Wednesday, January 24, 2007
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I'm intrigued -- does that means he's doomed?
Many moons ago, my wife and I were roped into a focus group that was viewing a proposed television pilot. At the end of the half hour, we were asked to fill out some demographic information, including education level.
At that point, my wife and I looked at each other, knowing that because we had post-graduate degrees, our reactions were not going to matter one whit -- we're not exactly the target demographic of profitable shows.
This memory came to mind when someone e-mailed me this Fortune story by Nina Easton on Newt Gingrich's quixotic run for the GOP presidential nomination in 2008:
[T]his year, as he throws warm-up pitches for a 2008 presidential campaign, hoping that his big ideas, combined with his grass-roots popularity, will produce a "draft Newt" movement, even his most ardent loyalists doubt he can pull it off. "He's a better Moses, leading the party out of the wilderness, than he is a King David, running the show," says Frank Lavin, a veteran of Republican administrations who now serves as commerce undersecretary.Gingrich intrigues me -- he's far more complex and interesting a thinker than the nineties stereotype of him suggested. And if Hillary Clinton can remake herself as someone who's learned from past mistakes, I see no reason why Gingrich can't as well.
However, I can't shake the feeling that because I'm so interested in a Gingrich, he's doomed to fail. Can someone who scores well in the blogger wonk demographic really develop mainstream appeal?
Readers, help me out here.posted by Dan on 01.24.07 at 03:26 PM
It may or may not be fair, but no matter how thoroughly he has changed his thinking, Newt's future is limited by his infamous tenure as Speaker. Teddy has his Chappaquiddick, Hillary has her Socialized Health Care, and Newt has his Contract With America.posted by: OpenBorderMan on 01.24.07 at 03:26 PM [permalink]
I'm with you on Gingrich, both in the sense that he is appealing to a free-market oriented conservative wonkophile, and in the sense that he is totally unelectable. I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for a groundswell of popular support for a Gingrich candidacy.
I don't understand why McCain seems like such an obvious choice, though. Won't his ultra-hawkishness start seeming less and less tenable as '08 approaches and the surge fails to produce results?
I see room for a GOP dark horse to come in late in the game, but I doubt his name is Newt.posted by: Adam L on 01.24.07 at 03:26 PM [permalink]
While he may be unelectable at the top of the ticket he would deliver a great deal of the base as a VP choice and unless Jeb or someone else who can deliver one of the large states is available might prove to be an interesting choice.
As to a dark horse look for former Sen Fred Thompson as a media darling and as a potential VP as well.posted by: Greg on 01.24.07 at 03:26 PM [permalink]
I don't think we know the GOP nominee yet, all the announced candidates have major issues with either winning the GOP primary or national electability. Keep your eye on Mike Huckabee, the former Gov. of Arkansas who toes the line on social issues, but doesn't play the antagonist like Brownback, Santorum, etc.posted by: Just Guessing on 01.24.07 at 03:26 PM [permalink]
In my view, the best ticket the GOP can field at this stage is Giulliani-Gingrich. I'm not certain that Gingrich couldn't beat Hillary, but even assuming her to be the Dem nominee, it seems to me that after last fall, we need a nominee who is less divisive, not only for its own sake, but for the more practical reason that a nominee with coattails is desirable if we want any chance of retaking the Senate, where the numbers look daunting. Both Gingrich and Giulliani are good candidates who bring useful attributes to the ticket, but I think they're stronger together (and was heartened by a recent joint WSJ op/ed) and practical politics puts Rudy on top of the ticket.
My $0.02.posted by: Simon Dodd on 01.24.07 at 03:26 PM [permalink]
I'm most knowledgable of his recent activities in which he's basically demonstrated he holds the first amendment in contempt and is perfectly willing to flush American freedoms down the toilet in the name of the 'war on terror'. So I hope he remains in the wilderness.
That being said, I can see some merit as well as problems with his approach. I think improved access to information on healthcare is a very good idea; one of the major problems with healthcare is that it's extremely hard for people to make informed choices.
The big problem, though, is that for lots of people, there is little in the way of meaningful choice as to how to get one's health care. If you live in, say, Houston, you have lots of options. If you live in, say, Corinth, TX, your choices are a lot more limited and even moreso if you live in Dimebox.
I think his approach combined with other solutions for insuring people can afford insurance could be productive, though.posted by: John Biles on 01.24.07 at 03:26 PM [permalink]
The Contract with America was one of Gingrich's finest hours - with HillaryCare and the post office scandal, it helped propel Republicans into House control. His "Chappaquiddick" was the botched PR battle during the "government shutdown."posted by: Alan K. Henderson on 01.24.07 at 03:26 PM [permalink]
A Newt boomlet fills my Yellow Dog bones with chills of delight. More please.posted by: Doug on 01.24.07 at 03:26 PM [permalink]
Newt reminds me, with this talk of health care transformation, of a Silicon Valley entrepeneur, circa 2000. He talks a lot about transformation, the power of computers, the need to get with the 21st century, and the enormous potentialities of it all, and the need to reimagine everything from the ground up. But what does that truly mean? I dunno. I looked at his healthcare website: www.healthtransformation.net and have no clue, beyond the fact that we need more computerization of billing and other hospital systems, and people ought to do something about their unhealthy habits.
The system of healthcare is based on these premises: There's a right for people to get healthcare, insurance companies expect to make money and everyone wants to make sure someone else is paying for any possible healthcare cost. When Newt can find his way out of the tangle caused by these basic premises, I'm willing to listen. Right now, his glittering generalities, combined with an incipient third party nannyism, do not impress.posted by: Appalled Moderate on 01.24.07 at 03:26 PM [permalink]
Being a bit of an expert on several healthcare areas, I can say that Newt can generate more interesting ideas than anyone I have ever heard or read.
Generating ideas is a great deal different than implementing dieas though.
Electable? Only after some bizarre political twist I can barely imagine.posted by: save_the_rustbelt on 01.24.07 at 03:26 PM [permalink]
I became convinced reading the Relman TNR article
Isn't there another job in the White House for Newt than Oval Office dude? Shouldn't he be the "strategic chief of staff" or something?posted by: Klug on 01.24.07 at 03:26 PM [permalink]
I won't vote for any ticket containing him. He reminds me alot of Nixon - smart, thoughful, and utterly untrustworthy. I have family in his old district, and one of them whose judgement I particularly trust won't trust him as far as she can throw him. Neither will much of Newt's family.
Newt's career in the House is much like Nixon's was in the Senate. He distinguished himself and rose to lead the House Republicans how? By having great ideas and pushing for them? No. By investigating leading Democrats.
Politics by investigation is one of DC's great ills. Except for certain extreme cases, it does little to improve life outside the Beltway.
If he were President, I think he'd do it about as well as Nixon. Nixon did plenty of good things, but he also chose the Democratic candidate in '72 via a string of illegal breakins and hurt the economy for a decade by convincing people a gas cap was a good idea just in time for the '72 elections, which was the only point at which it helped the economy. He lied about having a plan in Vietnam.
Odd that the Contract With America--the modest attempt by the GOP to put some chains, however feeble, on Leviathan--is seen as tantamount to the suspicious death of Mary Jo Kopechne. These are very strange times we live in. I suppose a real libertarian program to starve the beast would be considered the equivalent of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, if not worse.posted by: Bilwick on 01.24.07 at 03:26 PM [permalink]
Bilwick, You force me to explain my labored metaphore. Obviously, the suspicious death of a young woman, an overreaching socialized medicine plan, and a Quixotic attempt to reduce the size of government are not all the same. What I meant is that all became the defining event for their respective protagonists, and the reason why many people hate them (although not the SAME people).posted by: OpenBorderMan on 01.24.07 at 03:26 PM [permalink]
I think his surrender in the fight against the Clintons will make hard core support a problem.
Dan's spot on and Newt is even more unelectable than you think--consider the fact that he is also a frequent commentator on NPR. Clear pandering to intellectual elites that does not get anyone anywhere fast--in this country that is!posted by: Ivan B Zhabin on 01.24.07 at 03:26 PM [permalink]
Newt's career in the House is much like Nixon's was in the Senate. He distinguished himself and rose to lead the House Republicans how? By having great ideas and pushing for them?
Yes - see here. Recall also that the Republican Congress eliminated the deficit.
Bilwick, You force me to explain my labored metaphore. Obviously, the suspicious death of a young woman, an overreaching socialized medicine plan, and a Quixotic attempt to reduce the size of government are not all the same. What I meant is that all became the defining event for their respective protagonists, and the reason why many people hate them (although not the SAME people).
I thought the metaphor was whacked because disgust with Ted Kennedy is mildly nonpartisan, disgust with HillaryCare is widely nonpartisan, and disgust with the Contract is partisan as all get-out. None of the voters for whom the Contract is a deal-breaker will vote Republican any time during this geologic epoch.
I think his surrender in the fight against the Clintons will make hard core support a problem.
Yes, that's a definite problem. He has to prove that he has more backbone now.posted by: Alan K. Henderson on 01.24.07 at 03:26 PM [permalink]
In the abstract, Gingrich has a problem in Presidential politics because he has no base outside the Beltway. Georgia politics have moved on, and even the district he represented has changed its boundaries and taken in many thousands of people since Gingrich was in Congress. If you're not Richard Nixon, campaigning for the Presidency as a man without a state is a tough row to hoe.
But the question is academic. Gingrich is the political equivalent of what in sports is called a coach killer. Like the flamethrowing pitcher with no control, the ball-hogging shooting guard, the quarterback with happy feet, Gingrich can range far beyond the conventional points of reference on policy issues he cares about, saying brilliant, or brilliant-sounding, things at one moment and foolish things ten minutes later. He has no self-discipline and no constancy; he is all about revolutions and transformations, which loom a lot larger in modern political rhetoric than they do in American life. He is entertaining, and often worth listening to, but there are thousands of people in this country of whom that can be said, who shouldn't be President either.posted by: Zathras on 01.24.07 at 03:26 PM [permalink]
> > Newt's career in the House is much like Nixon's was in the
> Yes - see here [link to Contract wiki page]. Recall also that the
He rose to lead the House Republicans (the phrase I used) BEFORE the Contract (note, credit is shared for that). Did I ever say Newt did no good? No, I think the Contract For America was smart politics. Just like Nixon did some good.
I'd tend to put credit for balancing the budget down to division of power - it's amazing how politicians remember about deficits and those pesky rights things when Congress and the White House belong to different parties, eh?
I forgot to mention in my first comment that I'm not trying to tell people how to think about Newt; rather, I just hope you'll keep a careful watch on him.
I think Gingrich has a shot at the nomination only if Giuliani is out of the race. The rest of the GOP lineup is a bunch of dark horses, despised John McCain, and Mitt Romney, whose conservative credentials are highly doubted. Giuliani has going for him charisma, post-9/11 leadership, and his legacy of beating back crime and the welfare state in NYC. (Considering Bush's spending liberalism, Giuliani's fiscal conservatism is a HUGE asset.) Gingrich is more likely to get the #2 slot, although Giuliani would probably look for someone who's less a lightning rod. Newt in a cabinet post wouldn't be too hard to imagine.posted by: Alan K. Henderson on 01.24.07 at 03:26 PM [permalink]
I totally agree with Alan. I'm an independent, but most of my GOP friends-- even though they don't hate McCain-- aren't enthralled with him either. Rudolph Giuliani is definitely the choice of the masses and elites alike.
I have to say, I voted for mostly Democrats in 2006, but I'd vote for Giuliani in a second in 2008. I'd vote for almost anybody over Hillary Clinton (who I find to be repulsive), but I'd pick someone like Obama or Richardson or Al Gore over most Republicans. (Say what you want about Gore, he's been right about two very, very big things recently-- environmental issues, and the war in Iraq, which he opposed from the start.)
But I'd pick Giuliani over just about anybody. He's smart, tough and shrewd. He's just a natural leader.posted by: Kazar on 01.24.07 at 03:26 PM [permalink]
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