by Thomas Eddlem (Reprinted from LRC with permission)
The Republican primary has finally boiled down to three candidates: Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney and Ron Paul.
And each has a similar campaign strategy. Ron Paul is smartly running on his record of being a consistent conservative over 30 years. Flip-floppers Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich are likewise smartly running on Ron Paul’s record of 30 years of ideological consistency.
Is it any wonder why Newt Gingrich has said he doesn’t want any “negative” campaign ads?
Newt has been working his way up the polls by copying off the smart kid’s paper, Ron Paul. Until recent months, there’s been no daylight between Newt and Obama on the issue of the individual mandate. Now, like Ron Paul, he calls it “unconstitutional.” Likewise, Gingrich’s opposition to global warming legislation took place after the Nancy Pelosicommercial promoting it. Guess who opposed global warming legislation all along? Gingrich has also suddenly discovered the evils of the Federal Reserve after doing nothing about it when he was Speaker of the House (and was in a position to prevent the economic bubbles this nation has suffered) at a time Ron Paul was screaming for action.
Likewise, Newt has proven he’s a political amphibian on the Freddie Mac segment of the housing bubble. “We have a much more liquid and stable housing finance system than we would have without the GSEs,” he told Freddie Mac in a published 2007 article at the height of the housing bubble. “Millions of people have entered the middle class through building wealth in their homes, and there is a lot of evidence that homeownership contributes to stable families and communities. These are results I think conservatives should embrace and want to extend as widely as possible.”
Of course, at that time Gingrich was making about $300,000 per year from Freddie Mac (totaling $1.6 million) for giving such great “historical” advice. Those were indeed great “results” for Newt’s bank account, but they blew up a liability bubble that has since cost taxpayers more than $150 billion in bailouts, or about 100,000 times Newt’s profit from the deal.
Newt is smart enough not to go around regurgitating the Wall Street banking bubble agit-prop today he was paid to disseminate in 2007. Instead, he claimed in a November 9 debate that in conversations with Freddie Mac that “I said to them at the time, this is a bubble. This is insane. This is impossible. It turned out, unfortunately, I was right.” Again, Newt was copying off the smart kid’s paper. While there’s nothing on the public record to back up that Newt was saying this at the time (and there is the above-mentioned contrary evidence), Ron Paul warned of the housing bubble even more eloquently in 2001,2002, 2003, and in 2007 when Gingrich was telling conservatives to “embrace” the Freddie Mac business model.
So you can see the motivation behind Newt’s very public policy not to criticize his opponents. He’s desperately hoping they’ll return the favor and not point out the contrast between his past and Ron Paul’s past.
The closest Newt has come to criticizing Rep. Paul has been the dust-up over the good doctor’s reluctance to be told “you’re fired” in an over-hyped debate moderated by Donald Trump. “I’m actually very surprised that one of my friends would have said that,” Gingrich said of Dr. Paul. “This is a country of enormously wide-open talent. You know, Donald Trump is a great showman. He’s also a great businessman.”
“My friend”? With friends like that, Ron Paul doesn’t need any enemies. Newt dropped his “friend” and colleague Ron Paul like a shot in 1996 by backing the Democratic incumbent Greg Laughlin with Republican National Committee support. Newt wanted to keep Paul from returning to Congress, and thought he could succeed by convincing Laughlin (who’s liberal record Gingrich had criticized previously as a “Clinton clone”) to switch to the Republican Party with a promise of a committee chairmanship. He convinced Laughlin to switch over, “switching over” is a process that Newt has done countless times, but failed to keep Dr. Paul down. “Clinton clone” Laughlin had to find another line of work.
Gingrich’s laudatory comments about Trump are understandable only from the perspective that Trump – if you’ll pardon the pun – has been gaming the system for years. Trump drove his hotels into bankruptcy once, and his casinos into bankruptcy three times. So much for the house always winning. You can sort of understand Gingrich’s hero-worship of Trump. “The Donald” used government “eminent domain” to try to evict the elderly Vera Coking from a house she owned in order to build a “limousine waiting area” for the Trump Plaza Hotel in between his fits of using government muscle to free himself of his debts. If the trust-fund born Trump can use showmanship to create the impression he’s a great businessman, then certainly Gingrich’s showmanship can fool Republican primary voters that he’s always been a small government man.
As a high school teacher, I’ve seen the “copy off the smart kid’s paper” tactic before. The problem is that it almost never works. Even though the copier always considers himself “the smartest person in the room,” they always copy imperfectly and in a way that makes it obvious.
In Gingrich’s case, his remarks on the “war on terrorism” are that imperfect match. Gingrich – seeing demographics of Hispanic immigration – has campaigned on behalf of a jury trial before illegals can be deported. Newt told Mike Huckabee on Fox December 3 of illegals that they needed jury trials: “Ultimately, they are — I believe they are — more trustworthy. If you ask me would I trust a jury or a Washington bureaucrat, I would rather have my fate decided by a jury of my peers than have my fate decided by a Washington bureaucrat.” And if that position were a mere concern for the welfare of hard-working Hispanics rather than cynical politics, the sentiment would be welcome.
But at the October 7 Values Voters Summit, Gingrich stressed that this ancient Anglo-Saxon right should not be extended to American citizens. “I would instruct the national security officials in a Gingrich administration to ignore the recent decisions of the Supreme Court” guaranteeing habeas corpus and trial rights of terrorist suspects, Gingrich said. “And I would interpose the presidency in saying, as the commander in chief, we will not enforce this.”
Gingrich’s excuse for hitting the delete key on the Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution (not to mentionArticle III) is that terrorists are under the “law of war” rather than civilian law. What he means by “law of war” is “no law at all,” other than the leadership principle. That’s the principle where we must trust in the elected leader to keep us safe and decide who should be put in prison, without any checks and balances or that mamby-pamby constitution stuff. As a highly paid “historian,” Newt must know that the last guy who asserted the “leadership principle” did very well in the polls, though today it sounds a little creepy in the original German (fuhrerprinzip).
Newt’s supporters should urge him to re-think this position through carefully. “But Newt,” they might ask, “if domestic enemies don’t get a jury trial, how will you stay out of prison?”