As part of his apology tour, Newt Gingrich demonstrated why, despite his keen political insight and abundance of ideas, he is not presidential timber. As if we didn’t know already from, to paraphrase Brit Hume, the promiscuity of his pronouncements. Unlike the heroes of many Westerns (indeed of many myths), the former Speaker doesn’t know when to hold his tongue. Great leaders also know to use their words sparingly — and so make them, when spoken, more significant.
You’d think Gingrich would have learned something in his 22 years (since his 1989 election as House Republican Whip) on the public stage.
Just look at how he explained his controversial statement (of which all those who follow Republican politics are now familiar) on “Meet the Press.” As per Ed Morrissey who participated in a blogger conference call with the soon-to-be former presidential candidate, “Gingrich opened by saying that his remarks on MTP were not intended to be controversial, but says that David Gregory and the venue are partly to blame.”
Blaming the venue and a talk show host known for his hostility to Republicans?!? Where has Newt been for the past forty-odd years? Had he ever seen Gregory in action in the Bush era? The NBC journalist has not been particularly successful at concealing his bias. When he agreed to go on “Meet the Press,” Gingrich should have been prepared for a hostile round of questioning.
Calling Gregory’s question asking “whether Republicans ‘ought to buck the public opposition” and “really move forward to completely change Medicare” “tendentious“, Michael Barone provided an answer that should have come naturally to the lips of a seasoned political professional:
The smart response would have been to challenge the premises of Gregory’s question. The Ryan plan is not necessarily unpopular; public sentiment depends heavily on how poll questions are worded. And the plan wouldn’t completely change Medicare. The current system would remain in effect for everyone now 55 and over.
But Gingrich accepted Gregory’s premises. “I don’t think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering,” Gingrich responded. “I don’t think imposing radical change from the right or the left is a very good way for a free society to operate.”
So a former Republican speaker of the House who wants to become a Republican president has just given Democrats a warrant to label a major Republican proposal “right-wing social engineering” and “radical change from the right.”
I had once been a fan of Newt Gingrich, having interned for him before he became Speaker. He has a first-rate political mind. Without his leadership in the early 1990s, Republicans would likely not have won back the House. But, he never learned verbal discipline. He has a lot of great ideas — and a number of bad ones. He doesn’t hesitate to share them all with a willing audience. And that is not the way presidents speak.
A real leader, particularly a man of presidential timber, knows to be particularly careful with his words. The media might cover for a Democratic candidate who misspeaks (or says silly, inaccurate or mean-spirited things), but they won’t cover for a Republican, least of all Newt. No matter how much Newt Gingrich tries to reinvent himself or how he tries to play nice with the left, they will never forgive him for the Republican revolution of 1994.
He will remain on their permanent blacklist. He should always remember that the mainstream media remain hostile to Republicans and conservatives. That he hasn’t learned this by now indicates he’s not ready for the big leagues.
RELATED: Charles Krauthammer contends that Gingrich’s comments mean Newt’s campaign “is over” as “violated Reagan’s ’11th commandment’”
“Reagan had the 11th commandment. . . . Thou shalt not attack fellow Republicans. This is a capital offense against the 11th commandment. He won’t recover.”
Read the whole thing.
UPDATE: Offering a theory similar to my own, Stacy McCain responds to New’s conference call, quipping, “Newt didn’t realize David Gregory was going to play ‘gotcha’”? McCain includes this from Philip Klein’s post in the Washington Examiner:
“I didn’t go in there quite hostile enough, because it didn’t occur to me going in that you’d have a series of setups,” Gingrich said. “This wasn’t me randomly saying things. These were very deliberate efforts to pick fights.”
It should occur to any Republican who watched David Gregory in the White House press room in the Bush era that he’d have a series of setups in an interview with said journalist.
UP-UPDATE: “Gingrich’s concocted martyrdom,” Jennifer Rubin writes, “is symptomatic of his underlying character flaws — lack of personal restraint (and don’t get me started on the Tiffany’s bills), self-absorption and a total inability to understand how others regard him.” Read the whole thing.