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I want to be perfectly clear: I have nothing against buying silver. In fact, I like silver. But don’t tell me it’s as good as gold.

Newt Gingrich is riding high in the polls as Herman Cain’s support melts away. But what are we getting – gold, silver or brass?

Suddenly, Washington pundits and pollsters are selling Gingrich as the gold standard for “insurgent conservatism” in contrast to Romney’s “cool pragmatism.” But let’s put aside for another day (say, Iowa on Jan. 10) the comparison of Gingrich to other candidates and just ask ourselves some basic questions. Is Newt Gingrich a conservative? Would he implement a conservative agenda as president?

The sad fact is, after a 30-plus year career in politics, we still don’t know what we are getting with Gingrich because he has been all over the map – pardon me, all over the galaxy – in his policy proposals.

Gingrich’s eclectic unpredictability does not mean he is not greatly to be preferred over a second term for Barack Hussein Obama. What it does mean is that Gingrich would likely have a hard time defeating Obama.

Since Gingrich is not a true conservative, since he is operating without a conservative compass, he will continue saying and doing things that turn off the Republican Party’s conservative base. And unfortunately, widespread disgust with Barack Obama will not be enough to deny him a second term. This is especially true if there is a third party candidate on the ballot in some states.

What is Newt Gingrich’s claim to fame? What has he accomplished in his 30 years as a professional politician and beltway guru? Take your time and think about it. Name something. Anything?

As a former college professor, did he lead a battle to curtail federal involvement in higher education? No. Energy policy? No – to this day he still supports ethanol subsides, has endorsed cap and trade, and did that awful video on global warming with Nancy Pelosi.

Did his brief, five-year tenure as speaker of the House leave a lasting legacy on any policy front? It certainly did not result in reduced federal budgets. This is one reason why, when he called to congratulate me on my election in 1998 and ask me for my support in his quest for another term as speaker, I had to swallow hard and say “no.” Of course, I wasn’t the only hold out. The fact that Republicans lost seats in every election and federal budgets increased dramatically during his speakership caused a majority of the Republicans in the House to refuse to commit to him. So it turns out there is something that stands out about Gingrich in my mind. I cannot think of another time in American history when a speaker was tossed out by his own caucus.

OK, let’s try a different approach. When you hear the name “Gingrich,” what great policy innovation comes to mind? Amnesty for illegal immigrants? No, I mean an innovation that conservatives can celebrate. DING! Time’s up.

Well, if we can’t think of actual reforms and achievements to credit to Gingrich, what is he famous for? Anything? Got one? Well, he’s a political celebrity and author, one of the new breed of celebrity: He’s famous for being famous! He’s a “survivor”! Last man standing!

This explains his rise in the presidential polls. He’s the man who fills in the blank for the voter who wants “none of the above.” He has simply outlasted all of the “not-Romney” candidates. Sadly, that may be enough to earn him the Republican nomination, but does it give us any reason to be confident he will govern the nation as a conservative? No, it does not.

Gingrich the gadfly, Gingrich the expert on the history of learning technology, Gingrich the best-selling author, Gingrich the glib fast-on-his-feet debater – these are all entertaining spectacles. But they do not add up to a conservative leader dedicated to putting government on a low-calorie diet, securing our borders and abolishing the EPA.

The “Gingrich surge” is not evidence of a more conservative alternative to Mitt Romney. It is evidence of the exhaustion of the conservative movement in America. This is the best the conservative intellectual movement in America has to offer to rally our people against the most radically socialist president in our nation’s history? It is more than sad, it is tragic. It is also stupid.

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