Newt Gingrich is a powerful debater whose policy chops and ability to turn a sound bite rival any politician, past or present. The problem with Newt is his inconsistency. With decades in public service, one expects to find a politician has occasionally changed their view, or has voted for a bill that in retrospect he/she wouldn’t vote for today. With Newt, it’s as if an inside the beltway virus occasionally overpowers his common sense. How else do you explain his classic couch sitting moment with Nancy Pelosi?
Another example of this virus flaring up was when Newt took a shot at Paul Ryans budget plan. On a nationally televised Sunday talk show, Newt spoke ill of Ryan’s plan, calling it “right wing social engineering”. The made for TV sound bite violated Reagan’s famous Eleventh Commandment and quite rightly angered lots of the Republican base. Voters who align themselves with the Tea Party movement were especially taken aback by the criticism from a candidate that claimed to support their ideals. Days later Gingrich was back peddling.
There is an interesting contrast between Paul Ryan and Newt Gingrich. Ryan offers a plan to fix Medicare and Medicaid before they are in full crisis. Gingrich took money from Freddie Mac just as they were creating a crisis our economy hasn’t fully recovered from. That fact is not lost on primary voters. If Gingrich wants to understand his recent slip in the polls, he need look no further than his full throated defense of GSEs.
Gingrich learned from the backlash of his “right wing social engineering” comment. He has worked very hard to ensure that his campaign and his supporters do not attack his fellow Republican primary contestants. Watching Newt debate, it is obvious that he is fiercely competitive and able to unleash a targeted fusillade of pointed barbs and rhetorical attacks at will. Watching him hold back while discussing and debating his fellow primary opponents can be paradoxical.
The more troubling paradox presents itself when one moves beyond the sound bite and into the candidate’s core ideals. Newt’s “right wing social engineering” comment belies the fact that Mr. Gingricht supports right wing social engineering. How else do you explain his support of Government Sponsored Entities(GSE) like Fannie & Freddie or his immigration policy?
Newt simultaneously attempts to claim the mantle of “true conservative” while supporting government solutions like GSEs and oddball ideas like hauling judges before Congress for decisions he doesn’t like. You can’t be FDR and Ronald Reagen at the same time. Either you think government is the solution, or you understand that it is the problem.
Newt Gingrich often speaks eloquently and forcefully for conservative ideals. If only he would do that consistently and excise that inside the beltway virus that flares up all too often.