Posted tagged ‘Newt Gingrich’

Blind Pigs, Acorns

May 2, 2013

I suppose it’s not really a surprise that someone who sprays as much verbiage as Mr. Newt Gingrich must on occasion come up with something which which I can agree:

It would be a major mistake to put American troops in Syria.

No one in the region wants us invading yet another country.

None of our allies want our strength diverted from Iran.

There is no practical mission American forces could accomplish without a very large commitment.

Yup, that’s about right.

But still, I’m not going to give Gingrich any props for this one moment of clarity.  The problem with Newt is not that he is incapable of clear thought at times, but that he chooses to relinquish that capacity when it’s convenient.

Pierre-Auguste_Renoir_-_Le_Clown_(Claude_Renoir)

Which is to say that I’m with Tom Kludt, the author of the bit at TPM from which the quotes above are taken,  when he suggests that the odds of Gingrich saying something more or less sane sensitively depend on whether or not he’s running for something at the time:

At a Republican presidential debate last year in Arizona, the former House speaker mocked President Barack Obama for not doing more in Syria.

“This is an administration which, as long as you’re America’s enemy, you’re safe,” Gingrich said. “You know, the only people you’ve got to worry about is if you’re an American ally.”

And thus the real problem.  It doesn’t actually matter much what Gingrich says when no one (outside of the credulous Village) is listening.  We have a deep problem in our politics that derives directly from the fact that the leaders of that feral beast the Republican party has become give tacit and sometimes overt permission to the crazies that form the hardest core of their supporters. Ted Cruz and the Pauls, Bachmann, Gohmert, and all the rest talk apocalypse.  The allegedly “responsible” leadership — Gingrich himself in this case, domesticates the truly wild-eyed, the folks who accuse Obama of high crimes and misdemeanorsor.  Or recall Romney, dog whistling during the campaign last year:

“Sometimes I think we have a president who doesn’t understand America.” This line was straight out of the “Alien in the White House” playbook, a riff that reinforced the worst impulses of some in the audience, as one woman at a Romney rally named Katheryn Sarka eagerly reaffirmed when I asked her what she thought of the line: “Obama doesn’t understand America. He follows George Soros. Obama is against our Constitution and our democracy.”

After his big Nevada win, this line of Mitt’s scripted victory speech stood out: “President Obama demonizes and denigrates almost every sector of our economy.”

As discussed yesterday, we live in a country where 3 out of ten Americans, and 44% of the GOP expect armed rebellion in the next few years.  This is not a view compatible with democratic process.  The destruction of the American polity is not a both-sides-do-it phenomenon.  It is a hail mary act of intimidation, and perhaps outright violence to come, by a failed political party, one whose hopes of gaining legitimate power shrink with every passing year of demographic change.

Hmmm.  A reckless, failing political movement threatening violence unless its minority hold on power persists.  When before now have we seen that in American history?

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, The Clown — Claude Renoir, 1909

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Quote of the Day: Batsh*t Crazyspeak/GOP Deep Thinker edition

March 14, 2010

On the subject of noted political philosopher and moral exemplar Newt Gingrich, here’s Grover Norquist as quoted in The New York Times. (h/t  Atrios)

“He’s out there working with and building a broader movement,” Mr. Norquist said. “As we know from Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, you don’t have to be president to be part of the conversation in American politics.”

No you don’t.  But it appears you do have to be paranoid, divorced from reality, insurrectionist and unqualified.  (Warning — that last link is in the spirit of rickrolling.)  Which is, I guess, suitable company for you to aspire to, Mr. Disgraced Former Speaker.

Seriously:  this is a measure of how debased the GOP has become, and how nonsensical the whole notion of a “conversation” in American politics now is.  What can you say of a party that is willing to elevate as thought leaders people for whom ideas reduce to this kind of thing on the significance of Cosmo centerfold Scott Brown’s election prop:

“What if I have to haul a moose?” Mr. Gingrich said, to laughter. “You cannot put a gun rack in the back of a Smart car.”

Seriously: This kind of rhetoric is fun, I guess.  But it is designed to make its listeners dumber, less capable of working out what might or might not make sense in a world in which reality is not whatever it is Fox News claims it to be on any given night.  Remember: Gingrich is the man that Republicans turn to for policy ideas.  He sees himself as a visionary and an agent of change, and his friends do him the kindness of taking him at his word.  Hence the impact of his deep conclusion on energy policy: “Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less,” which became the McCain/Palin gamechanger, “Drill, baby, drill!”

And mah point (and I do have one): It is that the impossibility of meaningful bipartisan engagement on actually governing the country  — and making some stab at reversing the catastrophic damage to US wealth and power going forward done by 8 years of Bush misrule — does not rest on the heads of the Congressional GOP alone, not by a long stretch. This isn’t a problem of elected officials pursuing a strategy designed simply for short term electoral advantage.

Rather, what you have is the more-or-less complete capture of the entire party apparatus — the think tanks, the media contacts, the grass roots connections (Gingrich hearts him some teabaggers, by the way) — the whole shooting match (and, yes, I’m looking at you, Dick “Deadeye” Cheney) by people who simply have no interest at all in actually forming and implementing political solutions to the problems that attend either daily life or the long term prospects of the country.

They don’t for two reasons: the first is that true believers think that there are no problems, only obstacles placed in the way of the best of all possible worlds by the interference of government; and the second is that many, even most of the elite players aren’t true believers in much of anything, except the main chance.

That’s where Gingrich lies, on the evidence.  Here are the last relevant quotes from the Times piece:

Like Sarah Palin and others who have discovered that they can command a political platform and a good income without running for office, Mr. Gingrich remains relevant by having built himself into a one-man industry churning out speeches, books, films and policy positions…

…He sits atop an empire of interlocking policy groups, political networks and media enterprises with a total of about 60 employees. His chief vehicle is a policy center calledAmerican Solutions for a Winning Future. It has 1.5 million online members and raised more money ($8.1 million) in the last quarter of last year than Ms. Palin and Mitt Romney, another potential 2012 candidate, combined. His group is a so-called 527, which can accept unlimited donations, while the others have political action committees, which are restricted.

That is:  if you want to understand what motivates the seemingly farcical willingness of people smart enough to know they’re uttering fact-denied nonsense, follow the money.  As Dennis G. is documenting over at Balloon Juice, you have to recognize that much of the modern GOP is simply a con game, populated by familiar American figures, the plausible, smiling, confident/confidence men, spouting rivers of words designed to so thrill their listeners that the audience’s pockets don’t even need to be picked; the marks rise up in ecstasy to empty their wallets on their own.

Nice work if you can get it.

Image: E. W. Kemble:  “Travelling by Rail,” illustration from Adventures of Huckleberry Finn of the King and the Duke being tarred and feathered and ridden on a rail after attempting to perform “The Royal Nonesuch.” 1884