Sticking Up For Newt

Yesterday, my colleague Rick posted a piece about how a lot of people are giving Newt Gingrich a second look, and that’s showing in the polls — he’s currently pretty much at the top. And in the comments, regular left-leaning commenter “Jay” (no relation/connection, I swear!) put up a list of reasons why people shouldn’t support Gingrich.


I don’t mean to single out Jay for abuse — honest! — but his list was just too damned convenient to not use as a springboard to clear up some things about the former Speaker.


– Served wife divorce papers while she was in the hospital dying from cancer

For years, Newt has said nothing about this rumor. But now he’s officially denied it, as has his daughter and the “dying” ex-wife — who, apparently, is still fighting off her imminent death 29 years later. Oh, and she wanted the divorce — Gingrich brought their children to visit her in the hospital, and she wanted to discuss the ongoing divorce proceedings at the time.

– $300K fine for ethics violation by misusing tax exempt foundations for political gain

No, he wasn’t. It was more complicated than that. Gingrich was charged with 84 violations. 83 were dismissed; the last one was for “providing the commitee with information which he knew or should have known was inaccurate.” He was reprimanded the $300K was not a fine, but the cost of the investigation; and the IRS later ruled no tax laws were violated.

– “Children of welfare should be taken away to orphanages”

Gingrich said that during the fight over welfare reform in the 1990’s. He specified “Boys’ Town” style institutions at the time. Anyone who knows anything about Gingrich knows he loves to toss out his little verbal bombs, and here this was part of his rhetorical war against those who wanted to preserve the status quo. The resulting changes are now recognized by most everyone as a pretty good move — you can tell this because the liberals attribute it to Bill Clinton, while the conservatives insist on crediting Gingrich and the Republican congress. When both sides fight over the credit, you know it was a good idea.

– Wanted to impeach Clinton but cheated on his wife with a staffer (his third wife now)

Gingrich didn’t “want to impeach” Clinton; he actually did it. And Clinton wasn’t impeached over a blowjob, as his defenders like to say; he was impeached for lying under oath about said blowjob, during a deposition over a sexual harassment case. And the question about said blowjob (among other sex acts) was admissible in the case because of a sexual-harassment law that Clinton himself signed. Clinton later surrendered his license to practice law over the matter. Gingrich did cheat on his 2nd wife, but never lied under oath about it.

– Alleges class warfare against Obama but can ring up a $500K tab at Tiffany’s

Gingrich has been off the public payroll for over a decade; he can spend his money any goddamned way he wants. Let him sink a couple million into Dutch tulip bulb futures, for all I care. And it occurs to me — might jewelry be a good investment, like gold and other precious metals, as a hedge against inflation? I honestly don’t know for sure, but it seems a logical idea.


And as far as “class warfare” — I’d have to say that bitching about how a private citizen spends his own money is a pretty good example.

– Monthly retainer with Freddie Mac was $25K to $50K (1999 – 2002)
– Claimed not to be a lobbyist for Freddie, but on a 2 year retainer for a total of $600K
– Criticizes Chris Dodd for his Countrywide deal, saying “we should go after the politicians who have been at the heart of this sickness which is weakening the country”
– Hired by Freddie to “build bridges with Capital Hill conservatives to sell the mortgage company’s public-private structure to conservatives”

These all tie in together. OK, he was a consultant (not an employee) to Freddie Mac well before the housing bubble collapsed, shortly after he left public office. Let’s look at the specifics:


– The term “lobbyist” has a very specific, legal definition — one who directly attempts to influence legislators or other public officials on behalf of clients. Gingrich says he did not lobby any individuals, only offered advice to Freddie Mac officials on how to best work with Republicans in Congress. That’s not lobbying, that’s consulting.


– Chris Dodd was one of the infamous “Friends Of Angelo,” key lawmakers who got incredibly sweetheart deals from Countrywide. That particular scandal should have led to a LOT of federal officials losing their jobs, but it somehow got lost in the shuffle of the banking crisis. And Dodd, in the wake of the exposure, announced he would not seek re-election — an odd decision for someone who so recently had run for president.


– That last part is pretty much what I said in the “lobbyist” bit — that describes what they wanted Gingrich to do. Not personally sway conservative lawmakers, but help Freddie Mac understand how to reach out and sway them on their own. In sports terms, he wasn’t a player, he was a coach.


Now, what’s even more interesting about Other Jay’s list is that there are some very potent reasons why conservatives might not want to support Gingrich, but he doesn’t mention them. In recent years, he’s made a couple of moves that have really, really pissed off conservatives. He made a pro-global-warming commercial with Nancy Pelosi, and that has a lot of right-wingers leery of him. Further, in a special House election in upstate New York, he actively took the side of the state GOP’s choice against the conservative favorite — and backed her to the hilt, despite warnings that she was far too close to the Democrats for comfort. He ignored that and championed her — and when she lost in the primary, she endorsed the Democrat and campaigned for him, and he won. Quite a few folks still nurse a grudge over what they see as a betrayal. My theory? Liberals see those as good moves by Gingrich; if they were inclined to praise him, they’d cite them as examples of his willingness to “reach across the aisle” and work with the other side. But they aren’t interested in saying nothing nice, so they don’t bring it up — even though it would do far, far more harm to Gingrich among conservatives than any of that silly little list.


I stand by my earlier statement: I think Gingrich could be a truly great vice president. And if it were to come down to him versus Obama, I’d vote for Newt in a heartbeat.


But as of right now, when I cast my ballot in New Hampshire’s primary next January, Newt will be about my fourth choice.


Defending An Undefensible
Let's juxtapose shall we?