Thursday, December 01, 2011

Newt Gingrich, Defined And Confirmed

A week and a half ago on the roundtable discussion on ABC's This Week with Christiane Amanpour, George Will noted Newt

Gingrich's is an amazingly efficient candidacy in that it embodies everything that is disagreeable about modern Washington. He's the classic rental politician.

The conservative syndicated columnist went on to explain

People think that his problem is his colorful personal life. He'll hope that people concentrate on that rather than, for example, ethanol. Al Gore has recanted ethanol. Not Newt Gingrich. Industrial policy of the sort that got us Solyndra, he's all for it. Freddie Mac, he says, hired him as a historian. He's not a historian.

And all that is without mentioning Gingrich's personal life which, really, is his personal life- or would be, if he left it at that. Yet, being the classic rental politician, the former House Speaker is pursuing a means for it to enhance his candidacy.

The Family Leader in July announced "THE MARRIAGE VOW: A Declaration of Dependence upon MARRIAGE and FAMiLY" (all emphasis the organization's). It includes a 14-point "candidate vow" emphasizing an "adherence" to "faithful sexual monogamy" and mandating "personal fidelity to my spouse," "respect for the marital bonds of others," belief in "robust childbearing and reproduction" as a national goal, "rejection of 'Sharia Islam'," and "commitment to downsizing government" (how did that get in there?).

The pledge has been signed by Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, and no others.

But that has not stopped the Classic Rental Politician. In July, Gingrich was asked whether he had signed the pledge and responded "No, we’ve talked about it. Vince Haley, who’s my policy director, is gonna work with Bob and others to work through some things." According to the Des Moines Register's Jason Clayworth, the Family Leader has narrowed its decision upon whom to endorse for the GOP nomination to four individuals- Santorum, Bachmann, Perry- and Gingrich, a personal favorite of the organization's CEO, Bob Vander Plaats, with whom he allegedly has financial ties. According to Clayworth, "Vander Plaats said today that his group has been in communication with the Gingrich campaign about the pledge and expects to hear something from them shortly."

The mind reels- or maybe not, given that the vow includes a determination to pare down the size of government, by which The Family Leader is not referring to the defense budget or the cozy relationship between the federal government and Wall Street.

Gingrich could have gone any of four ways. He could have adopted the approach of Mitt Romney, who in July said he "strongly supports traditional marriage but he felt this pledge contained references and provisions that were undignified and inappropriate for a presidential campaign." He could have been a little bolder and declared that he won't sign any pledge, identifying them as a gimmicks and a prime manifestation of the interest group politics which the American people find "disagreeable about modern Washington."

Or he could have gone courageously where no other politician has dared to go. He might have declined to sign the pledge by arguing that public behavior is more important that private behavior in someone asking to represent 300 million-plus individuals in a nation of culturally diverse individuals and families. He might have noted that in a country facing such enormous challenges at home and abroad (which he could have blamed on President Obama), he- and other candidates- ought to be judged on the basis of their policies, experience, and ability to move the conservative agenda forward.

Such honesty would have been asking too much of any office-seeker, of course. Alternatively, Newt might have differentiated himself from his main rival by simply signing the pledge, which would at least have been definitive.

But, no. Instead, the classic rental politician will sign, but only under certain conditions. For Newt Gingrich- as for, it appears thus far, The Family Leader- Groucho Marx's aphorism applies: "Those are my principles. If you don't like them, I have others."

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