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Impure Thoughts

Sorry I've been away.  I've been trying to keep my NLT commenting free from intra-Republican primary fighting and instead focus on policy, but the Republican primary stuff has been monopolizing my political thinking lately.  Anyway, the distinction only exists in my head so here are some thoughts on the passing scene:

1.  Romney is getting testy with questions about his flip-flops and his support of Romneycare.  I can see why Romney is upset.  Romney has been getting asked these questions for five years.  If there isn't a statute of limitations on these issues, maybe there should be a statute of limitations on focusing on these issues.  Seriously, is there any likely Republican primary voter who doesn't know that Romney flip-flopped and supports a state-level health insurance purchase mandate for Massachusetts?  this has to be especially frustrating since Romney is watching Gingrich surge even though Gingrich has flip-flopped on a FEDERAL health insurance mandate (hey isn't that unconstitutional?) and cap-and-trade.  Gingrich has been out of electoral politics for thirteen years.  Large swaths of the electorate haven't been paying much attention to what Gingrich has been saying and doing during this time.  How come Gingrich's flip-flops aren't the story?

2.  Well I can't feel too bad for Romney.  Romney's argument that Romneycare was right for Massachusetts but Obama's national Romneycare was wrong for America (as a matter of policy rather than constitutionality) doesn't really work.  He has never really explained why he thinks a policy regime of guaranteed issue, community rating, health insurance coverage mandates and a health insurance purchase mandate (all policy similarities between Romneycare and Obamacare) is a good one for a state.  Romney doesn't even admit all the similarities.  He is just trying to wait out public attention.  Good on Bret Baier and FOX News for continuing to dig. 

3.  The good news for Romney is that life is about to get a lot more fair.  Gingrich's flip-flops are real, significant, and recent (they've come after his career as Speaker.)  Gingrich also has the habit of telling spectacular and easily verifiable lies.  He said that Freddie Mac paid him to $300,000 in 2006 to give advice as a "historian" and that he told them that their business model was fatally flawed.  Well it turns out that Gingrich was extravagantly praising the Freddie Mac business model in 2007 and was warning Congress about regulations that might change how Freddie Mac operated.  During last night's Huckabee candidate forum, Gingrich asserted that he had never been in favor of cap-and-trade.  Liar.

Gingrich's rise has been fueled by his debate performances, but those performances have had a dynamic that won't exist from now on.  The other candidates allowed Gingrich to tell of the debate questioners and otherwise perform the Newt Gingrich genius/statesman act with little criticism and the resulting pressure.  Gingrich has the target on his back now. 

Gingrich is in a tough position.  A large fraction of the electorate has a vague or nonexistent idea of how conservative Gingrich hasn't been over the years.  Many of those who do know about Gingrich's flip-flops and sleazy (political) dealings console themselves that Gingrich is an invincible debater and, even if Gingrich is dirty, we need a dirty guy to beat Obama and the Chicago machine.  All of that is over now.  The other candidates aren't going to give Gingrich the space to deflect questions with his "how dare you irresponsible Washington journalists cheapen this process by asking us about our records and policies" act.  It is in the interests of all the other candidates (maybe other than Huntsman) to hit Gingrich constantly and from every direction.  As Ron Paul showed, there are a lot of ways to hit Gingrich.  This will of course increase public knowledge about Gingrich's flip-flops and weaken his support from those who want a more authentically conservative alternative to Romney.  I also suspect Gingrich won't end up looking that good under sustained attack.  Gingrich under pressure isn't a very pretty sight.

I don't see Gingrich holding on to his current level of support until the January 3 Iowa Caucuses.  Where that support goes is anybody's guess.   

h/t to Peter Schramm and John Moser for a couple of the links.              
Categories > Politics

Discussions - 15 Comments

I had wondered how you would take Newt's surge, given that you dislike him so much. I think you are wrong, he will continue to do well (although I'm not sure he will ultimately win the nomination). Whatever his faults, he's better than Romney. It does seem apparent that we are destined to nominate a "politician" from the "inside" this season, so what's the difference?

Given what we now have in the White House, anything would be an improvement.

I hope you all are right. This month's National Review has "The Case for Mitt" on the cover. I haven't read it yet, but I hope it has the effect of stiffening the nerves for what is ahead. The actual article is titled, "Romney's the One" which I have been hearing for the last year or so.

If the Republican Party has nothing to go on but the slogan, "Anyone but Obama" -- heck, that is really no way to run a campaign.

Did Gingrich actually support "Cap+Trade"? I was thinking he had his own policy scheme, that was slightly different.

Gingrich "I believe" supported the free transferability of CAFE credits...which essentially is a smaller version of Cap+Trade, but one which in the context of already existing CAFE standards helps smooth out transient non-compliance beyond the current 3 year window.

In other words CAFE standards are the CAP, and transferability was the "trade"... but he didn't support cap and trade for carbon credits but instead had some other carbon tax he played around with. (assuming he means to keep his answers technically correct, which is potentially a false assumption, since he isn't a lawyer or under such obligations.)

Also he taught a sort of interdisciplinary geography course, so his actual knowledge of global warming may be more informed than that of the other candidates.

Of course he is going to say what is politically right, or necessary to zealously advance the interests of his clients. (not that he is a lawyer) but he seems to have the faults and virtues of a certain type of lawyer, without the restraint that a state bar's legal ethics commitee would impose... Congress did discipline him for ethical violations.

Yes, Newt has some deep flaws, but he is more conservative than Romney and smarter by far (and I for one got really tired of defending Bush's less-than-stellar intellect). He is also the single most effective conservative politician since Ronald Reagan (e.g., The Contract with America). It was no small feat regaining the House after 40 years in the wilderness, and then of course we rewarded him by pushing him out. I think his willingness to continue serving the party that betrayed him aptly demonstrates his loyalty to ideas/principles rather than to self-aggrandizement (which I suspect of Romney).

Win or lose, I'll be voting for Newt. I will not vote for McCain-with-hair-gel unless I'm given absolutely no choice. Ultimately it is "anyone but Obama," but I would (for once) like to feel good about my vote.

"Yes, Newt has some deep flaws, but he is more conservative than Romney and smarter by far (and I for one got really tired of defending Bush's less-than-stellar intellect)."

Agreed on the deep flaws. Over the last ten years, Gingrich has been on the wrong side of GSEs, cap-and-trade and a federal health insurance purchase mandate (even less defensible than Romney's state mandate.) You could plausibly argue that over the last ten years, Gingrich has been to the left of Huntsman.

"and then of course we rewarded him by pushing him out." You might want to consider accounts of why he was pushed out (accounts not authored by Gingrich) and, to the degree those accounts are true, what they say about whether Gingrich ought to hold a senior executive position.

"I think his willingness to continue serving the party that betrayed him aptly demonstrates his loyalty to ideas/principles rather than to self-aggrandizement (which I suspect of Romney)"

Just in the last five years, Gingrich has shown disloyalty to Freddie Mac (but only when the "historian" checks stopped coming), cap-and-trade, and a federal insurance purchase mandate. He has also been caught lying about several of those issues within the last few months. You could hardly find a politician more into self-aggrandizement than Gingrich (though you can plausibly find peers.)

"I would (for once) like to feel good about my vote." You would feel bad to vote for Santorum?

Santorum is a non-starter, no hope at all of securing the nomination. Stop blowing smoke.

Gingrich is not a libertarian, and so he does in fact have some big-government ideas. Let's face it, we are going to have big government, the populace is addicted to it. I'd rather have his version (which is usually thoughtful and moderate) than someone else's, that's all. As for why he was ousted as Speaker, no politician fares well when you take his critics' views as gospel. The fact is, Newt did something that only he could have done at the time. While he is a man of ideas, he also has a grasp of Realpolitik. I generally like the way he combines them, but yes, he does have flaws (funny, I've never heard of a politician who didn't have some).

"Santorum is a non-starter, no hope at all of securing the nomination." Given all the candidates who have risen from poll oblivion this year, I see no reason to ASSUME that Santorum has no chance to make showing. Certainly that is no substantive objection to Santorum.

"Let's face it, we are going to have big government, the populace is addicted to it. I'd rather have his version (which is usually thoughtful and moderate) than someone else's," Gingrich's program includes a Social Security plan that will add to the federal government's liabilities for the foreseeable future and a tax plan that will reduce government revenue.

http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/postmodernconservative/2011/11/24/fantasy-politics-in-an-age-of-austerity/

Also his Medicare reform plan is a mirage. http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/285080/choosing-failure-medicare-yuval-levin

To all appearances, Gingrich's policies would put us on a somewhat faster path to national bankruptcy than current policy. Oh, I forgot. Lean Six Sigma and cutting fraud. That's the ticket!

"As for why he was ousted as Speaker, no politician fares well when you take his critics' views" Well I guess we can weigh credibility differently but Gingrich has been caught lying about Freddie Mac and cap-and-trade in the last several months alone. I'm not sure why I should believe Gingrich over Coburn.

"While he is a man of ideas, he also has a grasp of Realpolitik." Just lately, his ideas have included that a federal health insurance purchase mandate was a good idea and that Freddie Mac was a model company. In the last ten years, the closest he has come to Realpolitik was recognizing the market for government-connected mouthpieces-for-sale.

My original comment was "submitted to the editor" and has been lost, apparently. I guess us "normal" folks can't post websites.

Anyway, I don't think Newt is venal, and he's clearly the smartest person in the race. I'd listen to you Pete, but you are so often wrong!

Redwald, what I do is copy commnets to a Word document and if Captcha eats the comment (which is fairly common if the comment is longish - I think maybe it times out or something.) Then I can try again by cutting and pasting and it usually works.

"Anyway, I don't think Newt is venal" Whether he sold out his principles in working for Freddie Mac or had no particular principles on the matter (and therefore didn't violate convictions he didn't have), doesn't get around the absurd "historian" lie he told at the debate

Newt has always been a polarizing figure, but also a very competent politician. I remember with the 80+ charges against him as Speaker were finally dismissed (although it did cost him $300K in fines). I remember how hard Labor and Democrat money went after him in the 1996 campaign (almost as if HE were the nominee). In short, there are lots of people (even some on the Right) who fear this man. Good, that's what we need.

As for Freddie Mac, Gingrich claims that he was encouraging them to change how they conduct business (don't make loans to insolvent people). If that's true, then I'd rather FM pay him as a consultant than someone else (say, Barney Frank). Given the way he was "written out" of the GOP, I'm not so squeamish about how he's earned a living in the wilderness.

I've never claimed that the man has no warts, but I do judge him as the best current candidate for this election. We are running against a man whose best political asset is his mouth (and the gullibility of the "hope and change" crowd). We need someone who can compete against that, and Newt's the guy. We don't need Mr. Hair-gel from the Blue States, nor Mr. Jefferson reincarnate, nor another quasi-literate cowboy.

I will say that if Christie had run I'd be supporting him because he has many of Newt's characteristics without any of the baggage (although a fat man has never won the Presidency since the age of TV began - we are a shallow people). Alas.

Newt did a nice job last night.

Ron Paul: I find I say, yes, yes, yes, then find I need to say a loud, "What?!?" periodically.

Which might be better than where I have come to with Rick Santorum and Michelle Bachman. With both I wonder why someone on their campaign staffs hasn't reminded them that this is about the state of nation and not about them.

By all I can tell, Rick Perry has been a successful and very good governor of Texas. What happens to him in these debates? Poor guy.

Romney, oh well, it won't be so bad. Karl Rove said in last week's WSJ column that it will be him because of good organization; the party is behind him and he has people on the ground in the states. Newt doesn't. For example, Newt is not even going to be on the ballot in Ohio's primary. Someone had to get that together for him and because of his staffing problems it didn't happen.

What do you think of Newt for VP?

Oh, I think he'd make a great VP (certainly better than the current one), but I'm not so quick to write him off for POTUS. Yes, he has some organizational problems, but let's just wait and see how severe they are. He always owns Romney in these debates, and I'm thinking that's what the GOP is hungry for - another "Great Communicator."

I don't see his "vision thing" as a liability. Let him talk about moon bases, Internet universities, and yes even climate change. We are up against someone who "inspires" a certain segment of the population -- some of them are people who are hungry for inspiration. Maybe something other than the normal flat-footed brown-paper-sack approach typical among conservatives is called for to steal some of that support away from the Obamamessiah.

"Newt has always been a polarizing figure, but also a very competent politician. I remember with the 80+ charges against him as Speaker were finally dismissed (although it did cost him $300K in fines)." If I were making an argument for competence, I wouldn't open with the person having "only" been fined $300,000.

"As for Freddie Mac, Gingrich claims that he was encouraging them to change how they conduct business (don't make loans to insolvent people)." So Freddie Mac paid him $1.6 million and he praised the company's business model on the record in 2007, but he told them off the record that their business model in 2006? I like stories.

"We are running against a man whose best political asset is his mouth (and the gullibility of the "hope and change" crowd). We need someone who can compete against that, and Newt's the guy" Gingrich has no record of winning over what would be presidential swing voters and when he has a national figure the polls indicate he was very unpopular. Maybe it was unfair, but that is the record.

"I will say that if Christie had run I'd be supporting him because he has many of Newt's characteristics without any of the baggage (although a fat man has never won the Presidency since the age of TV began - we are a shallow people). Alas." Christie has won over swing voters to get elected and has been a well regarded (from a center-right perspective) political executive.

Kate, I think Santorum and Bachmann had a good debate and Romney a terrible one. I also thing "Newt Romney" took some real hits on the health insurance mandate and Freddie Mac. Time will tell, but I think we are goingt o reach a tipping point on Gingrich in the next couple of weeks.

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