Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The sanity of Newt Gingrich (?!)

I've been deeply critical of Newt Gingrich in the past -- including just the other day -- but, well, you've got to hand it to him, compared to much of the rest of the GOP, as well as to most other conservatives, he is, not to apply too fine a word to it, relatively... sane:

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) late Monday had some choice words for Republicans supporting Conservative Party party candidate Doug Hoffman (N.Y.), accusing them of conducting a "purge" of the GOP.

Many national Republican figures, such as Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-Minn.) and ex-Gov. Sarah Palin (R-Alaska), have backed Hoffman over GOP candidate Dede Scozzafava in the 23rd district's special election this year. The district has been long-held by Republicans, but many conservatives have shied away from Scozzafava for her socially liberal positions and the local GOP's selection process that they say was not transparent.

Gingrich broke the mold and backed Scozzafava, saying her candidacy gave the Republicans the best shot of regaining a congressional majority. The former Speaker faced a push-back from the right after his announcement but he upped the ante on Monday.

"This idea that we're suddenly going to establish litmus tests and all across the country we're going to purge the party of anybody who doesn't agree with us 100 percent; that guarantees Obama's reelection, that guarantees Pelosi as Speaker-for-life," he told Fox News last night.

It's fairly impressive, actually, that Gingrich is openly backing Scozzafava, a "liberal Republican" who supports gay marriage and abortion rights -- indeed, what a throwback she is, to a time when Republicans actually had some appeal to decent people everywhere.

But, then, it's not like Gingrich as anything to lose. He's not a viable Republican presidential contender, and it's not like he needs the approval of the right, however much the right may now be the base of the party. I would actually suggest that backing Scozzafava serves his own interests, as it reinforces the Gingrich myth that he's a "big thinker" with "big ideas" and a courageous independent streak -- and hence reinforces his standing in, and with, the national media, a very profitable one for him.

Yes, this is one case -- rare, it often seems, among Republicans -- where sanity and self-interest align. I can't be sure that that's why Gingrich did what he did, but it makes sense, and, again, what did he have to lose? His credibility among conservatives? Sure, but so what? He's big enough that it doesn't much matter.

Of course, I'm happy to see Republicans purge themselves, and so I hope they don't follow Gingrich's lead -- and, in NY-23, they're certainly not, obviously -- but it's hard to deny that he makes a lot of sense here, from a self-interested (anti-Obama, anti-Pelosi) Republican perspective and that sanity, at least for a brief moment, shone like a sun out of the dark recesses of the political core of the former speaker.

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  • I agree that it's fun to watch them eat themselves alive, but as Keith Olbermann pointed out, Newt Gingrich is not exactly the person to be calling out others for carpetbagging; he's not from New York.

    By Blogger Mustang Bobby, at 8:36 PM  

  • No, but of course the NY-23 race has become a national affair.

    And, of course, hypocrisy is just part of the game for Newt.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 1:59 AM  

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