Monday, April 30, 2012

What Newt Leaves Behind...

If you were like many folks this past weekend, you were probably busy doing some Spring cleaning, or finalizing plans for upcoming events. Maybe you were at a car show - or, for some of you, going to the annual White House Correspondents' Dinner, often self-deprecatingly called "Nerd Prom."

In case you missed the news in the midst of all those events, former 2012 GOP candidate for president, Newt Gingrich, has finally announced that he's leaving the race Wednesday, instead of Tuesday - which, for most people, doesn't mean a whole lot.

Perhaps it should, though.

Like it or not, Newt has been a force for dissent and self-destruction within the Republican Party during the GOP presidential primaries this past year. As one Washington pundit noted over the weekend, "To Gingrich, politics is war by other means."

Newt's attitude of politics as war has been obvious from the time he first really came on the national political scene. If any one politician has exemplified the modern Republican way of doing things, it's Newt, who really set the tone for the modern version of the GOP. In his first major political battle that gained any national attention back in 1990, he won in a very Karl Rovian way - 50% plus a handful of votes. When he became the Speaker of the House, he bullied his way to that position, too. Upon gaining power in the House, Newt used that power to browbeat, bludgeon, and bluster his way to claiming huge successes - just as he did in this year's GOP campaign, where he only won a single race.

His claims, though, have almost always been shallow and false. The truth is, Mr. Gingrich has always left a trail of massive failures, not the least of which was his shutdown of the Federal government in 1995. Newt's biggest legacy though, will be the way current Republicans in Congress and in state governments now regularly operate. That method is, frankly, like bullies, not in good faith as Republicans once operated, but as though every disagreement - even within their own party - were a battle to the death.

What has this delusional belligerence gained the Republican party?

To start with, a 2012 nominee for President that even Republican voters can't stand.

As journalist John Nichols pointed out last week, in the five Republican primary races held last week, between 33% and 43% of Republican primary voters picked someone other than Mitt Romney, even when they already knew Romney was going to be their candidate for President. In fact, in Pennsylvania, comparing the results from the uncontested Democratic primary to the number of votes in the contested Republican primary, President Obama got more votes than both Mr. Romney and Rick Santorum, combined. Unsurprisingly, all three men got more votes than Gingrich.

Of course, even when Republicans are getting trounced, modern party hacks never admit it. That too is a legacy of Newt Gingrich.

Current GOP House Speaker John Boehner made an excellent display of that kind of braggadocio and ignorance this past weekend, on one of the Sunday shows. Boehner tried to claim his most recent blasting of President Obama was simply Boehner's attempt to "help" the President make better decisions.

We'll admit - the President's remarks towards some Republicans over the weekend were not all that kind during the White House Correspondents' Dinner. However, they were meant as jokes with barbs, as is the usual custom at that event. The President even made some sharp self-depricating comments, showing that his comments were not meant to be serious. The difference between Mr. Boehner's comments and the President's is that everyone knew the President's comments were a joke. Mr. Boehner meant his comments to be serious.

Such obtuseness - or possibly, self-delusion - is also a legacy of Newt Gingrich.

In short, Newt is an ugly bully of a man, who can't seem to be honest, with himself or with anyone else. He's a monster, frankly, who's left a slime in American politics that will only likely disappear with time. While we're almost certain Mr. Gingrich is headed back into the swamp of lobbyists that pervades Washington, DC, he's left behind a template that far too many leaders in the modern Republican Party continue to follow - even though their current attitude, like his, seems to continue to lead them to failure.

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