Another presidential race is around the corner, so tradition demands that we ask: Will Newt Gingrich run? As usual, the former Speaker of the House is non-committal. The Daily Beast’s Lloyd Grove just sat down with Gingrich to see if he could discern anything more definite:
“We are looking at it very seriously,” the erstwhile Republican speaker of the House says when I ask if he’s running for president. “And Callista and I will make a decision in probably February or early March of next year.” (The former Callista Bisek, Newt’s first lady, was a congressional staffer 10 years ago when she became the third Mrs. Gingrich.)
“As Speaker of the House,” Gingrich goes on, explaining why he’d be a strong candidate, “I kept all federal spending down to a 2.9 percent a year increase for four years, including the entitlements, which is the lowest rate since Calvin Coolidge. We passed the first tax cut in sixteen years. We actually reformed welfare decisively so that 65 percent of the people on welfare either went to work or went to school. And we balanced the federal budget for four straight years and paid off $405 billion in debt.”
Hmm. The “we’re looking” bit is the same thing he always says, and talking himself up could just as easily be book advertising as it could a stump speech (then again, is it just me, or does his website look decidedly-more campaign-y than its last redesign?). I don’t know if Gingrich is gonna run, and I doubt anyone else does, regardless of what they claim.
A Newt Gingrich candidacy would bring a few major assets to the table. First, Gingrich seems to understand the stakes and the urgency of beating back the Left’s agenda more than most Republicans:
“[W]hat I say is that the victory of the secular-socialist machine”—which, in Gingrich’s view, is the Obama White House’s toxic mix of Chicago-style politics and Godless socialism—“would be as decisive as the victory of totalitarian powers in ending the American experiment in freedom, which is in fact exactly what George Orwell wrote in 1984 and exactly what Hayek wrote in the Road to Serfdom.”
Gingrich admits that he purposely uses loaded language to get attention for his views. “I want people to stop and look at how truly serious the threat of a secular-socialist machine is to the survival of this country,” he says.
Third, as anybody who’s ever heard him speak can attest, the veteran politician is extremely well-versed in public policy, and would be a formidable debate opponent even for Democrats who didn’t suffer from experience-deficits or teleprompter-dependence. The opposition’s dumb-Republican meme wouldn’t stick this time around.
On the other hand, Gingrich 2012 wouldn’t be all smooth sailing. The fact that he hasn’t held public office since 1998 may help fuel the notion that he’s a political has-been whose drive and ingenuity have expired. His messy personal life would almost certainly become an issue, compared unfavorably to Obama’s family and used to brand him as untrustworthy and a hypocrite on social issues. And on more than one occasion, the Speaker has sided with the inept GOP and DC establishments at the expense of conservative principle. As Michelle Malkin says:
Picture the cabinet:
Al Sharpton as education secretary.
Scozzafava as labor secretary.
Al Gore as global warming czar.
Of course, the ultimate deciding factor will be the alternatives. For instance:
Sarah Palin drives the Right wild and the Left wilder, and not without cause—her feisty conservatism and resonance with the American people pose a major threat to leftist policy and feminist dogma alike. Then again, just how conservative she is isn’t so cut and dried, nor is how carefully she makes decisions.
Rick Perry, as I wrote back in March, has some justified grassroots appeal, but very real drawbacks, as well.
Tim Pawlenty talks a good conservative game, but his record ain’t perfect, either. Nor does he bring anything particularly distinctive to the table.
Mitch Daniels is seen as a strong spending cutter with few policy drawbacks, but his perceived lack of charisma could be a liability.
Nobody knows yet whether or not any of these candidates (well, we can rule one out) should be our next president, especially consider that we don’t know who else might emerge. But please, can we carefully vet them all before declaring them one of them conservatism’s savior?