Opinion

The Great Debate

Does Gingrich actually want to be President?

By Ben Adler
May 24, 2011

Newt Gingrich, May 13, 2011

By Ben Adler

The opinions expressed are his own.

There is a well-established template for a politician who has ascended to the pinnacle of national politics, tumbled off of it, and wants to return to run for president. You get out of Washington. You occupy yourself in private or charitable endeavors, maybe write anodyne books and studiously avoid making controversial proclamations that might come back to haunt you.

Richard Nixon, after losing his 1960 presidential bid and his ill-advised 1962 run for Governor of California followed this script and was elected in 1968. But former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who recently announced his candidacy for president, hasn’t merely detoured from this path in recent years, he’s gone completely in the other direction. In fact, everything he has done since he was Speaker suggests he never planned to run for president, and he hasn’t made the appropriate preparations.

After Gingrich famously miscalculated and cost his party seats in the 1998 midterms by impeaching Bill Clinton for a brief episode of philandering, Gingrich left his own wife — who had just been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis — for his mistress. That was his first mistake; well, actually his second, since he had previously left his first wife while she was in the hospital with cancer for his second wife. (Gingrich’s personal history was the subject of a devastating profile in Esquire last year.)

Gingrich had over a decade before his presidential run to come up with a plausible apology, defense, excuse or explanation for his behavior, and he doesn’t appear to have bothered doing so. Instead, when recently asked about his adultery Gingrich claimed that cheating was the inevitable consequence of working too hard because of “how passionately I felt about this country.”

His ineptitude at explaining his love life is but one example. Gingrich stayed inside the Beltway and sought influence through think tanks and political action committees. His American Solutions group has competed with major conservative groups for attention and donations, weakening his campaign’s base of support among them. “He burned a lot of bridges,” Richard Viguerie, a leading conservative activist and fundraiser told TPM on Monday.

Meanwhile, he has lived like the consummate Washington insider. That probably won’t help him in, say, the South Carolina primary. Gingrich knows that, which is why he claimed Monday, in his 36th appearance at a breakfast meeting of the Christian Science Monitor, that he is “people’s candidate, not the capital’s candidate,” and he is not a “Washington figure.”

That’s a hard sell when your wife was working in Congress as recently as 2007. It’s because of Callista Gingrich’s job, and the attendant government-employment disclosure forms, that we recently learned Newt owed between $250,001 and $500,000 to the Tiffany’s jewelry store in 2006. This creates three negative impressions: that he lives a lavish life, that he cannot manage his money and that he may have been buying jewelry for yet another mistress. Had Gingrich planned on running for president, and acted shrewdly, he could have helped Callista leave Congress for a non-profit sinecure that wouldn’t require such detailed financial disclosure. The Gingrich campaign was completely unprepared for the Tiffany’s revelation: when Politico broke the story his spokesman simply declined to comment.

Most dubiously, Gingrich signed a contributor contract with Fox News, which virtually guaranteed that he would put his foot in his mouth at some point. When Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee took similar contracts, it was viewed, correctly, as a sign they were more interested in making money than running for president. Being a talking head is no way to appear presidential, even if you are more circumspect in what you say than Gingrich is.

Gingrich has made a habit of saying and writing strident things he may come to regret. Among the highlights:

-Opining that President Obama may subscribe to a “Kenyan, anti-colonial” worldview.

-Saying Obama is “dictatorial.”

-Writing a book titled “To Save America: Stopping Obama’s Secular-Socialist Machine.”

While this sort of aggressive culture war-mongering could make Gingrich radioactive to swing voters in the general election, his penchant for piping up on every policy issue has damaged his credibility among the Republican base. In 2007 Gingrich supported a cap and trade system to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. (He switched sides in time for the 2009 vote on it in Congress.) Gingrich is also a former supporter of an individual mandate to buy health insurance as part of health care reform and he barnstormed the country with Al Sharpton supporting Obama’s education reform agenda. Of course, in 1994 Gingrich wanted to abolish the Department of Education itself.

Three decades of making dramatic public pronouncements can leave you with a long record of gaffes and flip-flops. If Gingrich had been preparing for a presidential run he not only might have cut out this habit before getting in the race, he certainly would have restrained himself from going on “Meet the Press” on May 15 and harshly criticizing the House Republican budget plan as “social engineering” before backtracking with a grandiose press release. Gingrich’s defense of his gaffe is that he was set up by the “gotcha press.” Given what it takes to run for president, that sounds like Gingrich confessing that he isn’t ready for prime time.

Comments
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If we desperately need to replace president obama. I would very much be in favor of newt Gingrich being a republican presidential candidate. It would be shoe in for president obama. Gingrich is the george mcgover of the republican party. He is far from what the republican party needs to take the presidency. Most of the independent voters still have a poor taste in your mouth from george bush’s presidency. The far right ultra conservative support the rich only republicans are not the parties answers. The republican party needs to put a moderate candidate. If they don’t the republicans are doing is giving independent voters a choice between the far left obama or ultra conservative george bush look alike both of whom have not help this country. This country needs to have a moderate president one who could work with both democrats and republicans. Who will strengthen the middle class. And get this country be back on the road to recovery…

Posted by EN3 | Report as abusive
 

Liberal Slants:

1. “…impeaching Bill Clinton for a brief episode of philandering.”

W.J.C. was impeached by the House of Representatives on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice.

2.”Gingrich’s personal history was the subject of a devastating profile in Esquire last year.”

“That’s up to God and the American people,” he (Gingrich) tells you, in the serene tone of a man who already knows what God thinks.” ~ Esquire. There were other quotes and excerpts I could have posted to demonstrate liberal hypocrisy however; this one stands alone and is a classic right out of the left’s playbook. A non-believing ‘journalist’ attempting to infer Newt has the ‘audacity’ to “know what God thinks.” First, the writer left out “, if there was a God.” Second, his statement implies Newt DOESN’T know God’s will for him regarding a 2012 run (at that time) The few of you who are believers God DOES reveal his will & purpose to us, just in HIS time, not ours. Obviously THE WRITER claims to know God wouldn’t speak to Newt. Intellectual honesty, especially where God is concerned, isn’t in the liberal’s ‘enlightened’ playbook.

3. “While this sort of aggressive culture war-mongering could make Gingrich radioactive to swing voters…”

And Obama is the great ‘unifier???’ Who or what group has he ‘united’ who were divided? Not Americans. (See Pew, Gallup, Rasmussen, etc…) The pot calling the kettle black (although Obama didn’t say it, I’m confident he agrees wholeheartedly.)

4. “Of course, in 1994 Gingrich wanted to abolish the Department of Education itself.”

Who doesn’t? This is a State’s responsibility. The left wants to ‘abolish’ a world with boarders. John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ is the liberal elitist’s world vision articulated in song.

5. -Saying Obama is “dictatorial.”

This one is a bit more complex. Obama makes as few decisions as possible. He’s inexperienced and although full of knowledge, he lacks wisdom. Wisdom is a byproduct of experience. So his M.O. is to appoint a Czar, committee, etc… for decisions which do not require more resources which are already at a competent President’s disposal. His cabinet, advisers, department heads, subject matter experts, his V.P (credit to Obama for leaving THIS V.P. out of any decision making process), The Joint Chiefs, The CIA & FBI Director, The Speaker of The House, The Whip, The Senate majority & minority leaders, individual or collective Congresspeople and Representatives and ALL the aforementioned assets, assets.

Then again, no one has ever accused Reuters of presenting the news with integrity.

Posted by Al_Enriquez | Report as abusive
 

Gingrich epitomizes the contemporary conservative politician, arrogant, self serving, unapologetic, flip-flopper, manipulative and above all a liar. Nixon was all of these things, but Nixon lived in an age when journalism was not “gotcha” and a blind eye was turned even by the opposition. In the Nixon era we had no internet and numerous 24/7 cable news channels.

Gingrich cannot escape his nefarious past. If he or any politician of any persuasion sneezes today it is on You Tube the next day. Newt is a dinosaur and he keeps trying to put lipstick on the proverbial pig so his presidential aspiration is a pure vanity run. Better his time spent on planning his next divorce settlement.

Posted by seattlesh | Report as abusive
 

Ah, the ‘Liberal Hypocrisy’ canard: It translates in to English as ‘they wrote something I don’t like’.

Gingrich is a sick man and a fool. He should have taken the money and left politics. He will be done after Iowa, where he won’t break 10%, that’s assuming he lasts that long.

Posted by ARJTurgot2 | Report as abusive
 

Gingrich running for Pres is almost as big a joke as Don Trump. I want Obama to win in 2012, but I also want to see a moderate Republican on the ballot, which is the only way Obama can lose. This culture war BS doesn’t ring with Gen X or Y. I’d rather see politicians solving real problems such as deficits and economics instead of trying to dictate morals (that Gingrich himself can’t even live up to) and pander to the neo-con wing of the party.

Posted by calvinbama | Report as abusive
 

Al_Enriquez: You are reading an OPINION page… If you want real news, look in the journalistic pages.

Coming to the OPINION page for news is like watching MSNBC or FOX News and expecting it to be factual and objective.

News is news, opinions are opinions. I can have an opinion that makes zero factual sense, but since it is my opinion and I have freedom of speech, I can say it even if it is false.

Examples: Glen Beck has the opinion that Obama is a communist, he draws some circles and in his mind proves connections that do not truly exist. Keith Olbermann has the opinion that W Bush was dictator and he connects dots that don’t really connect until the pictures displays what HE thinks.

These guys add zero value to the world, but they use people’s emotions to make outrageous claims and outrageous paychecks. So many people are getting played and it is sad. Americans want to be entertained, we don’t want to be bothered with the facts.

Both Olbermann and Beck remind me of Nash on A Beautiful Mind… It is like they are sitting in a room with pictures of people and yarn and weaving a web of connections that their mind makes, but reality doesn’t support.

Posted by COREY377 | Report as abusive
 

Suggest you watch the Zero Mostel / Gene Wilder version of ‘The Producers’ to understand what Newt is up to. He will drop out after his book sales reach a predetermined amount. That is what he’s after not a job. That would cut into his time shopping at Tiffany’s.

Posted by TrueTexan | Report as abusive
 

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