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. (more…)