Thursday, December 15, 2011

Gung-ho for Gingrich?

As the last debate of the Republican primary gets underway later tonight, I find myself primarily thinking something along the lines of "Newt Gingrich? Really?" and speculating that if Gingrich is, indeed, the nominee, the Obama camp is going to party like it's 1999 (the year Gingrich resigned from the House of Representatives, for those of my readers too young to remember).

It's not that I can't understand why in a field of shining mediocrity someone like Gingrich would stand out to some Republican voters. What, really, are the other choices? Romney the perpetually underwhelming, whose strong conservative credentials date back all of five minutes or so in election timing (and not even that, to critics of Massachusetts' health care system and easy-imposition of gay marriage under his watch)? Rick Perry of Trans-Texas-Corridor and "hang-em-high" fame? Ron Paul, who tends to make enough sense to make our ruling class deeply uncomfortable, but who is not without problems of his own? Darling of many Catholics Rick Santorum, who looks like the clear moral choice until you start checking his record on torture ("enhanced interrogation") and wondering why he's bashing the bishops on immigration? Michele Bachmann or Jon Huntsman, neither of whom have had what you might call traction since this whole thing started?

Against such a field of glittering inadequacy, Newt Gingrich stands out with a near-presidential aura. He can, after all, speak well (and he doesn't need a teleprompter). He is a Catholic convert and a family man (provided you focus only on his single recent valid marriage and not on the two earlier ones whose endings involved adultery). He says all of the right sort of red-meat/Red State things to all of the right sorts of people. And he's perfectly able to bash Washington insiders with a straight face, despite having been one for much of his own adult life.

What I find amazing is that some of the same people who are currently gung-ho for Gingrich had all sorts of complaints about the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue--complaints about his being more style than substance, complaints about his being essentially a good speech maker but little else, complaints about his having no new ideas and no serious plan to implement the hope and change he was talking about, and so on. But ask any of them what Gingrich's qualifications for the presidency are, and they'll talk about the long-ago Contract with America (that didn't quite pan out as expected); ask them what Gingrich's new ideas are, or how he plans to lead in a time of economic and political uncertainty, and you'll find it rather hard to get a substantive answer from many of Gingrich's self-declared supporters. The only idea seems to be that in an age of Twitter soundbites and marketing disguised as campaigning, Gingrich could beat Obama in what would probably prove to be a highly entertaining political campaign; we'll get around to defining what Gingrich is actually for or what he wants to do that's really substantially any different from what Romney or anybody else wants, once he's the nominee.

You would think that people would have had enough of four years of strong personality but erratic leadership in the White House, but you would probably be wrong. The narrative seems to be, "Sure, he's an unstable egotist with a tendency to grandstand, but he's our unstable egotist with a tendency to grandstand." Which is, alas, not all that reassuring.


Indygo Wolf said...

I would take Obama again over every possible candidate out there. There just are not any good choices.

Red Cardigan said...

I have published Indygo Wolf's recent comment, but I'd like everyone to be aware of something she has written on her blog, where she identifies as a lesbian Pagan (mainly Wiccan). She writes about following a Catholic blog (and some Christian ones, too) and says the following in a Q & A format:

""Then why are you following those blogs?"

"And commenting on them. Because it is fascinating. I really enjoy getting a look into the minds of someone who believes strongly in their faith and the blogs I am following are perfect for the job. Call it a study of a humans mind."

Frankly, I'm not interested in being part of Indygo's "study," so I won't be publishing her comments from here on out.

Diamantina da Brescia said...

As you know, I intend to vote a blank ballot when it comes to electoral offices until I find viable consistent-life political candidates of the left (which may be until the 12th of Never, alas).

Recently, a volunteer coordinator from the Obama campaign called me to see if I was interested in helping out in 2012. Once I would have been interested and probably would have said yes. But thanks at least in part to you, Erin, I said no thanks to the volunteer coordinator. Of course, it is true that I am so busy at my parish as a catechist, lector, EMHC and Legion of Mary member that I have little spare time to help out on a political campaign.

freddy said...

Some people blame modern technology for the types of candidates who are successful, others say it's the state of public education which has produced lazy Americans with the attention span of two-year-olds. Still others (really!) say things only got worse when women were granted the vote.

I'm old. I miss Calvin Coolidge.

Anonymous said...

This primary has me very confused. First let me state, I was a Chris Christie supporter, and I wanted him to get the race. Now that isn't happening, moving on. I'm trying to like Romney, mainly because of Christie's endorsement. I would certainly vote for him over Obama should he be the nominee. As to Newt, I just can't get over his adultery and specifically, how he abandoned his two first wives. I do appreciate his obvious high intelligence. I can't see myself voting for him in a general, but who knows when the day comes around. I don't think Newt can win in the general. I do think Romney can.

~ Ann Marie

c matt said...

Gingrich could beat Obama in what would probably prove to be a highly entertaining political campaign

And there you have come upon Barry's* first rule of government: The highest and best use of government is entertainment.

*Dave Barry, not some nickname for BO. Dave probably got he idea from Will Rogers' famous "I am not a comedian. I simply watch the government and report the facts."

The Cottage Child said...

Gingrich makes me feel yucky - I don't know how else to express my discomfort with him. It's like when people say weird food tastes like chicken. Maybe, but it's not chicken, and I don't care to find out that no, it really tastes exactly as disgusting as I figured it would.

I hope he's as fully repentant and converted as he claims to be - I have no doubt God does amazing things through marginal individuals, but that doesn't mean they should have the confidence of the free world.

Rebecca in ID said...

LOL, well said, Cottage Child.

Anonymous said...

The 'race' seems the political version of the popular TV show 'Survivor' with somewhat more grave implications of who's the last one standing.


Siarlys Jenkins said...

It will surprise no-one that I have Obama 2012 plastered all over my car, on my jacket, etc. Most people I see at church agree -- and I'm not talking about Unitarians, but a very theologically conservative church which happens to have a membership largely of African descent.

If George Romney had been the Republican nominee in 1968, I might have spent the following ten or thirty years as a Republican. But he wasn't, which told me a lot about where the Republican Party was going. Mitt Romney, as I never tire of saying, is not one tenth the man his father was. I think by November, enough of the voters who really decide elections will see how superficial he is that he won't win. His platform adds up to "I really admire the notion of me being president."

Gingrich... well, to be extremely charitable, as a prospective Second Catholic President, he's no Jack Kennedy. As the Baptist Minister who specialized in saving alcoholics, drug, addicts, thieves, and prostitutes observed, "You don't let them sing in the choir for the first five years." Newt was in the choir before his repentance, and would do well to stay out of office until he has a more salvific track record.

Anonymous said...

I'll vote for Obama. He hasn't been as strong as I hoped, but he has been demonized by the opposition. God bless him and his family this Christmas.

Red Cardigan said...

Anonymous, I published your comment, but in the future please sign a nickname. I'm getting away from publishing totally anonymous comments. Thanks!

Tony said...

Darling of many Catholics Rick Santorum, who looks like the clear moral choice until you start checking his record on torture ("enhanced interrogation") and wondering why he's bashing the bishops on immigration?

Those are not "bugs". They're "features".

Tony said...

One of the best descriptions of Gingrich I have found has been: "He's a live grenade with his own hand on the pin".

Gingrich has a history of "flaming out" politically, and he tends to do it very spectacularly. I'd prefer that he flame out early in the primaries rather than once he gets the nomination and is battling Obama.

As far as the "yucky" stuff, he became Catholic, has had his marriage(s) annulled, had most likely gone to confession and has had his sins forgiven, and is in a sacramental marriage to one woman. As far as I'm concerned, that stuff is in the past.

Other stuff I have a harder time getting over, like his sitting on the couch with Nancy Pelosi saying we had to address climate change. :P