George Will: Wisdom isn't exactly Newt Gingrich's strong suit

Remember when conservative columnist George Will called Mitt Romney a “recidivist reviser of his principles”? As it happens, the veteran pundit has nothing nicer to say about Newt Gingrich, whose astounding sudden popularity in the polls recently prompted the candidate himself to say he’ll be the 2012 GOP nominee.

On “The Laura Ingraham Show” today, Will took Gingrich to task for a lack of wisdom — and prophesied a bleak future for the conservative movement if either Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich happens to become the GOP nominee (or, worse, according to Will, actually president!). The Daily Caller reports:

“Mr. Gingrich said it’s not enough that he is the smartest guy in the room, he also has to be wise,” Will said. “Now you can associate many things with Mr. Gingrich, but wisdom isn’t one of them. Surely the Republican nominating electorate should understand the fact that people have patterns. Don’t expect the patterns to go away. Expect the patterns to manifest themselves again. If Newt Gingrich has any pattern at all, and he does – it is a pattern of getting himself into trouble because he thinks he is the smartest guy in the room.”

Will said that he thought Gingrich actually believed it when he said he was going to be the Republican nominee, particularly because the stage in Gingrich’s mind “is lit by the fires of crisis and grandeur.”

“Ask yourself this: Suppose Gingrich or Romney become president and gets re-elected – suppose you had eight years of this,” Will said. “What would the conservative movement be? How would it understand itself after eight years? I think what would have gone away, perhaps forever, is the sense of limited government, the 10th Amendment, Madisonian government of limited, delegated and enumerated powers – the sense conservatism is indeed tied to limitations on federal authority and the police power wielded by Congress – that would all be gone. It’s hard to know what would be left.”

See, these comments from one of the columnists who converted my theretofore Democratic mom to conservatism scare me — just as Allahpundit’s recent indictments of Gingrich make me nervous, too. At times like this, I remember just how few election cycles I’ve personally witnessed. I was born at the tail end of Reagan’s presidency and was a little kid when Newt Gingrich was the Speaker of the House. The point is, I can study his past patterns — but I didn’t personally observe them. I’m still young enough and naive enough to believe that people’s patterns can and do change — and to think the image Gingrich portrays today is a sincere one. But I also tend to think Romney’s present conservative positions are the product of his own personal growth, rather than the product of his deep-seated and evident desire to be elected to the presidency.

Which is wiser: To believe the best of our candidates and be disappointed or to believe the worst of them and be pleasantly surprised?

In the meantime, if conservatives are so disenchanted with Romney and Gingrich, why aren’t Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann (especially Michele Bachmann!) still in the mix of contenders? Don’t tell me Gingrich is more conservative than Perry, the Texas governor’s crony capitalistic tendencies and squishy immigration positions aside. Gingrich all but lobbied for Freddie Mac. And Gingrich has echoed the very immigration positions that presumably disqualified Perry from conservative consideration. (Then again, if Perry’s really no more conservative than Gingrich, why would nominate a nervous speaker over a confident one?) As for Bachmann, has anyone anywhere ever been able to cast genuine doubt on her conservative bona fides?

At this point, mightn’t it be better to run a conservative with virtually no pretense at electability for the sake of demonstrating genuine commitment to conservative principles? If, as Will says, the election of a Republican sellout in 2012 would mean the death of conservatism, wouldn’t it be better to let the opposition to Obama continue to grow by a second term, until the American people are so thoroughly tired of him that a conservative could easily trounce any Democratic candidate in 2016? And if, as so many have said, Obama is so thoroughly underwater right now that Republicans ought to be able to beat him by nominating a skunk, we really have no excuse for not nominating a conservative.