The 2008 elections: Newt vs. Hillary?
By Alan Caruba
There's a really good profile of Newton Leroy Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House, in the August issue of GQ magazine by Robert Draper. Mind you, I do not usually read GQ because men's fashions have never been of much interest to me, but Lauren Starke, the magazine's publicist, knew I would want to read the profile.
In May, I had written a commentary titled, "Is Newt Gingrich Too Smart to be President?" which was, essentially, a review of his new book, Winning the Future: A 21st Century Contract With America. I liked the book, but noted that, "It's the kind of book that policy wonks and political junkies like to read."
Draper's profile is a hoot. He understands the megalomania that drives men like Newt who want to be President. One is reminded of Richard M. Nixon after his defeat when he ran for Governor of California, telling reporters they wouldn't have Nixon "to kick around anymore." And then he proceeded to devote himself fulltime to becoming President. And then the same megalomania, combined with a huge dose of paranoia, permitted the travesty of Watergate to occur. Nixon was a very smart fellow, but too smart perhaps to be president.
Others with sizeable IQ's have held the job. Teddy Roosevelt was a huge intellect, but before reaching the presidency, he had been a rancher, a police commissioner, a soldier, and then a politician. He understood the common man despite his patrician upbringing. I sometimes miss the days of the backrooms in which political bosses selected the nominees for high office. Those power brokers managed to find remarkable men like Teddy Roosevelt and Harry Truman.
They also managed to find Woodrow Wilson, formerly president of Princeton University and then Governor of New Jersey. Woodrow was a first class intellectual and a second-rate bigot, a first class utopian ideologue and the dupe of European politicos who ran circles around him after World War I. Back home, the Senate rejected membership in his beloved League of Nations. They were right then. They should have rejected FDR's legacy, the United Nations.
My point is that intellectuals often do not make the best presidents. Men who have gotten their hands dirty doing real work often fare better, though it must be said that mostly lawyers have held the job, handing it off to former generals, every so often. The worst profession for the presidency is engineer. Herbert Hoover was an excellent engineer whose tin ear for the economy left us deep in the Great Depression. Jimmy Carter, an Annapolis engineering graduate, was so mired in the minutia of the office the voters could not wait to throw him out.
One senses that Newt doesn't think George W. Bush is an intellectual and few others would accuse the President of thinking deep thoughts either. History, however, confers greatness on war presidents and is likely to be kind to Bush43 in this respect. Now into his second term, his power to influence any kind of legislation is fading rapidly.
So naturally Newt is thinking about the 2008 elections. His candidate for the Democrat Party nominee is Sen. Hillary Clinton. As Draper writes in the GQ profile, "The Clintons are never far from Newt's mind. They're like the Kennedy's were to Nixon; glamorous, charismatic, brazen power-grabbing elitists (and) amoral lying dream killers. Wrong on health care, wrong on the budget, wrong on the military…and so clever!" Of Hillary, Newt says, "You have to respect her. This is a first-class professional." Scary, huh?
Newt's candidate for the Republican Party presidential nomination is Newt Gingrich. Newt will be spending so much time in Iowa and New Hampshire between now and the primaries that you will think he owns homes in these and other key States. And, until the time is right, he will deny he has ambitions to head the ticket.
He has one advantage. Newt is not McCain, Frist, Pataki, or Guiliani. Perhaps a dark horse will emerge from Republican ranks to capture the public's attention and support, but at this writing none of these candidates look strong enough to defeat Hillary. Newt says, "Anybody on our side who thinks you can beat Hillary just by being shallow and belligerent, they just gonna get their lunch eaten."
Newt, however, has some disadvantages. As Draper points out, Newt "dumped his longtime ‘best friend and closet adviser', Marianne (for whom he dumped Jackie, the mother of his two daughters), after a lengthy affair with House Agriculture Committee staffer Callista Bisek, a high-cheekboned blond twenty-three years Newt's junior." Not exactly the exemplar of traditional marriage.
Newt's claim to fame is that, back in 1994, when everyone told him it could not happen, he co-authored the famed "Contract with America" which gave control of Congress to the Republicans. He was instrumental in pushing through legislation that has been good for the nation, but ten years later, the Republican Revolution is deader than roadkill. His political skills deserted him as Speaker of the House. Bill Clinton just charmed the pants off of him. This is not a good thing in a man who wants to be the leader of the free world, dealing with some of the most evil men on the face of the Earth.
So Newt arrives on the scene today with some serious baggage and an attitude that Draper describes as "Either go with my Big Idea or…fail!" Methinks it will be Newt who will fail, whether or not he secures the GOP nomination. Like I said, he's too smart to be President.
Alan Caruba writes a weekly column, "Warning Signs", posted on the Internet site of The National Anxiety Center. © Alan Caruba, August 2005
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