Amid the kerfuffle of primary politics it seems most of the conservative intelligentsia can agree on one thing, they don’t like former speaker Newt Gingrich. George Will has basically called him a communist; Ann Coulter says he has so many ideas from so many different sides of the aisle that conservatives would do well to read the history of Newt Gingrich better; and Charles Krauthammer has said: “(Gingrich is) too erratic or mercurial… a victim of his own creative intelligence. People wonder if he’ll wake up one morning the way he did in the past with a mandate or global warming… and surprise people by being unconservative.” Even Brit Hume joined the fray calling Gingrich “Undisciplined. You never know what he’s going to say next. He’s a provocative thinker, but a promiscuous talker.” The latter two have also gone on record to say that Gingrich’s May 2011 characterization of Paul Ryan’s plan, as regards Health care, as “Right-wing social engineering” was political suicide on the right.
Enter Thomas Sowell. Sowell differs from Ann Coulter on the credit Gingrich is due for welfare reform, balancing the budget, the 90’s surplus, and the 1994 Republican takeover of Congress. Coulter believes Gingrich is given too much credit. She says Gingrich did not single-handedly engineer the takeover. Coulter believes that the liberalism of Clinton’s first two years as president is more responsiblefor the takeover than anything Gingrich ever did. (Coulter does not mention the Contract with America that Gingrich engineered.) Coulter does not mention that the 1994 takeover was the first time in forty years that Republicans controlled the house. Instead, Coulter mentions that Boehner’s takeover of Congress, (again, she writes, all glory to Obama for that one) was a greater takeover in pure numbers than Gingrich’s was. Sowell says that Gingrich presided over the party that won Congress for the first time in forty years, and he presided over the Congress that produced the first balanced budget in forty years. “The media called it “the Clinton surplus” but all spending bills start in the House of Representatives, and Gingrich was Speaker of the House,” Sowell furthered. In other words, Gingrich’s seat of power while all this occurred is, at least, more than anything Romney accomplished as governor of Massachusetts.
Coulter concentrates much of her most recent column to Gingrich’s baggage saying:
“Despite regular assurances from The New York Times that Americans don’t mind divorced presidents anymore — why, look at how well Bob Dole, John McCainand John Kerry did! — only one president in the nation’s history has been divorced: Ronald Reagan. And his first wife left him, as was well-documented in Hollywood gossip sheets.
“Reagan also didn’t commit adultery ever, much less twice, much less once in the middle of impeaching a Democratic president for perjuring himself about an adulterous affair.”
“If Newt Gingrich were being nominated for sainthood, many of us would vote very differently from the way we would vote if he were being nominated for a political office.
“What the media call Gingrich’s “baggage” concerns largely his personal life and the fact that he made a lot of money running a consulting firm after he left Congress. This kind of stuff makes lots of talking points that we will no doubt hear, again and again, over the next weeks and months.
“But how much weight should we give to this stuff when we are talking about the future of a nation?”
Prior to this Sowell column, the conservative intelligentsia I read and watch was 100% against Gingrich. One hates to admit when their opinions are swayed by others, but when all of the stars line up you can’t help but be moved a little. With Sowell entering the fray and saying, “This is not just another election and Barack Obama is not just another president whose policies we may not like.” One has to take a step back and reconsider their options again.
That having been said, personal baggage does matter to conservatives. Regardless what Sowell says, we do care about a politician’s personal record. We’re not liberals for criminy’s sakes. Should it matter to the degree that if Gingrich wins the primary and goes on to challenge Barack Obama in the general, no. I think this may be Sowell’s greater fear. Sowell does slam on Romney a little, but I don’t think Sowell fears a future America under Romney in the same manner he fears a future America under a President Barack Obama.
Liberals may be rejoicing with the degree of acrimony occurring in the conservative intelligentsia, but I’m hoping that they will be sadly disappointed by the hand holding that occurs once the GOP candidate is selected for the general election.