden his veto, but then it would be on their heads. His job would have been to simply enforce the plan they instituted.

    Whoever we elect _must_ have the backbone to _veto_ bills. I don’t think Romney does.

    By the way…on that quiz…I was shocked to come up with Gary Johnson as my ideal candidate. I took it a second time, clicking on the second option on every page, regardless of what it said (including the one that said “…I’m a Mormon”) and came up with Gingrich.

    I also noted that it also said it was “scientific” (with the added note that scientific was in the Republican sense, meaning that it was made up). So…I guess I came up with the conclusion that it was bogus.

  • Mike Devx

    I took the quiz just now too, suek.  I did not think the choices reflected the best quotes for each candidate.  But it matched me with Cain, who is in fact my first choice (currently).  I’m actually surprised!  I only recognized one of my nine selection as being a Cain quote.

  • Old Buckeye

    suek, I took the quiz twice just like you, with my first and then second choice answers and came up with Gingrich the first time and, like Mike Devx, Cain the second time! BUT–when I went and read the profiles (click on their pictures), I really only liked about half of what I saw of anybody! I think I am looking for Frankenstein’s monster as my ideal candidate–a little bit of each one!

  • SADIE

    jj
     
    If I got it right, it’s not the selection of precinct captains, but culling the opposition.   
     
    My wife really wanted the job, they pissed on her …
     
    Gee, maybe the GOP really means GO-Pee :)

  • expat

    Sadie,
    You can’t forget all the creds McCain had earned by supporting the surge. His patriotism was a proven. He had  been a constant campaigner against pork. Also, he said he got the message on immigration: deal with the borders first. Finally, he brought in Sarah Palin, who sort of broke the stranglehold that Pelosi et al had had on women’s issues for decades. I wanted Romney, but I liked McCain. More people simply made the opposite choice.

  • SADIE

    expat
     
    The dilemma for me isn’t if it’s “x” or “y” – but who’s getting promoted and by whom. I am questioning the process here. Do we really have a choice or are they preselected by the head honchos regionally as McCain from the southwest and Romney from the northeast.

  • expat

    Sadie,
    I see what you mean, but perhaps the candidates favored by the inner circles were selected on the basis of factors perceived to be important in winning votes in their areas. McCain had a lot of selling points, and they seemed to be working till the financial meltdown. Some people talking about McCain today forget how important Iraq was when McCain ran. We all tend to cherry pick the previous bad decisions of candidates as though those issues were top priorities at the time. Maybe the inner circles take their cues from public sentiment. Or maybe they feel that a particular candidate is likely to self destruct further into the campaign. Certainly the conservative grass roots have not always been meticulous in vetting their favorites.  I think it is a good idea to listen to the honchos and to the people who disagree before making a comittment.

  • http://OgBlog.net Earl

     
    @Oldflyer:  It’s not new on this thread, but there are two questions in your post that are the reason I will not vote for Romney in the primaries, and only reluctantly in the general:
     
    What does Romney stand for now?  What are his governing principles now?
     
    I don’t think we know the answers to these two questions…..do you?

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    There was nothing wrong with McCain and there was nothing wrong with Romney, except that they were corrupted by a Republican establishment that in itself was corrupted by Democrat political culture.

    They were not chosen the way the system was originally designed to choose leaders. And if you attempt to elevate a house built upon sand, bad things will happen. And did for McCain. Will if Romney follows the same course. 

    Like I said, the Left’s evil doesn’t work, only blows stuff up and kills people and makes entertainment out of their suffering. Evil doesn’t work for the Republicans either, btw. 

  • suek