Thursday, January 26, 2012
By Melissa O'Sullivan
Last fall, people in Washington told me, “Get over it, Melissa. Newt’s not going to be the nominee.”
Later, in New York City over Thanksgiving, I was told, “Get over it, Melissa. It’s going to be Romney.
Well, here we are in the thick of the race, and I’m still not over it.
* THE AUTHOR OF THIS PIECE IS MELISSA O'SULLIVAN, WIFE OF JOHN O'SULLIVAN.
Many years ago, I spent a frustrating morning trying to ice skate when it hit me: I wasn’t trying to ice skate; I was trying not to fall. I submit that the Republican establishment is repeating my mistake. They are trying not to fall by endorsing - or at least accepting - the supposed safe bet. It is reminiscent of an encounter I had with some editorial types during another presidential-primary season.
I was in New York with my husband, John, a former editor and current editor-at-large of National Review. He had arranged to meet some friends from the Wall Street Journal for lunch. At the eleventh hour, John had a conflict, and I went in his place. As the meal developed into an election-strategy discussion, one distinguished woman writer declared firmly that obviously the most qualified person to carry the Republican banner into the election was John McCain. She said it was a pity that the Republican rhubarbs in the sticks would not be bright enough to choose him.
* PEGGY NOONAN...??? (JUST WONDERING...)
“Wow!” I thought, “Mr. Campaign Finance Reform? Our nominee?” I remember being truly stunned that she thought so highly of McCain.
Well, she and the Republican establishment got their wish, and we rhubarbs in the sticks got the shaft.
I have been told that Romney is the inevitable nominee, that he is the only one who can beat Obama, and that polls back up both of these propositions. My frustration with such talk is that it is about where the needle points at present. It ignores the issue of who can move the needle.
(*THUNDEROUS STANDING OVATION*)
For conservatives who have served on Republican committees at the county and state levels, have gone door to door for local candidates, and can remember when here in the South we couldn’t even field a candidate for most races, Newt is "The Man."
Back in the early Nineties he had, dare I say, a “grandiose” idea that we could be a majority party when most Republicans in the House were quite content with the leadership of the nice Mr. Robert Michel, minority leader. For that, I personally am forever indebted to Newt.
* AS SHOULD BE THE ENTIRE CO0UNTRY!
Right now, we are in a perilous state of affairs. We have a president who has put the kibosh on the Keystone pipeline at a time when Russia has just announced a new pipeline to provide energy to Western Europe, thereby increasing its influence in the region. China is building up its military while ours is shrinking. Our European partners’ defense spending is in even worse shape, with the U.K. and France having actually discussed a “time-share” arrangement for an aircraft carrier. To say nothing of the problems we face regarding Iran and Venezuela.
Now, Newt is a great debater. He has not failed to deliver in any debate I have seen. More important to me, however, is that as president he’ll hit the ground running on Day One.
* YES...!!! YES! YES! YES! THIS IS WHAT I'VE BEEN SAYING...!!!
He is firmly grounded in the kind of knowledge someone acquires by spending the better part of 30 years studying and advocating various public policies. More than that, though, he possesses the contextual knowledge - the historian’s perspective - that enables someone to stand back and draw on past events to understand current crises. [T]hat gives him a larger philosophical understanding of our past, present, and future role in world affairs. He’s not wandering in the dark; he knows where he wants this country to go and - just as important - where he doesn’t.
* YEP... AND I'LL TELL YOU THAT EXCEPT FOR RON PAUL, NO ONE WANTS TO TAKE THE COUNTRY MORE IN THE DIRECTION I DO THAN DOES NEWT GINGRICH!
To those critics who say he’s reckless, I reply that a bold president will sometimes seem reckless to those trapped in the status quo. Can you imagine a President Romney ignoring the advice of his State Department and National Security Council and delivering an incendiary line like “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”?
* GREAT FRIGG'N POINT! ABSOLUTELY 100% VALID!
And those ethics charges? What exactly were the offenses? A Rostenkowski-type scandal? Some sort of improper personal enrichment? Income from a Dominican Republic resort pad he “forgot” to report on his income-tax form?
The charges originated over the course he was teaching on American history; he supposedly violated some arcane IRS provision regarding the way the income is to be reported. Looked at from another angle, it was a kind of “ethics” charge that one party uses to tie up a dangerous opponent in a legal tangle. As Byron York wrote, at the end of the day, after the Dems had led a frontal assault against Newt, initiated by a candidate Newt had bested for a congressional seat and ginned up by the Dems as payback for their loss of the House majority, the conclusion of the three-year IRS investigation was:
Gingrich acted properly and violated no laws.
There was no tax fraud scheme.
What about the money he received as a consultant from Fannie or Freddie? Sure, I wish that Newt hadn’t bedded down in that particular flophouse. However, it was standard behavior for Washington, and not remotely illegal.
* YEP. UNFORTUNATELY... TRUE. WHEN YOU'RE THE FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE YOU'RE OFFERED MONEY TO "PONDER" AND "LECTURE." THAT'S BASICALLY WHAT GINGRICH DID.
* THINK ABOUT THIS, FOLKS: IF I WAS OFFERED A CONTRACT TO ADVICE THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION ON WHAT IT WAS DOING WRONG IN TERMS OF FOREIGN AND DOMESTIC POLICY DO YOU THINK I'D TURN IT DOWN...??? HELL NO! I'D TAKE THE MONEY AND I'D TELL OBAMA ADMINISTRATION FIGURES EXACTLY WHAT I TELL ALL MY READERS DAY IN AND DAY OUT RIGHT HERE ON MY BLOG! WELL... THAT'S BASICALLY WHAT NEWT DID! HE GOT PAID BY FANNIE (FREDDIE?) FOR TELLING THEM EXACTLY WHAT HE WOULD HAVE OTHERWISE TOLD THEM VIA AN ARTICLES HE MIGHT HAVE OTHERWISE WRITTEN IN THE COURSE OF HIS "PONDERING" AND "LECTURING."
Married three times? That’s not a recommendation either, but half of America has been through a divorce and the other half has experienced sticky patches in their marriages. ... Besides, we’re not electing the president of the Baptist Sunday School Board.
The gender gap?
Two very liberal women friends of mine who voted for Obama have come up to me recently and said they like and would vote for Newt. Why? Because he’s “so damn smart!"
Bad poll numbers?
Being a change agent does not engender popularity (think cutting welfare rolls in half, cutting the capital-gains tax from 28% to 15%, balancing the budget for four years straight, etc.), but again, the current favorable/unfavorable poll numbers are a snapshot of one moment, not an indicator of where things will wind up - as Team Romney has been painfully reminded.
Speaking of electability...
[W]ith big bank bailouts still fresh in voters’ minds, do you really think it’s going to be easy to sell Mr. Bain Capital to working-class voters, a demographic that has been written off by this White House, which means they are up for grabs?
If you do, then explain to me why Republicans failed to effectively market their opposition to the Dodd-Frank financial-reform package to these same voters.
The late, great Tony Blankley told to me at the time that Republicans felt they would not be able to stop the bill, even though it was named after two who should have done the perp walk in the whole mortgage meltdown mania. If we couldn’t go to the country and mount a successful opposition campaign explaining the difference between the big investment houses and community banks - the latter of which have been hit hard by the increased regulatory burden of the act - how can we hope to defend poor Cayman Islands Romney against the demagoguery to come from Team Obama?
* GOOD FRIGG'N QUESTION... (*SHRUG*)
Finally, the fact that Newt was ousted from his leadership role by his own party reminds me of someone else who had her own party turn on her - Margaret Thatcher. (Enough said.)
(*ANOTHER STANDING OVATION*)
Actually, that isn’t enough said. The charge against him now is that he’s “reckless.” Yep. In 1990, as minority whip, Newt was reckless enough to stand up to his own president, George H. W. Read-My-Lips Bush, over the tax increase.
* DAMN STRAIGHT! I REMEMBER IT LIKE IT WAS YESTERDAY! GOD BLESS NEWT GINGRICH...!!!
In 1995, as Speaker, he was reckless enough to go for a government shutdown over spending, only to have his fellow Republican Bob Dole, the Senate majority leader, cut the legs out from under him with his “Enough is enough” edict (as I recall, just as public opinion was starting to turn in our favor on this issue, Dole pulled the plug, thereby ensuring that we got zero out of the exercise).
* AGAIN, FOLKS... ALL TRUE! THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED! I WAS THERE...!!!
* OH... AND BTW... RAISE YOUR HAND IF YOU RECALL "PRESIDENT DOLE."
* "PRESIDENT MCCAIN," ANYONE?
* HOW'BOUT PAPPY BUSH'S SECOND TERM; ANYONE REMEMBER THAT...?
(*SPITTING ON THE GROUND IN CONTEMPT*)
Newt was reckless enough to be above the fray and do what he had to do, going against the hard-line reactionaries to get welfare reform and a balanced-budget compromise from President Clinton.
And when members of his own party ousted Newt from the leadership, with whom did they replace him? Dennis Hastert. (NOW, enough said!)
We are living in extraordinary times. The American people are truly afraid of what kind of future we are bequeathing to the next generation. This is not the time for a green-eyeshade managerial type who doesn’t seem capable of selling himself, let alone his vision of the path forward.
We are electing someone to go into that cesspool we call our nation’s capital, make some really tough decisions, and then sell those decisions to a cynical public while fighting a rear-guard action against a hostile press.
Like Governor Chris Christie, Newt has endeared himself to the American people in dealing with his detractors in a head-on, unapologetic way. And the fact that Newt, like the Energizer Bunny, keeps coming back after every setback is a truly positive sign. He’s got the true grit that is one mark of a real leader.
As we have a late primary here in Alabama, we are out of the action until the middle of March. It is very frustrating to see early states pick nominees before we even get to weigh in. On behalf of the many Republicans in later states, I ask that early states (ahem, Florida) please send us someone we can enthusiastically rally behind.
Send us one of Reagan’s lieutenants.
Send us Newt!