Monday, September 20, 2010
Attacks on the President show Newt Gingrich groveling to far right, with 2012 surely in mind
Intelligence does not assure trust in the world of politics, or outside of it. Newt Gingrich has proven this with his hectoring xenophobia toward Muslims when the iron was hot among those on the extreme right. The former speaker of the House could have instead offered a good cold bucket of water to opponents of the proposed Cordoba House project, but he did not. Some assume that his outrage, so perfect for Fox News, was no more than a cynical quest for power among Republicans, perhaps enough to get the GOP nomination for President in 2012.
His willful distortions of fact about Muslims and their intentions for the proposed Muslim community center were disgusting. But he continues. Gingrich knows that there are those in the nation who are so deluded by their ignorance that they actually believe American Muslims could ignore the national laws and impose Islamic law. There is no doubt that he knows that's impossible, but he keeps saying it nonetheless.
Of late, Robert A. George, a conservative and libertarian journalist, poured intellectual hot coals down the back of Gingrich's pants. He was disturbed by Gingrich's embracing a wacked-out theory - first proposed by Dinesh D'Souza in a Forbes cover story - about Barack Obama having absorbed his purported disdain for Western values from his Kenyan father.
George, who is black, worked for Gingrich following the 1994 midterm elections. Due to that career choice, George has taken his lumps from blacks and liberals in cable news and print for not embracing left-wing ideals and, therefore, "betraying" his race.
George writes that the Gingrich we now see is not the man for whom he worked and who proved himself, over and over, neither afraid of a political brawl nor at a loss for solid beliefs well-grounded in scholarship.
During the Republican squabbles over the loss to Barack Obama, Gingrich transcended the verbal and intellectual mud-slinging, often seeming quite reasonable. He did not submit to the levels of demonization that became part of the act for Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin. He seemed wrong for the budding Tea Party movement.
That Gingrich has taken a powder. Eventually, Gingrich leapt ahead of others on the right who were wary of being connected to (and diminished by) association with the rage heating up at the Republican margins; he rolled up his sleeves, left his principles behind, and went along with them.
This is not unusual and has too long and varied a pedigree to lay out right here, but we should never forget the way the Democratic Party was forced to kowtow to elected rednecks who kept their supporters by protecting Southern racism. Gingrich remembers how well the "Southern strategy" of President Richard Nixon worked. It attracted disgruntled Southern donkeys willing to become Republicans as long as the red in their necks was respected.
So Gingrich's change of tune is another disappointing example of how the possibility of rising to a position of power can intellectually deform a person.
Time takes principles and vitality down the drain. It is as much the enemy of a politician as it is the elemental fact movie stars dread every morning as they look into the mirror. In the case of Newt Gingrich, the question is: If you will not try to grab power now, when will you?
Plato once wrote of a man who had to devour his children in order to achieve his goal. If Gingrich chooses to see the electorate as his children, he appears to have decided that, at the end of the day, he can wipe the blood off his teeth.