Alone among the contenders for the Republican presidential nomination Newt Gingrich, like Ronald Reagan in 1980 (and 1976 for that matter), has already made a significant contribution to the conservative movement. As the Gipper helped articulate an upbeat conservative vision long before launching a bid for the White House, so did Gingrich make the 1994 mid-term elections turn, in large part on that small-government ideal, helping elect the first Republican Congress in forty years.
Not just that, he became in the 105th Congress the first Republican Speaker to serve consecutive terms since Theodore Roosevelt’s Cincinnati son-in-law relinquished the gavel to Democrat John Nance Garner in 1931.
Having once interned for Newt, I didn’t take him too seriously as a presidential candidate. He seems more a man of ideas than a leader of men. And more often than not, he’ll articulate any idea which pops into his head, even those to which he has given little thought. He didn’t often seem to have the focus necesary to serve as chief executive. He didn’t have a desk in office when I worked for him . Sometimes, he seemed he couldn’t sit still.
Maybe age has mellowed him.
I haven’t been following the debates, but have read (in posts by bloggers and pundits I respect) that he has acquitted himself quite well. Well, last night, as I was preparing to watch Captain America (should have seen it on the big screen), I caught the former Speaker on Greta van Susteren’s On the Record. I found him so compelling, I delayed staring the movie.
True to what I’d read in the blogs, he didn’t attack his fellow competitors for the party’s nod, critiquing Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan, to be sure, but praising the businessman for his boldness in penning such a proposal. And he faulted Romney’s plan for not being bold enough. (In fact, I’m pretty sure I heard him praise the quality of the debate he and his fellows were conducting, raising real issues of substance related to the current crisis.)
What impressed me the most was the same thing which impressed me when, as a college freshman, I first heard Newt speak. Like the Gipper, this guy can see the big picture.
The former Speaker couldn’t imagine the economy recovering until the Obama Democrats are defeated; “everything they’re doing is destructive.” They just don’t know what it takes to get the economy moving again.
Greta asked him if his plans would work any differently. How did he know this would work. He replied that “I’ve done this before” and mentioned working with both Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, reminding his audience of the job growth the country experienced in both administrations. Referencing those two presidents, both at present enjoying high approval ratings, with the Gipper’s particularly high among Republicans, he seemed to be playing both to a Republican primary audience and to the general election.
And he reminds voters that he has experience working with successful domestic policy presidents. His ideas are based on past experience, not academic theories.
The “purpose of leadership,” he said, is to live in the real world.”
With that line, he offered perhaps the perfect rebuke to the faith so many put in an untested charismatic man from Illinois and said charmer’s record in office.
NB: I’m going from notes when I quote the former Speaker and will tweak the post as soon as a transcript is up. And I had not been expecting to take notes — much less pay attention to a presidential candidate last night — I may have missed a few of Gingrich’s words.