We were informed by a major television news network the other day
that the “silly season” was over and the Republican Party big guns
were preparing to enter the 2012 presidential race.
The justification for this assessment was that Donald Trump had taken
his size 15XXX hat out of the ring to focus on really bad television
Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, also withdrew despite
decent polling numbers. I guess he figured he would be bucking the
odds by trying to be the second President who hailed from Hope,
Now comes former House speaker Newt Gingrich, a “serious” candidate
who is quickly accumulating enough baggage to fill the cargo hold of
So far on the highway to the White House, Newt has encountered 40
miles of bad road.
You know there’s trouble when his first order of business was to make
amens, so to speak, with the evangelical arm of the Republican party
because of past misdeeds.
It seems Newt’s personal life has drawn some raised eyebrows from the
religious right. Most notably, he admitted for having an extramarital
affair with his present wife as he was condemning President Clinton
for lying to a grand jury about his relationship with a White House
intern. Also troubling the right is that said present wife is the
third Mrs. Gingrich.
He could have won the day if he embraced a Biblical view as expressed
in Timothy 3:2: “Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the
husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable,
hospitable, able to teach.”
But instead he said: “There's no question at times in my life,
partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that
I worked too hard and things happened in my life that were not
So patriotism and hard work leads to infidelity. Check.
Then there’s the business about dumping the Southern Baptist religion
and converting to Roman Catholicism. While it’s no surprise that it
doesn’t play well in the Bible Belt, it appears it isn’t playing well
anywhere. Just 11 percent of white evangelicals, and 16 percent of
white Catholics, favor Gingrich as the 2012 Republican presidential
nominee, according to a March Pew Research Center poll.
Of course, a candidate’s religion shouldn’t reflect on his stature as
a leader. Just ask Mitt Romney. But when the candidate’s party has
been hijacked by theocrats, well, that’s a different matter.
None of this stops Gingrich from announcing for the presidency.
He kicks things off with an appearance on “Meet the Press” where he
immediately distances himself from a plan offered by House GOP Budget
chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin that would reduce the deficit by $4.4
trillion over 10 years by repealing the Democrat's health care bill
and reforming entitlements like Medicare and Medicaid.
Gingrich calls the plan “right-wing social engineering” a remark for
which he later apologizes.
Many Republicans, who consider the Ryan plan holy writ, are not
pleased. “He’s done. He didn’t have a big chance from the beginning,
but now it’s over,” said Charles Krauthammer, a conservative
Next up, Gingrich, speaking at a Republican dinner in Georgia, refers
to President Obama as "the most successful food stamp president in
American history,” a remark some considered racist.
He follows that up with a comment that Obama suffers from "a Kenyan, anti-colonial
worldview" that makes him unfit to be president, which puts Gingrich
in lockstep with the wackos who suggest somehow the President is
channeling the dead father he never knew.
Then, financial disclosure forms filed in ’06 and ’07 by Newt
Gingrich’s wife Callista while she was a Hill staffer revealed that
the 2012 GOP hopeful had a liability of between $250K and $500K from
a charge account with Tiffany’s, the reknown jeweler.
He apparently belongs to the Do As I Say, Not As I Do School of
He finishes up the first week of his campaign by getting yelled at by
an Iowa voter and “glitter bombed” by a gay activist.
Political memory is short and it’s possible that the specifics of his
bungled beginning will be forgotten (but not by the Democrats).
It reveals, however, a certain impulsiveness and recklessness in a man who
aspires to a job where those traits would be inappropriate if not
dangerous. And that will stay with voters.
A Gingrich aide compared the last several days for the candidate to a
star baseball player who disappoints the crowd during his first time
up to the plate in an early-season game.
“...Right now, they are booing Newt,” the aide said. “We will hit a
home run and they will all be fans again.”
I’m not so sure he hasn’t already struck out.