The Republican primary voters who continue to cast about for a presidential nominee not named Mitt Romney have lately alit on Newt Gingrich as their newest infatuation. Gingrich has plenty of appealing qualities, chief among them that he’s entertaining. But why, exactly, should conservatives prefer him to Romney?
Going down the list of conservative objections to Romney, every one applies equally, if not more so, to Gingrich.
* Support for health-care mandates:
Romney’s embrace in his Massachusetts health-care reform of a requirement that individuals buy health insurance, which he’s refused to repudiate, is his scarlet letter for many on the right; he says he opposes mandates at the federal level but that the provision was right for Massachusetts and promotes personal responsibility.
Gingrich, for his part, has long been a vigorous supporter of mandates — from the 1990s, when many conservatives championed the idea in opposition to Hillary Clinton’s health-reform proposal, to as recently as 2008, when he wrote in his book Real Change: “We should insist that everyone above a certain level buy coverage (or, if they are opposed to insurance, post a bond). Meanwhile, we should provide tax credits or subsidize private insurance for the poor.” In a 2007 Des Moines Register op-ed, Gingrich specifically used the dreaded words “individual mandate,” saying, “Personal responsibility extends to the purchase of health insurance.”
It’s not clear when Gingrich’s position changed to his current vehement rejection of mandates. As recently as May he was speaking favorably about “some requirement you either have health insurance or you post a bond” — comments that were followed by a hasty retreat the next day: “I am against any effort to impose a federal mandate on anyone because it is fundamentally wrong and, I believe, unconstitutional.” In making that statement, Gingrich didn’t explain the dissonance with what he’d said the day before.
* Squishy on abortion:
Romney’s conversion (or flip-flop, depending on your point of view) from pro-choice as a Massachusetts politician to pro-life as a national one is well known. Gingrich has never been vociferously pro-choice, and, unlike Romney, he has now signed the pro-life pledge proffered by the Susan B. Anthony List, which asks candidates to promote anti-abortion legislation, make pro-life appointments and cut off federal funds for abortion providers.
But — as social-conservative purists like Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann have lately been pointing out — in his days as the leader of a resurgent House GOP, Gingrich advocated a big tent. In 1990, for example, he said that rather than being strict abortion prohibitionists, the Republican Party ought to “be the party that on balance prefers the fewest abortions possible.” He supported some taxpayer funding of abortion, a stance that his campaign now says he has reversed.
* Squishy on immigration:
In the last debate, Gingrich made an emotional argument in favor of some sort of legalization process for some illegal immigrants currently living in the U.S., particularly those brought to the country as children. The resulting dust-up revealed that Romney’s stance, beneath his many evasions, isn’t materially different: He’d rather talk about securing the border, he doesn’t want lawbreakers to get special treatment, but he also is not in favor of mass deportation. In 2006, he told Bloomberg that he would not have illegal immigrants “rounded up and box-carred out.”
If immigration hawks are looking for a candidate who’ll take a tougher stance than Romney, though, Gingrich’s line in the debate showed he’s not their man. “I’m prepared to take the heat for saying, ‘Let’s be humane in enforcing the law, without giving them citizenship, but by finding a way to create legality so that they are not separated from their families,’” he said.
* Generally squishy — a flip-flopper:
This is the main knock on Romney, from left and right alike — that he changes his positions based on political expediency. While few politicians with long careers have been absolutely consistent, Gingrich has an especially rich history of reversing himself when something he said proved to be unpopular.
To take just a couple of recent examples, in 2008, when being “green” was fashionable, Gingrich recorded a television commercial for an Al Gore project in which he sat on a loveseat with Nancy Pelosi and declared, “We do agree our country must take action to address climate change.” Now that he’s running in a GOP primary that’s hostile to environmental regulation, he’s skeptical that anything needs to be done.
Earlier this year, when the Obama administration hadn’t taken action on the violence breaking out in Libya, Gingrich called for immediate imposition of a no-fly zone. When the administration took his advice, though, he was against it: “I would not have intervened,” he said. As one of his critics noted at the time, it was hard to see this swift reversal as anything other than blind partisanship — knee-jerk opposition to Obama’s stance, regardless of its policy merits.
Gingrich has basically admitted this was the reason for his reversal on health-care mandates: In the 1990s, he told the New Hampshire Union Leader, the individual mandate “was designed to block Hillarycare.” Yet Gingrich maintains that Romney’s flip-flops are objectionable because they were for political reasons, while his have been authentic changes of heart: “I wouldn’t switch my positions for political reasons,” he said recently. “It’s perfectly reasonable to change your position if … you see new things you didn’t see.”
* Not all that conservative, deep down:
Many conservatives suspect that no matter how many conservative positions Romney espouses, deep in his heart he’s just not one of them. It’s a sense based on his record, his current policy proposals (such as an economic plan that gives suspicious emphasis to relief for the middle class), and his general tone and temperament. But Gingrich’s record is hardly that of a right-wing crusader.
The 1994 takeover of the House Gingrich engineered was an enormous victory for the Republican Party, one for which Gingrich is still justly revered in GOP ranks. But he didn’t do it by enforcing conservatism — he couldn’t have. Much of the “Contract With America” — which was, after all, designed to appeal to swing voters — was technocratic. For the landmark achievements he still touts, welfare reform and balancing the budget, Gingrich worked arm in arm — and compromised — with Bill Clinton.
This year, shortly after launching his candidacy, Gingrich didn’t win many Republican friends when he blasted the House Republican budget proposal drafted by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) as “right-wing social engineering.” As Ryan said at the time, “With allies like that, who needs the left?” Gingrich quickly repented and now says, “Paul Ryan came up with some very good ideas.” But there’s ample reason to question the true colors of a politician who, early in his career, was a state chairman for the presidential campaign of Nelson Rockefeller — the emblem of liberal Republicanism that sought to halt the rise of conservatives like Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan. In a 1989 interview, Gingrich called this “the classic moderate wing of the party,” and said it was where he had “spent most of my life.”
So why are the anti-Romney conservatives flocking to Gingrich?
In conversations with Republicans — some Gingrich backers, some not — about why he’s more appealing than Romney, most acknowledge it basically comes down to style. Gingrich’s tone is that of an angry crusader, unlike Romney’s placid assurance. And because Gingrich has such a penchant to say whatever comes into his head, his inconsistencies tend to get chalked up to a lack of discipline rather than cold calculation.
As the Daily Caller’s Matt Lewis put it:
Gingrich and Romney couldn’t be more different. Gingrich questions authority, challenges conventional wisdom, and disputes premises. He also has fun. He is winsome. He can be undisciplined. He enjoys politics, and seems to gain energy from engaging in the battles. Romney, on the other hand, is a consummate “adult.” He is highly disciplined. He plays by the rules, accepts reality as it is, and then — within those confines — sets about fixing things as best he can.
It’s also true that if Gingrich and Romney really are so similar on paper, voters might as well pick Gingrich. Perhaps that’s why Romney’s camp sees Gingrich as a threat and will seek to highlight the former speaker’s personal baggage.
But as Gingrich’s current surge enters the closer-inspection phase, many conservatives may discover their infatuation with him is based on equal parts bluster and mythology. In the words of conservative guru Erick Erickson, the RedState.com founder: “The conservative warrior people tend to think Gingrich is, often is not.”
By: Molly Ball, The Atlantic, December 1, 2011
During a meeting of the Republican Governors Association in Orlando this week, Frank Luntz, one of the most well known political communications strategist in the country, talked to GOPers about how they could do a better job talking about the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Yahoo News’ Chris Moody reports that “Luntz offered tips on how Republicans could discuss the grievances of the Occupiers, and help the governors better handle all these new questions from constituents about ‘income inequality’ and ‘paying your fair share.’”
“I’m so scared of this anti-Wall Street effort. I’m frightened to death,” said Luntz, a Republican strategist and one of the nation’s foremost experts on crafting the perfect political message. “They’re having an impact on what the American people think of capitalism.”
According to Moody, this was Luntz’s advice:
1. Don’t say ‘capitalism.’
“I’m trying to get that word removed and we’re replacing it with either ‘economic freedom’ or ‘free market,’ ” Luntz said. “The public . . . still prefers capitalism to socialism, but they think capitalism is immoral. And if we’re seen as defenders of quote, Wall Street, end quote, we’ve got a problem.”
2. Don’t say that the government ‘taxes the rich.’ Instead, tell them that the government ‘takes from the rich.’
“If you talk about raising taxes on the rich,” the public responds favorably, Luntz cautioned. But ”if you talk about government taking the money from hardworking Americans, the public says no. Taxing, the public will say yes.”
3. Republicans should forget about winning the battle over the ‘middle class.’ Call them ‘hardworking taxpayers.’
“They cannot win if the fight is on hardworking taxpayers. We can say we defend the ‘middle class’ and the public will say, I’m not sure about that. But defending ‘hardworking taxpayers’ and Republicans have the advantage.”
4. Don’t talk about ‘jobs.’ Talk about ‘careers.’
“Everyone in this room talks about ‘jobs,’” Luntz said. “Watch this.”
He then asked everyone to raise their hand if they want a “job.” Few hands went up. Then he asked who wants a “career.” Almost every hand was raised.
“So why are we talking about jobs?”
5. Don’t say ‘government spending.’ Call it ‘waste.’
“It’s not about ‘government spending.’ It’s about ‘waste.’ That’s what makes people angry.”
6. Don’t ever say you’re willing to ‘compromise.’
“If you talk about ‘compromise,’ they’ll say you’re selling out. Your side doesn’t want you to ‘compromise.’ What you use in that to replace it with is ‘cooperation.’ It means the same thing. But cooperation means you stick to your principles but still get the job done. Compromise says that you’re selling out those principles.”
7. The three most important words you can say to an Occupier: ‘I get it.’
“First off, here are three words for you all: ‘I get it.’ . . . ‘I get that you’re. I get that you’ve seen inequality. I get that you want to fix the system.”
Then, he instructed, offer Republican solutions to the problem.
8. Out: ‘Entrepreneur.’ In: ‘Job creator.’
Use the phrases “small business owners” and “job creators” instead of “entrepreneurs” and “innovators.”
9. Don’t ever ask anyone you want them to ‘sacrifice.’
“There isn’t an America today in November of 2011 who doesn’t think they’ve already sacrificed. If you tell them you want them to ‘sacrifice,’ they’re going to be be pretty angry at you. You talk about how ‘we’re all in this together.’ We either succeed together or we fail together.”
10. Always blame Washington.
Tell them, “You shouldn’t be occupying Wall Street, you should be occupying Washington. You should occupy the White House because it’s the policies over the past few years that have created this problem.”
The Occupy movement has scored a number of small victories since September, when the Occupy Wall Street protesters first assembled in downtown New York. Bank of America announced it would not be charging debit card fees, one of the many triggers that sparked the protests, and a congressman introduced an amendment called the OCCUPIED Amendment that would reform campaign finance laws. Campaign finance rules that favor corporate power are a chief Occupy Wall Street target.
By: The Washington Independent, Admin, December 1, 2011
Anti-tax zealot Grover Norquist, the president of Americans For Tax Reform and author of the radical anti-tax pledge that has played a significant role in hamstringing budget and deficit-reduction negotiations, has said that it is unacceptable for those who have signed his pledge to vote in favor of any tax increase. But now that President Obama and congressional Democrats are backing a tax cut aimed at stimulating economic growth, Norquist has changed his tune.
Norquist met with Republican members today to let them know that opposing the extension of the payroll tax cut — which would provide many families an extra $1,000 a year — would not amount to supporting a tax increase, National Journal’s Billy House reported today:
That stands in contrast, however, to Norquist’s position on tax cuts for the wealthy. Norquist has repeatedly warned GOP members about voting in favor of repealing the Bush tax cuts for the rich or tax hikes on millionaires, even verbally sparring with a member of a group of millionaires advocating for higher taxes on themselves last month in Washington, D.C. And yet, when it comes to tax cuts for the middle class meant to drive economic recovery, Norquist clearly takes a different stance.
Republicans who have defended those tax breaks for the wealthy aren’t so sure about holding the Norquist position, though. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) warned his rank and file this morning about opposing the extension, telling them that “taxes are a Republican issue and you aren’t a Republican if you want to raise taxes on struggling families to fund bigger government.” Multiple Republican senators, meanwhile, have come out in favor of the extension, and Sen. Sue Collins (R-ME) even proposed raising taxes on some wealthy Americans to pay for it.
By: Travis Waldron, Think Progress, December 1, 2011
Republican John Danforth, who served as a senator from Missouri for nearly 20 years and later as George W. Bush’s ambassador the United Nations, is not happy with the slate of Republican presidential candidates. “I’ve been watching some of these Republican debates and they’re just terrible. Terrible,” he told KTRS in St. Louis yesterday. “It’s embarrassing for me as a Republican to watch this stuff,” he added, calling out audiences for applauding the candidates’ morbid boastings. Via Fired Up Missouri:
DANFORTH: What have been the big applause lines in these debates? Well, a statement that the governor of Texas is responsible for killing 234 people on death row. Or that we favor torture. Or that we’re creating a fence on the Mexican border that electrocutes people when they try to cross it. Or when people show up at the emergency room at hospitals and they’re not insured don’t treat them. And that, I mean these are the big applause lines, people just hoop and holler when they hear all that. [...]
It doesn’t have anything to do with the republican party that I was a part of. This is just totally different. And all of these people who are saying this, y’know, and claiming that, y’know, they’re for all this stuff, they also sort of ostentatiously say, “Oh, we’re very religious people. We really, we’re just very pious, Christian people.” They were for torture, and electrocution of the people on along the border and all of that. That doesn’t have anything to do with, is contrary to the Christianity that I understand.
Danforth is an ordained Episcopal priest.
Since leaving public office, Danforth has often publicly criticized the Republican party, of which he remains an active and influential member, for drifting father and farther to the right. A year ago, he said that if Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN) — the “most respected person in the Senate and the leading authority on foreign policy” — “is seriously challenged by anybody in the Republican Party, we have gone so far overboard that we are beyond redemption.” As it goes, Dick Lugar is already facing a “tough primary challenge” from state Treasurer Richard Mourdock (R), and several other Republicans are also thinking of entering the race.
By: Alex SeitzWald, Think Progress, December 1, 2011