If you’re a liberal, you’ve probably had at least one Republican acquaintance inform you that you ought to be supporting Ron Paul for President. This is because Republicans don’t really quite understand Ron Paul. Since he believes in civil liberties and doesn’t like sending young people off to die in ill-conceived foreign wars, Republicans often assume he’s a flaming liberal hippie in disguise. In the black-and-white world of Tea Party Republicans, he’s not nearly white enough to be white, and must therefore be black.
It’s hard not to like the guy, particularly since he manages to annoy so many Republicans. Equal parts earnest and goofy, he probably reminds you of your nutty Uncle Curly who showed up for Christmas dinners long ago, blew smoke rings, pulled walnuts out of your ear, and taught you how to make fart noises with your armpit. But while Ron Paul clearly appeals to the pot-smoking peacenik wing of the Republican Party, he’s about as progressive as the Tonton Macoutes. Speaking as a liberal, that just won’t do.
No, in the Republican primary at least, I’ve got to go with Newt, and not because of his (wavering) willingness to embrace loony liberal ideals such as science. No, I freely admit I’m warming up to Newt Gingrich for all the wrong reasons. For instance, I will secretly enjoy watching the entire right-wing blogosphere do an abrupt about face on whether “character matters,” not to mention on its juvenile penchant for making fun of politicians who don’t have “normal” names.
More important, Newt Gingrich is not “ethically challenged,” as are many well-meaning politicians who struggle to overcome temptation but eventually succumb. For Newt, there is no struggle, no challenge at all. He just does what he feels like doing and says what he feels like saying, ethics be damned. Call me crazy but I find that refreshing.
As Emerson said, “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” Judging by the size of his head, Gingrich has a very big mind and is way too smart to be hemmed in by such foolishness. Consistency is for people who aren’t clever enough to talk their way out of being caught coming down on both sides of an issue. Newt is too clever by far, and has made inconsistency not merely acceptable but downright sexy.
As an accomplished bullshit artist, Newt can make it all seem okay after the fact anyway. Like Dick Cheney, who could spin fantastical yarns and tell shameless whoppers with an air of disinterested authority, Gingrich’s condescending professorial demeanor adds pseudo-intellectual weight to utter nonsense. As Paul Krugman observed, “somebody said ‘he’s a stupid man’s idea of what a smart person sounds like,’ but he is more plausible than the other guys they’ve been pushing up.” Like no other politician, Gingrich can contradict himself in a single sentence and still make an onlooker feel foolish for missing the obscure historical allusion that might have tied it all together into something coherent.
One of Newt’s more appealing characteristics is that — like Ron Paul — he pisses off so many Republicans. John McCain broke ranks with Republicans all the time back when he was pretending to be a maverick, but he always got away with it. Pat Buchanan often rails against Republicans, and even ran against George H. W. Bush, but Republicans still love him. So why is Newt such a lightning rod for Republican attacks? I don’t know, but I can tell you I am loving it.
Naturally, Mitt Romney would love to see Newt Gingrich hit by a cement mixer, but what about knuckle dragging Republican Congressman Peter King, who said of Gingrich that, as Speaker of the House, “he couldn’t stay focused. He was undisciplined. Too often, he made it about himself.” King went on to say that Gingrich had “a Southern, anti-union attitude that appeals to the mentality of hillbillies at revival meetings.” Ouch!
Republican Senator Tom Coburn “just found his leadership to be lacking,” and said Gingrich is “the last person I’d vote for for president of the United States.” Republican sweetheart Chris Christie reminded folks that “Gingrich has never run anything,” and small-mindedly consistent New Hampshire Governor John Sununu called Gingrich’s fancy footwork during the “right-wing social engineering” flap “a perfect example of the irrational behavior that you do not want in a commander in chief.”
Ann Coulter doesn’t like Newt one bit (reason enough to donate generously to his campaign), which is strange since they share a talent for blurting out bombastic lunacy even they don’t really believe. She accuses him of “pointless bloviating” and “crazy statements” and notes that he “talks abrasively,” possibly the most egregious examples of the pot calling the kettle black in the history of cookware.
The editors at National Review Online posted a withering attack on Gingrich’s tenure as Speaker of the House, saying:
“Gingrich’s colleagues were, however, right to bring his tenure to an end. His character flaws — his impulsiveness, his grandiosity, his weakness for half-baked (and not especially conservative) ideas — made him a poor Speaker of the House. Again and again he combined incendiary rhetoric with irresolute action, bringing Republicans all the political costs of a hardline position without actually taking one. Again and again he put his own interests above those of the causes he championed in public.”
Even right-wing wackos Michael Savage and Glenn Beck hate Newt. Can you blame a guy for thinking maybe he’s not all bad?
Gingrich is an idea man, too. He generates revolutionary new ideas like mere mortals generate dead skin cells. Most of them are idiotic, like “a lottery in which randomly selected taxpayers would win a spot on a space shuttle flight,” not to mention attempting to improve inner-city economies by firing janitors and training children to perform the work for which no openings will be available once they’re all grown up. But he’s just brainstorming, folks. Stand back and marvel. If a million monkeys banging on typewriters can reproduce the collected works of Shakespeare, Newt may just one day fix global climate change with a roll of duct tape and a bent paper clip. We just have to have faith and lots and lots of patience.
But is Newt Gingrich progressive? Well, conservatives seem to think so, but I suppose the jury is still out on that question. Nevertheless, one thing is clear. If Gingrich were President, he could be paid to be progressive. We know he can be bought for as little as $1.6 million, a pittance in the grand scheme of things. Assuming liberals outbid the competition, we could bring Gingrich’s mercenary spirit to bear on a host of progressive issues. We might even get a health insurance public option called ReaganCare for, oh, say a mere $2 million. Bet you never thought about that!
For all of the foregoing reasons, I’m officially announcing my support for Newt Gingrich for President of the United States of America. Fair warning: I might change my mind tomorrow. Gotta keep those consistency hobgoblins at bay!