Friday, January 20, 2012

Does Newtonian Chaos Really Loom?

His surging polls notwithstanding, I'm stunned by the idea that Newt Gingrich might win the South Carolina primary. Until just recently, electability has been the GOP watchword. Tilting to Gingrich would be sheer masochism. His ethical lapses are legion. His own people drove him from the House speakership. In national polls, his negatives are astonishingly high. If he really cared about his party, the decent thing would've been not to run at all. Gingrich's mentor Richard Nixon stayed away from every GOP convention after his 1974 resignation until his death 20 years later. He didn't want to make his unpopularity the story. He didn't want it to be all about him.

Gingrich has no such scruples. He's been acting out since Mitt Romney thrashed him in the Iowa caucuses, though impotently at first as his rage got the better of him. His super-PAC erred by producing an inaccurate hard-left critique of Romney's business practices. While history teacher Gingrich knows all about the power of the big lie, this first outing backfired. He had been in much better form preparing to run in 2010, when he cunningly appealed to some Americans' worst instincts by comparing Muslims to Nazis. His former colleague Joe Scarborough called it hate speech. He never apologized for that rhetorical atrocity and issued a tepid disavowal of the Romney attack only after party elites and even rival Rick Santorum made him look silly for having a PAC that was feeding ammunition to President Obama.

Gingrich got his mojo back once his self-righteousness cooled and hardened. He stood on a stage in South Carolina and attacked a black journalist for asking him in all reasonableness to defend calling a black commander-in-chief the food stamp president. This week he attacked another journalist to deflect a legitimate question about his poor behavior toward one of the two women he'd pledged to love in health but abandoned in sickness. What makes Gingrich's personal life relevant in a presidential debate is that it helps illuminate the kind of man he is -- egotistical, undifferentiated, vengeful, and selfish, all poor indicators of an effective executive and especially presidential temperament. You only have to listen to what he says to appreciate the dangerous extent of his self-adoration.

He has spent the last two and a half weeks doing to his party exactly what he does to his women. Party leaders are now trying desparately to forestall the catastrophe of his coming within reach of being nominated. But these nutty elections of ours are decided by voters, not elites. If South Carolina Republicans are seduced into codependency by his dulcet tones and corrosive narcissism, if Florida follows where they lead, and if their nomination process is plunged into Newtonian chaos as a result, then their party deserves to lose. If he's nominated, it had better.


Anonymous said...

Gingrich was unethical in his families, unethical in Congress, and unethical in this campaign. The only difference between Newt and Nixon is that people know before the election that Gingrich is ethically challenged.

deila taylor said...

Thanks for posting your thoughts and feelings about this matter -- wow you put into words all my angst about Newt. I feel a little better, just knowing there are others like myself.

Anonymous said...

I agree with your column completely. I sincerely believe that Newt Gingrich has mental instability and has no business being in any power position. I am disappointed that so many people are taken in or really like such a scoundrel. I would vote for any of the Republican candidates, even the ones who have dropped out, but not this man. He may be more dangerous than Obama. I will focus on getting the House and Senate in the Republican column to make Obama a lame duck.

Hugh Q. Cook, Jr. said...

Great, great commentary. That said, I know this about South Carolinians: Their defining cultural attribute is irrationality, and natives will confess to such, if asked. They shelled Fort Sumter. Must be something in the water. Expect the worst.

Anonymous said...

"He stood on a stage in South Carolina and attacked a black journalist for asking him in all reasonableness to defend calling a black commander-in-chief the food stamp president."

Why are you injecting race into this by saying 'black journalist'? As if Juan Williams has be a professional Black Person. Newt didnt attack Juan, he attacked the phony premise that Newt's criticism of Obama had a racial intent. It didnt. It was about the fact that Obama has increased govt dependency across the board. Obama isn't just the food stamp President, he's the debt President, he's the more-longterm-unemployed-now-than-in-a-generation President. I would argue that it is NOT reasonable to bring race into the discussion of food stamps, those who bring it up are the ones engaging in the phony stereotypes, and that would be the critics of Newt, not Newt himself.

Fr. John said...

Thank you all for your comments.

Anonymous #3: Williams, not I, injected race into the discussion by asking Gingrich to respond to African-Americans who took umbrage at hearing Obama described as the food stamp president. Gingrich could have made substantially the same point in response without attacking Williams and by taking racial sensitivities into account. He chose not to. Some may say that these sensitivities aren't legitimate. But I'm not sure when any of us will be able to proclaim for certain, in our relatively recent enlightenment as a nation, that people shouldn't be sensitive about race anymore.

I didn't get the feeling, as your comments says, that Williams was accusing Gingrich having a racial intent in using the sobriquet to describe the president.

Paul Eskildsen said...

Fr John, I share many of your concerns about Newt, but I'd recommend this post by J.E. Dyer regarding as to why a large swath of conservative voters might chose to vote for him over Romney:

A snippet: "Many voters are determined not to be ruled by federal executive agencies whose agendas are approved by MSNBC and the New York Times. These voters are voting for the candidate they deem most likely to reverse America’s slide into precisely that method of government. That they see such a candidate in Newt Gingrich speaks more loudly about the general state of the GOP than about anything else. Voters are seeking to break the inertia and conventionalism of the Republican Party; this is, in fact, a power struggle, and one in which I would not bet against the voters."

Fr. John said...

Thanks, Paul. There's no question he has a gift for telling people what they want to hear. I can't see beyond his unsuitability for the presidency.