A timely nod for Newt

    At first glance, it’s hard to understand why the New Hampshire Union Leader’s endorsement of Newt Gingrich is being taken so seriously. When the newspaper decreed in a front-page Sunday editorial that Newt has the “courage and conviction” of a true conservative, and that he’s therefore more vote-worthy than Mitt Romney, the political world viewed the endorsement as a major win for Newt when he needed it most – six weeks before the New Hampshire primary.


    Granted, the Union Leader is the top-selling paper in the Granite State, and its traditional clout among conservative remains strong. But in its long history of shilling for the GOP, the Union Leader has frequently endorsed right-wing losers – John Ashbrook in 1972, Pete DuPont in 1988, Pat Buchanan in 1992 and 1996, Steve Forbes in 2000 – all of which suggests that the paper is typically closer to the fringe than the mainstream. Since ’72, it has picked an eventual nominee only three times. And remember, this is the same paper that castigated Republican President Eisenhower for supposedly being too liberal (“Dopey Dwight”), and smeared moderate Republican Senator Margaret Chase Smith as “Moscow Maggie.”Nevertheless, due to the unusually fluid nature of the ’12 Republican race, this endorsement does warrant attention. Seventy five percent of likely primary voters have been desperately seeking an alternative to Romney, whose flexible plasticity continues to bug them big time, and they continue to hunger for guidance – particularly since most alternatives have either flamed out (Herman Cain, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann), gone nowhere (Rick Santorum, Jon Huntsman), or stayed within their market niche (Ron Paul). Enter the Union Leader, offering timely guidance. Given the flaws of the Republican field, Newt is clearly the default alternative, but the Union Leader did its best to pump him up as a latter-day Cicero. I can almost hear the trumpets:”We are in critical need of the innovative, forward-looking strategy and positive leadership that Gingrich has shown he is capable of providing…We look for conservatives of courage and conviction who are independent-minded, grounded in their core beliefs about this nation and its people, and best equipped for the job…(Gingrich) has the experience, the leadership qualities and the vision to lead this country in these trying to times.”Will New Hampshire’s conservatives buy that pitch? Quite possibly. All that’s required is a credulous state of mind. Because anyone who actually knows Newt’s track record would be well advised not to read those passages while drinking coffee, lest the liquid be squirted from the nose amidst gales of laughter.“Positive leadership?” Oh please. This is the same guy who, as House Speaker, helped precipitate two government shutdowns; who was officially rebuked for ethics violations, the only House Speaker ever to be sanctioned; who led the House impeachment effort against President Clinton – while he was conducting his own affair, and in defiance of national polls which made it clear that most Americans opposed impeachment. “Positive leadership?” This is the same guy who, as a House Republican leader, opposed Clinton’s historic 1993 deficit-reducing budget bill, because, in Newt’s words, the measure would “kill jobs, lead to a recession, and the recession will force people off of work, and onto unemployment and will actually increase the deficit.” The measure did the opposite. After the red ink was slashed, interest rates fell and money was easier to borrow, which in turn perked up the economy. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as reported by The Wall Street Journal, 22.7 million jobs were created on Clinton’s watch.Newt is a conservative of “courage and conviction?” Apparently the Union Leader has no memories of 1997, when House conservatives tried to engineer a coup, seeking to remove Newt from the Speaker’s chair because they deemed him too liberal, and far too willing to cut deals with Clinton. (They also reportedly disliked his chaotic, ill-disciplined leadership style.) And any New Hampshire conservatives who buy the description of Newt as a conviction conservative will be required to forget that, not long ago, he stood with Nancy Pelosi on climate change; that as recently as 2007, he championed the health insurance mandate (the linchpin of what is known today as “ObamaCare”); and that, just last week, he insisted that millions of illegal immigrants be allowed to stay in America.Nevertheless, conservatives in perpetual search of a savior seem prepared to heed the Union Leader’s arguments – if only because the alternative strikes them as worse. Perhaps the key line in the endorsement was the veiled jab at Romney: “We would rather back someone with whom we may sometimes disagree than one who tells us what he thinks we want to hear.” Conservatives frequently complain that “the media” tries to tell them “what to think,” but, at least in New Hampshire, with six weeks left on the primary clock, they seem prepared to grant an exception. If the Union Leader devotes the month of December to hammering Romney in news articles, columns, and editorials (as it did in 2008), there will be very few complaints on the right about “media bias.” Apparently, desperate times call for desperate measures.——-Romney actually needs Herman Cain to stay in the race and divide the anti-Romney vote, but now it appears that the former flavor of the month – and potentially imminent ex-candidate – has women problems again. As you surely know by now, an Atlanta woman named Ginger White is alleging a 13-year affair that ended in March. Cain says she’s just a friend whom he was helping financially. White produced cellphone records showing that she and Cain had conversed at all hours of the day and night. One call occurred at 4:26 a.m. I will go out on a limb here and suggest that 4:26 a.m. is an unlikely time for two people to discuss financial aid.Actually, the sole noteworthy aspect of this episode was the stonewalling statement circulated yesterday by Cain’s lawyer: “This appears to be an accusation of private, alleged consensual conduct between adults – a subject matter which is not a proper subject of inquiry by the media or the public. No individual, whether a private citizen, a candidate for public office or a public official, should be questioned about his or her private sexual life.”But as the old saying goes: It’s not the sex, it’s the hypocrisy. The latter is the real issue here. The guy who insists (through his lawyer) that “a private citizen” should not “be questioned about his or her private sexual life” is the same guy who supports a gay marriage ban – and thus believes it’s right and proper for the government to question gay private citizens about their private sexual lives.I doubt that Cain would see this as hypocrisy. Since he deems himself to be “pro-traditional marriage,” I’ll assume that his lawyer’s stonewall is intended for straight citizens only.  ——-


    Meanwhile, Barney Frank’s decision to quit his House seat is about a lot more than Barney Frank. Clearly he doesn’t relish spending any more time in the minority – and that’s where the House Democrats seem destined to remain, even if Barack Obama manages to win a second term. Frank’s decision is a sign of party weakness, and it foreshadows more Democratic retirements.


    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Help us get to 100% of our membership goal to support the reporters covering our region, the producers bringing you great local programs and the educators who teach all our children.