Since at least Reagan, the standard liberal trope is that Republicans, both voters and politicians, are stupid. That trope has, of course, emerged again this year. The joker in the deck is Newt Gingrich, a PhD and author who spokes with incredible fluency and has a masterful grasp of facts.
With Newt as the frontrunner, the Left is rallying with a line of attack I’ll call “Newt’s not as smart as all that.” Exhibit One is a Frank Bruni NYT’s Op-Ed sarcastically entitled “Professor Gingrich.” To set up his premise that Newt’s not as smart as all that, Bruni carefully insults the other Republican candidates:
The candidates who surged before him are to varying degrees yahoos. They proved it anew last week. Michele Bachmann [a successful lawyer] seemed to be under the impression that we had an embassy in Iran, and Rick Perry [Air Force pilot and successful long-time Texas politician] was definitely under the delusion that the voting age in this country is 21 instead of 18.
Herman Cain [multiple degrees, Navy background, hugely successful businessman), on his Web site, unveiled the foreign-policy analogue to his 9-9-9 tax jingle, a world map that merely labeled countries “ally,” “adversary” and the like. Had it instead presented little thumbs-up and thumbs-down symbols, along with palm trees for hot countries and snowflakes for cold ones, it wouldn’t have been any more simplistic.
Funnily enough, Bruni’s paragraph didn’t include a rant about a politician who’s spoken about America’s 57 states, appeared impressed with the Austrian language, bemoaned attacks on English embassies, applauded the military’s “corpsemen,” waffled on about mysterious “price versus earnings ratios,” held only one non-academic, non-political job (the Annenberg Foundation) that was a major disaster, and kept all of his grades carefully under wraps. I guess Bruni just forgot about him. But I digress…
Having established that Republicans are “yahoos,” Bruni goes in for the kill against the one Republican who doesn’t have “yahoo” written on his resume. Newt’s problem isn’t that he’s smart, it’s that he’s proud of being smart, damn him!
But then there’s Gingrich, the former college professor, who regularly brandishes his Ph.D. in history from Tulane. He does it directly, as in a 1995 interview when he bragged, “I am the most seriously professorial politician since Woodrow Wilson.”
He does it obliquely, by constantly invoking centuries past. Ask him about the price of milk, and he’ll likely work in the Northwest Ordinance of 1787.
Couple that showy scholarship with his grandiose streak and you get pomposity on a scale that would make a French monarch blanch. Last week, in an electronic book published by Politico and Random House, it was revealed that he had compared the attempts to retool his initially beleaguered campaign with the founding of Wal-Mart by Sam Walton and of McDonald’s by Ray Kroc.
In a Fox News interview he one-upped any of Al Gore’s long-ago claims about “Love Story,” Love Canal or the invention of the Internet.
“I helped Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp develop supply-side economics,” he boasted.
“I helped lead the effort to defeat Communism in the Congress,” he added. Put aside the tortured locution — were there reds among the House’s Blue Dogs, along with Bolshevik backbenchers? — and you’re left with an audacious credit grab.
And in Bluffton, S.C., he told voters that he didn’t need to lobby because after he left Congress, “I was charging $60,000 a speech, and the number of speeches was going up, not down. Normally, celebrities leave and they gradually sell fewer speeches every year. We were selling more.”
Faced with the reality of Newt’s intellectual and knowledge, Bruni reluctantly concludes that the Republicans feel that they need someone who can speak at Obama’s rarefied level:
If you consider how ardently Republicans courted Mitch Daniels, Paul Ryan and Chris Christie, you’re forced to conclude that they do value, and crave, an intellectually muscular candidate who can square off against President Obama. The 2012 election has a fundamentally different temperature from the 2010 one. There’s arguably worse economic uncertainty this time around, greater stakes and a seemingly waning thirst for Tea.
And Republicans appreciate that a presidential race, and the presidency itself, have a higher altitude than a Congressional showdown. Some palpable gray matter really does come in handy.
Isn’t that a nice phrase? “Palpable grey matter.”
Yes, it is true that Republicans have normally favored do-ers over talkers. This year, they recognize, though, that Obama has so decimated the country’s psyche that they need someone who can talk us out of the hole Obama dug (or do I mean off the ledge Obama has yakked us onto). And Republicans, being smart, are looking carefully at the one candidate who can blow to Hell and back any pretense that Obama is as smart as he thinks he is.
After all, as Bruni’s column perfectly shows, liberals tend to reduce “intellectualism” to who’s faster with the personal attack. (Think “palpable grey matter.” ) During an argument with a liberal yesterday, an argument that wasn’t originally focused just on me, my opposing party managed to reduce the argument down to three statements: “You’re an idiot. You’re an effing moron. You’re a jackass.” I was not impressed either by the liberal’s grasp of facts or advocacy tactics. What really depressed me, though, wasn’t the string of meaningless insults. It was that this is what passes for reasoned debate on the liberal side of the political spectrum.
On the subject of insults I’ll say one more thing: given the virulence with which the MSM attacks conservatives — not their ideas, but their person — perhaps it’s not surprising that so few are willing to stand up to be beaten down.