I wasn't particularly politically savvy as a college student in 1980, evidenced by the fact that I relished the idea of Ronald Reagan winning the Republican nomination for President. I was sure that Reagan's 1950s world view, his far right bona fides, and his intellectual deficits would make him a laughably easy candidate to defeat. So much so that I voted for -- dare I admit this? -- third-party candidate, John Anderson. That didn't work out so well, did it? -- Lovechilde
Republicans are worried sick about Newt Gingrich’s ascendance, while Democrats are tickled pink.
Yet no responsible Democrat should be pleased at the prospect that
Gingrich could get the GOP nomination. The future of America is too
important to accept even a small risk of a Gingrich presidency.
The Republican worry is understandable. “The possibility of Newt
Gingrich being our nominee against Barack Obama I think is essentially
handling the election over to Obama,” says former Minnesota Governor Tom
Pawlenty, a leading GOP conservative. “I think that’s shared by a lot
of folks in the Republican party.”
Pawlenty’s views are indeed widely shared in Republican circles.
“He’s not a conservative – he’s an opportunist,” says pundit Joe
Scarborough, a member of the Republican Class of 1994 who came to
Washington under Gingrich’s banner. Gingrich doesn’t “have the
temperament, intellectual discipline or ego control to be either a
successful nominee or president,”says New York Republican representative
Peter King, who hasn’t endorsed any candidate. “Basically, Newt can’t
Gingrich is “an embarrassment to the party,” says New Jersey
Republican Governor Chris Christie, and “was run out of the speakership”
on ethics violations. Republican strategist Mike Murphy says “Newt
Cingrich could not carry a swing state in the general election if it was
made of feathers.”
“Weird” is the word I hear most from Republicans who have worked with
him. Scott Klug, a former Republican House member from Wisconsin, who
hasn’t endorsed anyone yet, says “Newt has ten ideas a day – two of them
are good, six are weird and two are very weird.”
Newt’s latest idea, for example – to colonize the moon – is typically whacky.
The Republican establishment also points to polls showing Gingrich’s
supporters to be enthusiastic but his detractors even more fired up. In
the latest ABC News/ Washington Post poll, 29 percent view Gingrich
favorably while 51 percent have an unfavorable view of him. (Obama, by
contrast, draws a 53 percent favorable and 43 percent unfavorable.)
Independents, who will be key to the general election, are especially alarmed by Gingrich.
As they should be. It’s not just Newt’s weirdness. It’s also the
stunning hypocrisy. His personal life makes a mockery of his moralistic
bromides. He condemns Washington insiders but had a forty-year
Washington career that ended with ethic violations. He fulminates
against finance yet drew fat checks from Freddie Mac. He poses as a
populist but has had a $500,000 revolving charge at Tiffany’s.
And it’s the flagrant irresponsibility of many of his propositions –
for example, that presidents are not bound by Supreme Court rulings,
that the liberal Ninth Circuit court of appeals should be abolished,
that capital gains should not be taxed, that the First Amendment
guarantees freedom “of” religion but not “from” religion.
It’s also Gingrich’s eagerness to channel the public’s frustrations
into resentments against immigrants, blacks, the poor, Muslims, “liberal
elites,” the mainstream media, and any other group that’s an easy
target of white middle-class and working-class anger.
These are all the hallmarks of a demagogue.
Yet Democratic pundits, political advisers, officials and former
officials are salivating over the possibility of a Gingrich candidacy.
They agree with key Republicans that Newt would dramatically increase
the odds of Obama’s reelection and would also improve the chances of
Democrats taking control over the House and retaining control over the
I warn you. It’s not worth the risk.
Even if the odds that Gingrich as GOP presidential candidate would
win the general election are 10 percent, that’s too much of a risk to
the nation. No responsible American should accept a 10 percent risk of a
I’d take a 49 percent odds of a Mitt Romney win – who in my view
would make a terrible president – over a 10 percent possibility that
Newt Gingrich would become the next president – who would be an
unmitigated disaster for America and the world.
Robert Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He writes a blog at www.robertreich.org. His most recent book is Aftershock.