Nel's New Day

November 27, 2011

Gingrich Temporarily at the Top

[This should have been published last week, but the computer connection malfunctioned.]

In a few minutes the eight Republican presidential candidates will gather for another of their “debates,” almost a twice-each-week occurrence. Newt Gingrich has moved to center stage—which means that he’s temporarily top dog, a position that four others appearing with him have held. It’s my guess that he’s on his way down with Ron Paul on the ascendancy. Poor Rick Santorum and Jon Huntsman have been at each end for the duration, and it’s too late for them to catch up.

For the short time that Gingrich beats out the others in the polls, it’s worth giving some of his professional peccadilloes and his extreme conservative positions.

Like George W. Bush, Gingrich believes in privatizing Social Security. Bush got nowhere with that position, and that was before the most recent stock market crash. Yet Gingrich continues to push the idea, hoping to wring some votes out of this statement.

The fact that Gingrich took at least $1.8 million from the government to “offer his expertise” to Freddie Mac, a quasi-public corporation that many conservatives blame for the housing crisis. He also founded Center for Health Transformation, a think tank that collected $37 million during the past eight years from major health-care companies and industry groups, again providing “access to Newt Gingrich” and “direct Newt interaction.”

Conservatives oppose the individual mandate, part of the new health care act, and ridicule what they call “Obamacare.” Gingrich’s think tank advocated that “anyone who earns more than $50,000 a year must purchase health insurance or post a bond.” Conservatives are horrified by the idea of centralized medical records; the group pushed proposals to build centralized electronic medical records and use such data to research treatment effectiveness, both central features of President Obama’s health-care reforms.

Back when “end of life planning” was a good idea, Gingrich preached the virtues of a Wisconsin health care consortium that took the lead in this area. As soon as Sarah Palin insisted that this planning was “death panels for Grandma,” Gingrich equated it to “euthanasia.” He failed to disclose that the firm he praised was one of his clients at his think tank.

Gingrich has other flip-flips that will provide superb fodder for television advertising. After he said that President Obama’s decision to withdraw all American troops from Iraq by the end of the year (a decision that actually belonged to Bush) was the “right” decision, he changed his mind two days later to say that the president is ushering “defeat” in Iraq. Another time he managed to use both his faces in less than a minute. On Fox News he first said, “There’s no short term advantage to us being” in Iraq. Thirteen seconds later, he said he does not agree with the president’s decision to withdraw troops from Iraq.

Last March, Gingrich attacked Obama for not having launched a no-fly zone in Libya, saying he would “exercise a no-fly zone this evening…the United States doesn’t need anybody’s permission.” Less than 24 hours later, after the president signed off on American participation in NATO’s air campaign, Gingrich accused Obama of “opportunism,” adding, “I would not have intervened.” Michael Cohen wrote that the Republicans’ critique “is basically ‘whatever he does we will argue the opposite.’” Gingrich is the icon of that position.

David Corn, of Mother Jones, describes Gingrich as “by far the nastiest of the pack.” During his career he has typically compared his opponents to Nazis or Nazi appeasers and counseled other conservatives to accuse Democrats of treason. His style of “poisonous maliciousness” is not usually successful in presidential politics which is probably why Mitt Romney keeps that sunny smile plastered on his face.

Richard Nixon was the most recent “nasty” president; even he tended to hide his sociopathic approach such as his plan to firebomb the Brookings Institution.  Successful nominees since then have varied in demeanor and actions but never resembled the harsh authoritarian father figure than comes from the man with the paunch.

Earlier this month, he said, “There’s a stream of American thought that really wishes we would decay and fall apart and that the future would be bleak so that the government can share the misery. It was captured by Jimmy Carter in his malaise speech. It’s captured every week by Barack Obama in his apologias disguised as press conferences.” That’s the Obama that bailed out the auto industry and compromised to the extreme last August with unreasonable conservatives to keep the country functioning.

In June, Gingrich called Obama “the opposite of freedom” and denounced him as “a natural secular European socialist.” Gingrich prides himself on his religious faith. “How can you [atheists and agnostics] have judgment if you have no faith? How can I trust you with power if you don’t pray?” He accused the Occupy Wall Street protesters for including a “frightening level of anti-Semitism.” And he contended that liberals are “fundamentally wrong” about “the nature of America.”

How far is Gingrich willing to go in his meanness? In an address at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, he said he wanted to replace union maintenance workers in poor schools by hiring students ages 9-14. In the same speech, he said, “You’re going to see from me extraordinarily radical proposals to fundamentally change the culture of poverty in America and give people a chance to rise very rapidly.”

Tonight may be the time to hear more of his “radical proposals.”

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