Quotes of the day

“Republicans are more conservative than at any time since their 1980 dismay about another floundering president. They are more ideologically homogenous than ever in 156 years of competing for the presidency. They anticipated choosing between Mitt Romney, a conservative of convenience, and a conviction politician to his right. The choice, however, could be between Romney and the least conservative candidate, Newt Gingrich

“Gingrich, however, embodies the vanity and rapacity that make modern Washington repulsive. And there is his anti-conservative confidence that he has a comprehensive explanation of, and plan to perfect, everything…

“Gingrich, who would have made a marvelous Marxist, believes everything is related to everything else and only he understands how. Conservatism, in contrast, is both cause and effect of modesty about understanding society’s complexities, controlling its trajectory and improving upon its spontaneous order. Conservatism inoculates against the hubristic volatility that Gingrich exemplifies and Genesis deplores: ‘Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel.'”

***

“Gingrich, meanwhile, is a constant reminder that political leaders can have too much, as well as too little, imagination. His recent proposals on immigration are classic Gingrich: innovative-sounding, accompanied by high-tech gadgetry, and wholly absurd. Local community boards will decide which illegal immigrants to expel! We will be “humane,” while denying temporary workers the vote and stripping their children of citizenship!

“The last time Gingrich held office, he reached a depth of unpopularity that suggested that the public did not merely disagree with his policies but disliked him as a person. Memories have faded, and his current fans say he is a changed man. But he still has the rhetorical style — by turns incendiary, grandiose, and abrasive — that turned off middle-of-the-road Americans then. (November 16: ‘Because I am much like Reagan and Margaret Thatcher . . . ‘) And he does not seem to have learned that aspiring presidents should weigh their words carefully. Recall the events that led to his campaign’s meltdown this summer, in which he first praised Paul Ryan’s plan for entitlements, then condemned it as ‘right-wing social engineering,’ and finally apologized to Ryan for the comment.

“There is another issue with Gingrich, the broaching of which risks cruelty but cannot be avoided in the cold analysis Republicans have to perform. We don’t know whether Gingrich’s marital history will weigh heavily on voters, but we know it won’t help. The contrast to President Obama’s family will tell against him. Gingrich’s election would represent several firsts. He would be the first president with multiple ex-wives, and the first president with any ex-wives who speak negatively about him on the record. He would bring with him the first first lady who could be labeled a ‘home wrecker.’ President Obama would not have to say a word about any of this for the press to make it an issue.”

***

“Two ideologically problematic finalists: One is a man of center-right temperament who has of late adopted a conservative agenda. The other is a man more conservative by nature but possessed of an unbounded need for grand display that has already led him to unconservative places even he is at a loss to explain, and that as president would leave him in constant search of the out-of-box experience — the confoundedly brilliant Nixon-to-China flipperoo regarding his fancy of the day, be it health care, taxes, energy, foreign policy, whatever.

The second, more obvious, Gingrich vulnerability is electability. Given his considerable service to the movement, many conservatives seem quite prepared to overlook his baggage, ideological and otherwise. This is understandable. But the independents and disaffected Democrats upon whom the general election will hinge will not be so forgiving.

“They will find it harder to overlook the fact that the man who denounces Freddie Mac to the point of suggesting that those in Congress who aided and abetted it be imprisoned, took $30,000 a month from that very same parasitic federal creation. Nor will independents be so willing to believe that more than $1.5 million was paid for Gingrich’s advice as ‘a historian’ rather than for services as an influence peddler…

“Every conservative has thus to ask himself two questions: Who is more likely to prevent that second term? And who, if elected, is less likely to unpleasantly surprise?”

***

“For two years, the driving force in national politics has been the Tea Party, whose founding myth was that ordinary citizens were rising up in defiant objection to the hidebound, self-dealing ways of Washington. Greedy politicians, this view held, had bloated the government and lined their own pockets at taxpayers’ expense, while letting the country go to rot. Prime examples were the expansion of government health care and federal support for the housing market – especially Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored entities that many conservatives blame for the financial crisis. The mere fact of being a veteran Washington legislator made respected conservatives like Senator Bob Bennett of Utah into Tea Party targets and cost many their jobs. Should all that anger, energy, and antipathy to Washington end up concentrating itself in the person of Newt Gingrich, then the movement will have failed in its most important race

“A Republican primary that began as a contest for the hearts and minds of these activists – causing mainstream figures like Tim Pawlenty to contort themselves in accommodation – now seems likely to end as a desperate bid to find anyone who isn’t Romney. If that’s Gingrich, it will be a measure of just how far the Tea Party has fallen.”

***

“The Gingrich Moment has yet to catch on with National Journal’s Political Insiders. Despite former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s surge in the Republican presidential nomination contest, overwhelming majorities of both Democratic and Republican Insiders still say former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has the better shot at beating President Obama in 2012…

“‘With Newt, we go to bed every night thinking that tomorrow might be the day he implodes,’ said another Republican. ‘Not good for our confidence – or fundraising.’ A third Republican stated plainly, ‘Gingrich is not stable enough emotionally to be the nominee – let alone, the president.’…

“‘Shhhhhhhhh – don’t tell them!’ begged a Democrat, tongue firmly in cheek. ‘They seem hell-bent on finding anybody but Mitt. Grandpa Newt and all his quirks and quacks would be just fine, thank you.'”

***

“The reasons why we don’t have to take Newt seriously are many, but the most obvious is that, despite his recent polling, he’s still the same candidate with all the same baggage. He’s still got his history of deviations from party orthodoxy on practically every issue, and the ethics violations, and the marital problems. He’s still the same guy who wound up not being trusted at all by those who worked with him when he was in office. And he’s still got a long history of just not being very popular with anyone outside of the most intense of intense partisans—and even they are likely aware that he’s risky at best and more likely pure poison in a general election.

“The lack of endorsements by party actors is the second factor working against Newt, and it suggests that the people who have the most at stake in the nomination see him the same way as I do. We’ve seen this year (Donald Trump?!?) and in the past (John Anderson 1980? Jerry Brown 1992? Rudy Giuliani 2008?) that practically anyone can get a rush of attention and therefore a surge in the polls, and if it’s timed right that can even translate into winning a few delegates. But ever since the early 1980s, when the modern selection process became fully in place, no one has come close to winning a nomination without strong support from party officials, elites, and assorted activists. No one similar to Newt has ever received that kind of support, and so far he hasn’t either: Just as was the case with Bachmann and Cain, he’s surging in the polls without winning over politicians, GOP-aligned organized groups, or other conservative opinion leaders. That rank-and-file Republicans, who are generally not aware of his weaknesses, are willing to say that they would hypothetically vote for him just doesn’t impress me as a reason to believe there’s anything to it…

“The main reason for all this instability in the polls is that most Republicans just aren’t paying very much attention to the contest right now. That’s hard for the sorts of people who read The New Republic to accept, because for us politics is an active ongoing part of our lives, verging for some on an obsession. But that’s not how it is for most people. Even for those who will eventually care enough to vote, politics most of the time is background noise and an occasional conversation topic, not something to stay up-to-date on; it’s the difference between season ticket holders and people who start watching when the playoffs begin.”

***

“Longtime Gingrich watchers see clear signs that ‘Good Newt’ (disciplined, charming, expansive in personality and intellect) is engaging in an internal battle with ‘Bad Newt’ (off-message, bombastic, self-wounding) as his political fortunes rise…

“‘Gingrich always a fine a line between charming and brilliant on one hand, and eccentric and borderline dangerous on the other,’ said Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California. ‘He’s been ‘Charming Newt’ for the last several weeks. But the last couple of days have been a reminder of his other side.’…

“‘He’s going to blow up at some point, and I’m just hoping it comes before he gets the nomination,’ said one unaligned Republican insider, who has worked with presidential campaigns before.

“‘I’m waiting for him to say, ‘Literally, I’m the smartest guy to ever run for president,” said the insider, adding that comparisons of Callista as Nancy Reagan fuel the notion that he thinks of himself as a new incarnation of The Gipper. ‘He’s now kind of like the crazy scientist that’s having his science proven correct….and you just don’t know what the hell’s gonna happen next.'”

***

GINGRICH: I think that if you take a position when a woman has fertilized egg and that’s been successfully implanted that now you’re dealing with life. because otherwise you’re going to open up an extraordinary range of very difficult questions

TAPPER: So implantation is the moment for you.

GINGRICH: Implantation and successful implantation. In addition I would say that I’ve never been for embryonic stem cell research per se. I have been for, there are a lot of different ways to get embryonic stem cells. I think if you can get embryonic stem cells for example from placental blood if you can get it in ways that do not involve the loss of a life that’s a perfectly legitimate avenue of approach.

What I reject is the idea that we’re going to take one life for the purpose of doing research for other purposes and I think that crosses a threshold of de-humanizing us that’s very very dangerous.

***

“Gingrich may have forgotten where he stood, but he did in fact back embryo-destructive stem-cell research in 2001. Also, it’s not clear why he would consider the destruction of human embryos taken from fertility clinics the taking of a life. They’ve never been implanted.”

***

***

“Government has to lead [on health care]… And in this sense, I guess I’m a Theodore Roosevelt Republican.”