One of the remaining Republican presidential candidates co-sponsored the Fairness Doctrine, the bane of conservative talk radio. This same candidate voted to create a National Police Corps. He voted to send $1.6 billion in foreign aid to Russia.
He supported the GATT treaty surrendering American sovereignty to the United Nations. In 1996, he voted for the then-largest increase in federal education funding in history. He voted to spend federal tax dollars to fund abortion.
He supported mandatory carbon caps. He proclaimed he would have voted for the $700 billion TARP bailout. He has endorsed man-made global warming as an existential threat. He defended Romneycare. He lobbied for ethanol subsidies.
He suggested that flex-fuel vehicles become mandatory for American citizens. He posited that NAFTA worked because it created jobs … in Mexico.
Who is this candidate? Mitt Romney?
No, he is a candidate offering himself as the latest incarnation of Ronald Reagan, the self-anointed savior of the conservative cause. Of course, he’s also the same man who was not long ago evicted from the House speakership because he betrayed that cause. He also endorsed Nelson Rockefeller. Chose Charlie Crist over Marco Rubio. Backed liberal Republican Dierdre Scozzafava over conservative Doug Hoffman in the New York Congressional special election in 2009. Still need more hints?
He called Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan “right-wing social engineering.” He wrote a book endorsing an individual health-care mandate. Before he was running for president, he was gallivanting across the nation with the Rev. Al Sharpton promoting Obama’s education policies.
Give up? Well, if you are a Republican who is hoping to defeat President Obama in the fall, and your party nominates this guy, giving up is something you best become used to, because our mystery liberal is none other than Newt Gingrich. Conqueror of South Carolina. Self-proclaimed victor of the primary season. Imperious ruler of all things Republican.
Yes, just when it seemed that the Republican felo-de-se was subsiding, the voters in South Carolina decided that they would prefer to be entertained by a high-paid history professor rather than send Obama on a permanent Hawaiian golf vacation. Oh, yes, professor Newt is definitely entertaining. He’s the Republican Snooky of the long-running political version of “Jersey Shore.” He’s glib. He’s witty. He’s evocative. It’s just that he’s not electable.
My fellow conservatives become apoplectic when confronting the specter of a Romney presidency, noting that his bien pensant credentials are lacking. Newt has remonstrated loudly that he is the real conservative and Romney is the impostor. But is that really true? Just because Newt says it, does that mean it’s so? For some reason, actual conservatives, such as Gov. Sarah Palin, have sipped the Newt Kool-Aid. Their skepticism has been obtunded by his confidence and boldness. Why?
Because like most Americans, conservatives are angry. They are furious that President Obama had the temerity to follow through on the radical socialist promises of his campaign. They are seething that his feckless administration has added trillions to our national debt, with no end in sight. They are enraged that he coddles our international enemies, while rebuffing our friends. And they want someone to sock him in the jaw – rhetorically, that is.
Well, there are few more pugilistic than Newt. He loves to sock it to ‘em. His main rival for the nomination, Mitt Romney, is just too darn likable. He’s Ward Cleaver to Newt’s meat cleaver. And this year, conservatives don’t want nice. They want blood. In Newt, conservatives seem to have found a champion who will destroy Obama in the presidential debates. And he probably would.
But how many debates will there be? Obama is no dummy. He is not going to subject himself to a weekly thrashing, like the Republican lemmings did. He’ll grant Newt two debates at most, and then proceed to make the election about Newt and his shortcomings. By the time his pernicious campaign managers are done spending their billion-dollar kitty, all that will be left of poor Newt will be that plastic, faux smile someone convinced him to flash as often as possible.
Conservative angst is certainly understandable. The pavid performance of congressional Republicans has left many tea-party activists feeling betrayed. They want a champion. They want their Maximus Decimus Meridius to kill the evil Commodus, not George McFly admonishing Biff to add a second coat of wax to the car.
But the emotions that work great in the movie theater don’t always pan out in the voting booth. Americans want to like their president and no amount of conservative self-hypnosis will make Newt likable or acceptable to a majority of independent voters – and that’s where this election will be won or lost. Many conservative leaders have told me that they feel Gingrich is nothing more than an opportunist, but they don’t see anything different in Romney. They are missing the one key difference, which every Democratic activist sees clearly: Newt cannot win the presidency. Romney can.
Will Republicans opt for the cool, dangerous guy capable of producing debate highlights and a few cheap thrills, or will they vote for the guy they likely last saw telling Wally and the Beaver they were grounded for the weekend? Since the future of our republic may rest on removing our most socialist president before he can do more structural damage to our nation, let’s hope they choose the right cleaver.