Is “President Gingrich” Really That Frightening?

It’s important for a political party to question the electability of its candidates, especially when it comes to the presidency. If a candidate isn’t electable in the general election, it matters little how popular he or she is with the base. Thus, I totally understand Republicans’ reservations with Newt Gingrich. The man carries a lot of personal and professional baggage with him, which has been pointed out so often that it’s not worth recapping here.

Up until a couple of weeks ago, the electability factor had been the greatest argument against Gingrich’ candidacy. But that dramatically changed once he showed some staying power as the Republican front runner. Now, with the Iowa caucus quickly approaching, we’ve seen a dramatic difference in the type of friendly fire criticism coming from the right. It’s now less about his prospects of beating Obama than it is about his mental competency to be the next president.

The current narrative is that he’s no longer just the guy who cheated on two wives and fought ethics violations. He’s now the Republican Boogie Man! A radical and reckless loon who would poison the presidency if elected! We expect this caricature of Republican candidates coming from liberals (and the left has certainly been hysterical over Gingrich), but rarely do we see it coming from fellow conservatives…

Conservative writer Peggy Noonan recently wrote that Gingrich is a “human hand grenade who walks around with his hand on the pin, saying, ‘Watch this!’”

Former Republican governor of New Hampshire, John Sununu, claims that Gingrich has a “congenital problem” of not being able to prioritize anything above his own ego.

Former Republican congresswoman, Susan Molinari, said she is “terrified to death” of Newt becoming the nominee.

Congressman Peter King and Senator Tom Coburn (both Republicans) have voiced doubt that they could even support Gingrich as their party’s nominee.

The editors of the prominent conservative publication, The National Review, wrote a very rough piece on Gingrich, urging readers to exclude him from their consideration.

Conservative author Ann Coulter and radio host Glenn Beck have labeled him as a big government progressive with radical ideas, cut from the same liberal mold as Barack Obama.

Fellow candidate, Mitt Romney, even felt comfortable suggesting that Newt was zany and unstable.

What has happened here?

Is Newt really such an erratic individual that the thought of him representing the Republican party prompts prominent conservatives to seriously consider voting for a third-party candidate? Isn’t this the same guy who lead the Republican party to their first control of the House of Representatives in 40 years? Isn’t this the same guy who was instrumental in successfully reforming our welfare system? Isn’t this the guy who helped balance the federal budget? Wasn’t Newt’s pressure on the White House one of the reasons Bill Clinton is widely recognized as a fiscally successful president?

Is the idea of Newt as our president really that horrifying? To be honest, I’m not sure I know the answer.

Like many, I’ve always been impressed with Gingrich’s knowledge of the issues, his abundance of practical ideas, and his articulate and unapologetic defense of conservative values and policies. I would love to see him debate our president, effectively expose the failures of the current administration, and promote conservative solutions using historical context to justify their worth.

That being said, I’m the first to recognize that he’s a flawed candidate. Despite the assertion that he’s matured since his days as Speaker, he’s made some recent off the cuff remarks that I find unsettling. In fact, his criticism of Congressman Paul Ryan’s entitlement reform proposal initially made him a non-starter for me.

But can’t the same be said for the rest of the Republican field as well? They’ve all made the occasional sketchy statement, but no one’s categorizing any of the others as being nuts. Well, maybe they are about Ron Paul.

Regardless of the motivations of his detractors, I think the conservative cause hurts itself when one of its most effective orators is treated by the rest as if he’s Hannibal Lecter. I understand that time is running out, and people should speak out now if they have concerns over candidates who would go on to represent them. I just hope that such animated criticism of Gingrich is coming from an honest concern, and is not merely the right’s borrowing of the left’s smear tactics to promote a different candidate.

Members of the Republican base who have been leaning toward Gingrich are going to have to decide quickly which Newt they believe in: The bold and brilliant leader or the eccentric and unhinged provocateur. And once they’ve answered that question, they’ll need to decide if he’s worth the gamble when they can pinch their noses, vote for the presumed more viable candidate in Mitt Romney, and hope they’ve made the right decision come the general election.

Author Bio:

John Daly couldn't have cared less about world events and politics until the horrific 9/11 terrorist attacks changed his perspective. Since then, he's been deeply engaged in the news of the day with a particular interest in how that news is presented. Realizing the importance of the media in a free, democratic society, John has long felt compelled to identify media injustices when he sees them. With a B.S. in Business Administration, and a 16 year background in software and web development, John has found that his real passion is for writing. His first novel, entitled "From a Dead Sleep", is now on sale! He lives in Northern Colorado with his wife and two children. Like John on Facebook. Follow John on Twitter.
Author website: http://www.johndalybooks.com/
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  • Shirl

    If I’m not mistaken, we pinched out noses when we went with John McCain but what made matters worse was when the Republican machine tried managing Sarah Palin (when they should have let her be her); it could have been a different outcome. McCain was too affable and so is Romney to go up against Obama. Newt is the one to articulate the difference between Americanism and Socialism that all us peasants will clearly understand.

    • Bryan Horn

      Gingrich as president…we’ll be the laughing stock of the world. The guy’s a idiot.

  • Bill F Wade

    I applaud you for actually being one of the few who show distinction making abilities. Newt has accomplished things all the other candidates only wish they had done, this is an historical fact. Baggage and all Newt is fully capable of being commander in chief. You don’t ascend to the Speaker of the House of Representatives without leadership skills. Obama hasn’t accomplished an ounce of what Newt has accomplished. Being an accomplished leader without making enemies is unrealistic, this is politics after all. Those who prefer Romney due to his moderate style of talking should actually look up the number of his flip flops, it’s astounding and amazing. A leader is not summed up by the eloquence of his speech but by the real accomplishments in his record. Newt wins on all these counts despite how his baggage has been unfairly portrayed.

  • Kathie Ampela

    I’m undecided on Newt, I’ve gone back and forth almost on a daily basis. But how anyone could support Ron Paul over Newt is what seems to get lost in this discussion. Ann Coulter and Glenn Back have both said they would support Paul over Gingrich! Elect Paul and say hello to a nuclear Iran. And he has a really good chance at pulling off an upset in Iowa. How has Gingrich been the one to get all the negative press and Paul gets a pass?

    • John Daly

      Paul has largely escaped scrutiny because up until now, no one has taken him as a serious enough candidate to bother with. Plus, the media loves the idea of an anti-war Republican who regularly blasts his own party.

      • Kathie Ampela

        We will see how the media plays this if Ron Paul wins in Iowa. Will their “anti-war” storyline be more important than his flip flops over the years about his hate filled newsletters from the 90’s? Jay Leno demostrated some of this lefty quasi-embrace of Paul a couple of weeks ago when he was on Leno’s show. Paul accused Michelle Bachmann of “hating Muslims” and Rick Santorum of “hating gays” Leno didn’t ask him about his seemingly hate filled rants back in the 90’s over blacks or his anti-Israel views. Paul has only stepped away from the newsletters in the past 10 years. In the 1990s he seemed to be well aware of the content and supportive of it. See here: http://www.redstate.com/leon_h_wolf/2011/12/22/about-those-racist-ron-paul-newsletters-that-he-didnt-read-and-completely-disavowed/
        This could be a ploy to help Obama get reelected. If Paul wins the nomination, Obama will get a second term for sure. Why not give Paul a pass until he gets the nomination?

  • RecknHavic

    I’m glad someone finally wrote a non-smear piece on Gingrich. Many Republican talking heads are going to be doin serious damage control if Newt gets the nomination.
    I understand, and share, some of the policy concerns w/ Gingrich; but i also can see his conservative policy successes as Speaker. He’s certainly no progressive. As strange as it’s becoming, Newt Gingrich’s candidacy is separating the establishment Republican suits from the conservative Republicans (w/ the conservatives for the most part siding w/ Gingrich).
    Should be an interesting primary season…

  • Lev Tannen

    Mr.Gingrich never said that Congressman Paul Ryan’s entitlement reform proposal is a bad idea. Quite opposite, he said it is a great idea. All that he said was that forcing even a great idea against people will is social engineering. That you have to convince people that your idea is great prior to implementing it. Are you going to argue with this assessment?

    • John Daly

      I understand Newt’s point, but he said it as poorly as he possibly could. Right after he was asked about Paul Ryan’s plan, he said that he was against “right wing social engineering”. He gave critics of Ryan’s plan a huge shot of adrenalin with his remarks. Not a good thing.

      • Lev Tannen

        This is probably true, it was not a best choice of words and the place, to say them, but since then he many times and unequivocally explained what he meant. But may be the most important thing is that with these words he properly positioned himself as a true conservative, but not an extremist. Which means that having the firm conservative views he nevertheless understands that there are other people with different views and that their views even wrong also count. That they has to be convinced rather then forced. And this is not only right principal position, but also very important in general election.

        • John Daly

          I agree with you. Right now, it’s not the base or even the media who is making a big deal out of his remarks on Paul Ryan’s plan. It’s his opponents, primarily Romney and Paul that are doing the damage.

  • Newt45

    Compare and contrast; Recently both Gingrich and Romney were given the opportunity to show how they would lead when given a question on the current tax debate going on in congress. Romney’s answer; “I’m not going to get into the back-and-forth on the congressional sausage-making process,”
    When Gingrich was ask the same question, his reply; “Reid is deliberately game-playing … again, we’re talking about total dereliction of duty,” he said in Des Moines, Iowa. “The Senate passes what it wants and it leaves town — doesn’t wait around, it doesn’t act responsibly. I just think if you’re a normal American, you’re looking at this stuff, you just say, ‘What a total failure of leadership.’ ” One is clueless, and the other not afraid to speak their mind. We need a leader such as Gingrich who is the solution oriented change agent!

    • John Daly

      And that’s part of Newt’s appeal. It’s hard to listen to Romney labeling Newt as a “career politician” when of the two, Romney sounds far more like a professional politician who’s overly concerned with displeasing anyone or opening himself up for more detailed questioning on a topic.

  • cmacrider

    John: Carefully crafted article. As a Canadian (which means I have as much at stake in the ensuing November election as an American … but no vote) let me express a couple of thoughts on Newt.
    1. Newt is correct in saying that we need “bold solutions” at this point in history.
    2. However, Newt has to decide whether he wants to go down in history as Newt the creative thinker or Newt the President who restored America’s ascendency.
    If Newt wants to be the latter, then he has to provide some comfort zone to those Republican/conservatives who presently are his detractors. This means that he now has to show conservatives that he respects tradition and is not prepared to throw the baby out with the wash water. This he could easily do by going back to his previous image as the guy in the debates who calmly reminded all the rest of the candidates “that in his opinion anyone up here would make a better president that B.O.” … and reminded all the contestants “that the real enemy is Barack Obama.” When he took that posture he zoomed in the polls … when he decided to show us how creative and clever he was … he dropped in the polls. We all know the guy is brilliant … now the question is can he now show conservatives that he does not like change for change sake … he is only prepared to change things when it is shown to be an improvement over the status quo.

  • Paul Courtney

    John: Thanks for airing this out. Would be nice if we could talk about Newt’s drawbacks without getting savage, after all we may find ourselves forced to defend him as Pres. Seems like very few take the long view. And imagine my disappointment learning you’re “not Bernie”, but I’ll still read your stuff, Burt.

  • Mike Jackson

    What I find most frightening is the possibility that the average American voter could even be persuaded to consider reelecting the current president.

    Newt Gingrich certainly has his warts and I truly hope he’s learned from the personal life issues and gotten on track. He is also the one who succeeded in galvanizing the Republican party and led it from being a “talk about issues” to becoming the majority party and fiscally conservative during his tenure as Speaker.

    It was after Gingrich left office that the GOP started pretending they were democrats and quit watching the checkbook and throwing money away like drunken sailors. (I offer my apologies to drunken sailors, at least they quit spending after they’re out of cash.)

    We know the man has attitude, intelligence, and a firm grasp of the issues. And in the unlikely event that he and Barney Frank have been travel partners, there should not be any surprises about the skeletons in his closet.

    Gingrich is a point man by his nature. He’ll take the arrows to get to the destination. Isn’t that what we want in a leader?

  • Jeff

    Bernie,

    I didnt take much time to look but i’m watching an HBO take on your hockey fighting. All i have to say is stay with politics don’t get into sports. Your words on the interview are unfounded.

    • John Daly

      I’m not Bernie.

  • Wil Burns

    Remember Folks, Newt is running for Reich Chancellor not president!

  • Ken Besig, Israel

    Newt is a little too grandiose and mercurial for me, but as the GOP nominee he will still wipe the floor with Obama. I would prefer someone like Mitt Romney who is much more measured in his speech, and is more in tune with regular people. Romney too will clobber Obama big time.

  • rider237

    i have mixed feelings about Newt. i wouldn’t have to take an emesis basin to the voting booth, as i did with McCain, if he were nominated, but he does give me a twitch.

    on the other hand, he is a guy with lots of ideas. this is both good and bad. he tends to throw those ideas out there. they are often reported without context. sometimes they are throw out there without context.
    i think he’s a lateral thinker. lateral thinkers have their head stuffed full of….stuff.

    so, can he do the job? i don’t know. i kind of feel like he’d be a better VP than president. he’d be the guy who could take every bit of info, add to it, and give the president options that might not be apparent to the average person.

  • Rick Johnson

    Frankly, I think in our internet world it would be difficult for any candidate to not be caught saying something unacceptable (for want of a better word). The only candidate who could avoid that today would have to be another Calvin Coolidge.

  • DOOM161

    In my lifetime, republicans have insisted that John McCain and Bob Dole were electable, and that George W. Bush was a fiscal conservative.

    I don’t have any memories of a Dole or McCain administration. And if Bush was a conservative, I wouldn’t have to look back to the Clinton Administration to find a non-record deficit.

  • Glen Stambaugh

    John, great summation and analysis! This has been my journey with Newt. I’m now leaning towards Mitt because I don’t feel like this is the time to take a chance, even on someone as brilliant and accomplished as Newt.

    I will certainly support him if he’s the nominee though.
    He might win me back if he adopted Cain’s 9-9-9! In fact the first canditate to grab that flag has my rapt attention. I’m looking for bigger moves than Mitt is offering.

  • richard mcenroe

    The man quits.

    He quit on two wives when they were diagnosed with life-threatening diseases.

    He quit on the constituents of the Congressional district he had just won because the party took his Speakership away from him.

    He quits. And he’ll quit again.

    • ph16

      Richard,

      1. People do change and Newt has definitely made some changes in his life so while I’m not sure he’d be the best candidate, he’s not that reprehensible (I’d save that term for John Edwards).
      2. Only one of the wives (the first) had a disease and it was not life threatening (more like a surgery of a benign tumor). She is actually still alive and well today.
      3. You’ve posted this like on just about every article on Newt Gingrich that is.