Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Republicans Have Themselves To Blame For Newt

Ross Douthat has a very nice item about how Newt Gingrich has helped to spike the chances of a more conservative opponent defeating Mitt Romney for the GOP presidential nomination. I have to wonder about the final paragraph, however (his italics):
Instead, Gingrich reclaimed the spotlight, as only he knows how to do. (Romney’s a looter! Poor kids should work as janitors!) For this, if he wins the election, Romney owes him an ambassadorship, at the very least. And conservatives wondering how a man they so mistrust could be breezing to the nomination should know exactly whom to blame.
Whom to blame? I think he means Newt, but the real answer is: themselves.

After all, by the end of 1998,  Newt Gingrich was fully exposed: the ethics problems, of course, but more to the point it was clear he just wasn't a very good politician, at least when it came to governing. Nor was he someone who could be trusted. And his instincts, it had turned out, just weren't very conservative at all. And that's putting aside the marital issues, for whatever they're worth.

And yet Republicans never blinked in rehabilitating him; he was immediately welcomed as a senior statesman and important person within conservative policy and particularly media circles. Just as Oliver North had been, and Gordon Liddy before that. I've talked about this before...the Democrats, for the most part, just don't do this: Jim Wright and Dan Rostenkowski were hardly ever seen again after leaving office in disgrace.

The caveat is that Democrats are willing to forgive one category of disgraced former official: those who were Republicans but are now willing to turn on their old party (John Dean, David Stockman).

Anyway, Republicans in Washington knew exactly what Newt was, but for over a decade they've chosen to pretend otherwise, either because he was useful to have on TV attacking the Democrats, or just because that's how Republicans do things. So after treating him as a distinguished statesman and brilliant conservative politician for over a decade, despite clearly not believing it (as was shown the second he spiked in the polls in December), they're just getting exactly what they deserve.

9 comments:

  1. The contrast between the way Republicans rehabilitated Nixon and how Democrats will barely acknowledge the existence of Lyndon Johnson is particularly striking.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Jim Wright? Jim Wright was driven out of office because he bought some of his own books, a tiny little business as usual scam that looks positively innocuous in light of Abramoff, Duke Cunningham, Abscam or Gingrich's own follies. Democrats have been corrupt, for sure, but this sounds like a bizarre smear of a guy whose central failing was that he got in the way of Gingrich's mendacity and ambition.

    ReplyDelete
  3. You're describing an interesting cultural difference between the two parties. But who's the prime mover here? Did Rostenkowski never re-enter Democratic circles because Dems wouldn't admit him, or because he lacked the Newt-like temerity to knock on the door?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No idea. I feel as if there are enough examples that it's unlikely to be just specific people, but it could just be my (perhaps selective?) memory.

      The mechanism I can imagine is that Republicans are more likely to feel as if they are a picked-on minority, and less likely to take a media consensus about someone as a cue to shun them. But that's just a guess.

      Delete
  4. I hope some conservative readers will post comments. With my background (liberal), I'm not going to be able to guess how conservatives view this, and I'd really like to know, not as a prelude to an attack, but because it's perspective that's missing in my background and in a lot of media.

    ReplyDelete
  5. " Republicans in Washington knew exactly what Newt was, but for over a decade they've chosen to pretend otherwise, either because he was useful to have on TV attacking the Democrats,"

    I have not heard any DC republicans say anything in support of Newt as a candidate. I have heard critical comments by Coburn and others. Newt has been on TV because he is more willing to talk to the mainstream media then a lot of other conservatives. How are DC republicans supposed to stop Newt from going on TV?

    I don't think Newt's prominence is due to DC republicans. His current position in the race is due to right wing media outlets like Rush and Fox who give support to candidates who deliver red meat to the base, like Cain and Trump, regardless of whether they are serious candidates.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm not talking about as-a-candidate. I'm talking about a decade of Newt at a think tank, invited to lots of think tank panels and to talk to many conservative groups, and, yes, invited regularly on Fox News and other outlets, which I don't think would happen if Congressional leadership & GOP WHs didn't want him giving their talking points.

      Delete
  6. Being on TV and invited to think tanks does not mean you are considered presidential material. I have seen Rostenkowski and Gary Hart on TV and I don't think anyone thinks they will run for office.

    ReplyDelete
  7. FWIW, I remember Rostenkowski getting some local airtime in Chicago as an election-night analyst, and a go-to guy when an Illinois pol got himself in trouble. But that was about it, I don't remember him being touted as a behind-the-scenes power or anything.

    Maybe some guest spots on Hardball, but Matthews has a fondness for talking politics with the old pros.

    ReplyDelete

Who links to my website?