Peak Gingrich

Talking Points Memo notes that Newt Gingrich’s poll numbers peaked a few days ago and now seem on a decline of the sort one sees on rollercoasters or cliffs. I’d personally like to think it was because Gingrich blathered stupidly about how he’d arrest  federal judges whose rulings he didn’t like; there is a word for the sort of leader who responds to the Constitutionally-approved concept of the independent judicial branch by threatening its members with arrest, and it’s not “president.”

But that’s only a specific case of a more general issue with Gingrich, which I imagine the GOP electorate is now remembering about him: Gingrich, bless his heart, can only give a stab at being a statesman in brief, isolated bursts. Then his Gingrichosity shines through, he decouples prudence from his pie hole, and he starts doing the 68-year-old poltiwonk version of a college freshman midnight bull session, only in public and in front of cameras, and without someone there to say “whoa, duuuude, you’re getting pretty out there” before passing over the bong to mellow him out. He just can’t shut up.

It’s not just that he can’t shut up. It’s that Gingrich is also apparently incapable of distinguishing which of his ideas are reasonable, and which ones have been beamed in straight from a transmitter located on a high mountain deep in the heart of FrothyLand. It’s not that Gingrich doesn’t have some good ideas in his head. He does. The problem is they share space with some absolutely terrifying ideas. When Gingrich prepares to hork an idea out of his mouth, he doesn’t roll it around first to see if it tastes bad. He just spits it out, and there it is, on the carpet, Gingrich looking at you in that way he has, the way that says yet another brilliant thought from the mind of Newt. You’re welcome. And then the idea rears up, hisses at you, and tries to mate, horribly, with your shoe.

This is why, should Gingrich buck the current trend and gain the GOP nomination, the absolute worst thing he could do is have a Lincoln-Douglas-style debate with President Obama. Seriously: an hour to ninety minutes of raw, unscripted, uninterrupted Gingrich? There is no limit to the size of the hole that man will dig for himself, all the while thinking how dazzling he’s being. And there’s Obama, grinning his ass off, letting Gingrich dig, waiting for his turn. If we know anything about Obama, it’s that he knows how to stay focused and on message. He’d do just fine in a long form debate; you might not like the policies he espouses but you can bet he’d promulgate them in a safe and sane-sounding way, which, to anyone not already in the Gingrich camp, and with the fortitude to withstand an entire three-hour debate, would be all he would need. Obama might bore you, but he wouldn’t scare you.

Dear Newt: Obama would love to do a Lincoln-Douglas debate with you. He would love it more than candy. But it looks like he won’t get that chance.

Mind you, Gingrich’s essential Gingrichosity is not the only reason he’s trending down at the moment. The scads of negative ads his opponents are targeting at him are doing their fair share as well, and as I understand it Gingrich’s campaign is cash-poor enough that responding to those ads has not been something he’s been about to afford much of (he did just make an ad buy in Iowa, but it’s small compared to the ad buys of Romney and Perry). Even so, I don’t think Gingrich being Gingrich helps him any.

He can draw this out a while (and make no mistake that the Democrats would love for him to do that, as long as humanly possible) but at the end of the day the reason I suspect we’ve hit and passed the Peak Gingrich moment is because ultimately Gingrich reminds people of someone who is an unpleasant showoff. The person he’s reminding them of is possibly him.

138 Comments on “Peak Gingrich”

  1. Hee…now whenever Newt opens his mouth, I’m going to have the urge to put on galoshes.

    It says sad, sad things about the state of political discourse today that the idea of rehabilitating Newt Gingrich is more appealing than voting for, say, Rick “Oops” Perry or that crazy lady from Minnesota.

  2. Gingrich is also dropping specifically in Iowa, but that seems to be due to his relationship with Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae
    I agree that Newt has some great ideas, marred by his ability to implode, but by all accounts that I’ve read, his debate with Huntsman recently was not the horror show it could have been. Though it was deep into the wonkery on both sides.
    As far as Obama’s ability to stay on message, a huge issue I have with him is that during the health care debate, he let Republicans mold the message, and his message was nowhere to be found until wayyy after “death panels” entered the lexicon.

  3. The poor, poor, wingnuts. They demand their candidates believe pure fiction and support failed nonsense then they are appalled at whet they get for candidates. In a rational world Bachmann, Paul, Perry and Santorum wouldn’t even be mentioned. Newt would get a moment because he has been around the party for a long time & represents their first big success.

    I’d find this all so amusing except for two things. First, there is a change one of these bozos will fall out of the clown car and into the Oval Office, particularly if the ‘3rd way’ people are successful at running someone who will take votes away from Obama. Second is that there are some pretty lousy Dems running around simply because as bad as they are they beat the candidate by 5 centuries (1900 instead of 1400).

    Trying to compromise with the current GOP is like trying to pick a restaurant when you would like Italian and the other person wants a ’53 Chevy up on blocks.

  4. ….but I wanted him to be the defender of the good ol’ Traditional Marriage and the morality of our country. Which brings me to why I believe Newt when he took his fidelity pledge to his 3rd wife: he cancelled his viagra prescription.

    And I agree with El Guapo. That Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac fiasco destroyed him. He just doesn’t know it yet.

    I love the GOP shuffle. I hope each candidate gets a crack at the top. The more they kneecap one another, the better the whole thing will end in 2012.

  5. @Rob: You know, in the parent country, the word for “Galoshes” is “Rubbers.” My vote is to go all British on your urge.

    I just pray that Mitt picks a running mate that doesn’t scare the beJesus out of me so that I can actually vote for a ticket in my preferred of the major parties.

  6. Don’t Bogart that bong, Newt.

    And which part don’t you get of:

    The oath of office of the President of the United States is an oath or affirmation required by the United States Constitution before the President begins the execution of the office. The wording is specified in Article Two, Section One, Clause Eight:

    I, , do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

  7. Whoa, is that Ron Paul coming up as the next Not-Romney? I’m guessing he won’t peak as high as the Newt did.

  8. El Guapo:

    “Gingrich is also dropping specifically in Iowa, but that seems to be due to his relationship with Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae”

    Yup, which as I understand it is one of the things those negative ads are hitting him hard on.

    The Gingrich/Huntsman debate: Yeah, I thought that was interesting. I have to say I think of that more of a “friendly,” which is to say it was Gingrich playing around in the format with someone whose ideas are not horribly different than his, and who was not a threat to Gingrich’s standing, to an audience that largely philosophically aligned. I’m not 100% sure it’s a good indicator of how an Obama/Gingrich debate of the same format would play out.

  9. I’m familiar with the slang, having lived in London for some time. However, the implication of feeling the urge to put on rubbers when Newt opens his piehole are too terrible to contemplate.

    If I were going to vote Republican (which I never, never will) I would prefer Huntsman; he’s at least got some sense of how to conduct political business. I’ve gotten tired of the Republicans engaging in sheer bloody-minded obstructionism, then blaming the other side for it. Huntsman also seems to show some signs of actually being a conservative in the classic sense, rather than a lackey of the anit-intellectual Religious Right Whackjob Convention.

  10. One of the things that I think is so odd about this whole thing is that if Tim Pawlenty were still in the race, he’d really be a solid, palatable alternative to Romney (I mean this from an internal GOP perspective). Alas, he bailed out in a hurry after the Ames Straw Poll, but each of the alternatives has risen, and crashed down, in turn — Bachman, Perry, Cain, Gingrich — I think Pawlnety could have caught a second wave and ridden it on into the nomination.

    @Paulopitz, I don’t know if this satisfies your criteria, but the logic of a Romney nomination almost forces Marco Rubio to be the VP nominee (a solid conservative, good story, a huge help in Florida). I don’t know whether this helps or hurts in your criteria, but that’s almost certainly your ticket.

  11. Which, although totally disruptive to my hope to see the President lose in the fall, would nevertheless be completely awesome.

  12. I had the ‘opportunity’ to meet Newt and shake his hand when he was visiting my workplace a few months back. Unexpectedly, he and his entourage entered the cafeteria as I was exiting, and he stuck out his hand, so I shook it and he said, “Hi, I’m Newt Gingrich”. I nodded and kept walking, thinking back to that shot of Michelle Bachman with the crazy eyes. I will say that, in person, Mr. Gingrich doesn’t have the crazy-eyes issue, but he does have a very disturbing intensity. At least, I found it disturbing, but I may have been conflating perfectly innocent eye contact with some of his more mondo-bizzaro ideas.This was well before he became the latest Non-Romney flavor-of-the-day, and I honestly thought he would soon be dropping out of the primary race.

    And, yes, I thoroughly washed my hands after (not because of GOP cooties, but because I figured he had shaken a few hundred other hands before mine). Thinking about that, how is it that political candidates don’t have perpetual colds? Perhaps they each have a member of their entourage whose sole duty is to carry around several bottles of Purell…

  13. If Romney does get the nomination, he definitely is going to need to nominate someone like Rubio, Daniels, Pawlenty or Christie to bolster the fiscal/defense conservative wing of the party. Gingrich’s problem is that he doesn’t have a chief of staff or senior adviser that he runs his ideas through who will bluntly tell him to can the bat-shit crazy ideas. The problem with Gingrich’s latest ill-thought out idea is there is a legal mechanism for Congress to override the objections of the liberal judiciary; amending the Constitution through the methods prescribed in the Constitution and nominating conservative judges to replace the liberal wackos when they retire from the bench. Gingrich is technically correct that Congress has the legal right to change the composition of the judiciary; it’s just bat shit insane to do politically and can easily boomerang back on the Republicans if/when they loses elections.

  14. as a german who follows american politics, i find it baffling that these people are more than once allowed in front of tv cameras and taken seriously

  15. A brokered Pawlenty would probably win the general election and therefore the GOP will not make this decision. The masses of GOP/centrist voters who are going to vote Obama-over-Crazy would seriously consider Pawlenty. Hell, the “Stay at home rather than vote for a MORMON” would get out and vote for Pawlenty.

    And he isnt even in the race?

  16. One of my earliest recollections of Gingrich’s ability to say weird things is his wonderful quote about pigs, giraffes, men, women, and combat. But that’s mostly due to the column by a journalist at the Sacramento Bee.

  17. TransDutch:

    Really? Who? Maybe I’d know him; while I was at the Fresno Bee, our computer system then was able to communicate with our colleagues to the north.

  18. Wait, what was this about pigs, giraffes, men, women, and combat? Do share for those of us for whom this would be before our time.

  19. You need not worry about Gingrich passing his release date…I assume the other “Grand-Ole-Digging-Their-Own-Graves” party’s other candidates will fare just as well. Which is to say, not at all.

    That being said, it’s going to be a long year…

  20. I don’t know if this satisfies your criteria, but the logic of a Romney nomination almost forces Marco Rubio to be the VP nominee (a solid conservative, good story, a huge help in Florida). I don’t know whether this helps or hurts in your criteria, but that’s almost certainly your ticket.

    The problem with Rubio in the general is that (a) it means that the GOP still assumes any Latino will win the Latino vote and doesn’t understand Cuban-Americans (particularly in FL) are not well-liked by other Latinos, and (b) Rubio likely believes he’s a better sell in 2016 for either spot on the ticket (see below).

    If Romney does get the nomination, he definitely is going to need to nominate someone like Rubio, Daniels, Pawlenty or Christie to bolster the fiscal/defense conservative wing of the party.

    And none of them are likely to think that jumping on as a running mate in 2012 is smart. The economy’s not really going to improve in the next years–barring massive stimulus and improved implementation of financial regs–so if a new Prez and VP are elected, they are almost assuredly going to be one-termers. This goes double if things go sour (and near-complete austerity as promised by the GOP would undoubtedly do that) and 2014 elections swing wide left.

  21. …Thank you for the link, TransDutch. Now my entire workplace is looking at me askance as I come close to falling out of my chair with laughter.

  22. This:

    yet another brilliant thought from the mind of Newt. You’re welcome. And then the idea rears up, hisses at you, and tries to mate, horribly, with your shoe.

    Is pure comedy gold!

  23. Back when Gingrich was cheer leading against Clinton, it got to the point where I realized that I would get angry if I even saw a picture of him. Now I remember why. I don’t think he was spouting the random craziness back then like he is now. It was more of a focused craziness.

  24. If I were a cynical man, I would note the close proximity of Scorpius noting his opinion of your political comments and this post, and comment on how deft a way this is of thumbing him in the eye.

  25. Pawlenty might have done well, but then again, there’s nothing to say what increased scrutiny on him would have turned up. People thought Perry looked fine. Then they thought Cain looked fine. Then they thought Newt looked fine… bland as Pawlenty seems, he might have still had a skeleton in his closet or some sort of debate gaffe ruin him, too.

  26. What this is showing us is that blandness and carefully controlling your interactions with the media and the public seems to be a winning combination, for this is what Romney’s been doing since the end of his last campaign.

    If there’s one altar Bush the Lesser worshiped at, it was “stay on message”, and it got him /reelected/ after a dismal first term.

  27. The next boomlet is for… Jeb Bush!

    No, seriously: Serious investors in the GOP are allegedly maneuvering to bring us yet another Bush boy. (Suggested campaign slogan: “He’s the smart one! Really!”) Thus his op-ed piece in the WSJ, which gives the usual hip-hip-huzzah to vulture capitalism, and which is apparently designed to remind the money folk that the Bushes have a proven track record of success in making sure that hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars get redirected to the proper corporate pockets.

    He would need a brokered convention to get the nod, but given how well the previous Bushes worked out for the plutocrats, I think a brokered convention is easily arranged.

  28. Since I don’t get to say this very often in the context of politics at your site, I’ll avail myself of the chance.

    John, we agree.

  29. Shall Newt get a Big Idea treatment for his 3rd co-authored Allohistory Military novel?

    Partly inspired by how you bootstrapped your career, not that I’m comparing myself to you for pure talent, kindness, and sense of humor, I’ve had 5 professional genre fiction sales in 2011, and there’s still over a week for some editor or another out there to buy another. More than 26 paid nonfiction sales, and the usual hard-to-count scholarly unpaid publications (see also Nature’s essay on “LPU: The Least Publishable Unit”).

    I expect to expand on this in cover letters to major market editors for my 12 Facebook-serialized novels of the past couple of years. I think I have good odds of selling at least one genre novel in 2012. It is, I’ve found, a good idea NOT to think this way while actually in Flow State, writing…

  30. Peter Cibulskis:

    If Ron Paul wins Iowa, I’m sure media pundits and Repub spokespeople will carefully explain to us that the Iowa straw poll isn’t very important.

    Kevin Williams:

    The Mittster was *born* bland. An empty room probably gets less interesting when he enters it.

  31. I mostly agree with Jesse (and an Op Ed in the L.A. Times a week or so ago) that Marco Rubio as VP is, perhaps, a solid conservative, with a good personal story, but polls show would NOT be a huge help in Florida. The GOP mostly ignores Hispanics and African Americans, but when it half-remembers, it ignores fractal heterogeneity. My African American friends remark differently about Cain than do my Caucasian friends, same as was the case with OJ Simpson. My Mexican-American students in Sylmar, Californias,
    had zero interest in Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Sonia Sotomayor, born in The Bronx, New York City and of Puerto Rican descent, nor of anybody Cuban. The only Hispanic student that I had this year who expressed strong opinions about Fidel Castro came from Cartagena.

  32. I’m guessing Mitt is going to win the nomination.

    Meh. I can’t point to any specific political decisions Mitt and Obama have taken that would explain how they’re different.

    has anyone seen a current (2011) version of the “political compass” for various presidential contenders and their compatriots? Something tells me Obama has moved significantly up and to the right from where he was on this graph:

    I think he’s far enough up and to the right that he and Mitt probably overlap a bit.

  33. Is there a single Republican hopeful who doesn’t inspire projectile vomiting?
    I spent an entire generation (beginning in 1981 and giving up a few years ago) being sympathetic to hypothetical sane conservatives, whose entire vocabulary had been hijacked by fascists and fruit-bats, leaving them mute.
    Well, barely one or two of them have spoken out in all this time, and we’re now at a point where we have President Obama . . . who is to the right of President Clinton . . . who was to the right of President Nixon . . . and targeted as the woo-woo lefties by the “liberal media” . . .

  34. Greg:

    Odd to have a comment in a thread about Newt Gingrich that has absolutely nothing about Gingrich in it.

    Let’s try not to wander off here, folks. Do try to tie your comments to the original entry. Thanks.

  35. When the GOP stops looking for ‘anyone but Romney’ and starts looking at ‘who can beat Obama’ they’ll get over Gingrich, Palin, Cain, Bachman and the rest. There’s still a fain’t hope they’ll sober up and take a hard look at Huntsman. There’s a conservative with a clue.

  36. Shame – I was hoping he’d hang on for the next ten days or so. I was looking forward to the headlines about ‘How the Gingrich stole Christmas’…

  37. I totally agree with this. What’s sad is how so many people think Gingrich is some sort of intellectual, when he’s really full of hot air. Yes, Gingrich has a Ph.D. in history, but I think there’s little evidence that he seriously engages in historical scholarship when formulating his ideas, rather than using his Ph.D. as a blunt object to forestall criticism. In the words of Stephen Budiansky, Gingrich “acts exactly like one of those obnoxious elitist intellectual know-it-alls that the right-wing no-nothings think is the hallmark of an intellectual.”

    Also, I don’t understand why any Republican would endorse Gingrich’s “the president can just ignore the Supreme Court” line of reasoning. If the Supreme Court overturns the individual mandate part of Obama’s health care reform, would they seriously be okay with Obama deciding to just ignore such a ruling? Would they seriously be okay if Obama sent federal agents to Chicago to enforce that city’s anti-gun laws, which were overturned by the Supreme Court last year? I hope Republican primary voters and caucus-goers realize that if a President Gingrich established a modern precedent that a president could ignore court rulings when it suited them, there’s no reason a future Democratic president couldn’t apply that precedent as well.

  38. Ack! I’m really sorry about the double-post, but I accidentally linked to the wrong post on Bundiansky’s blog. I meant to link to this one.

  39. Rats, we let it slip too early that he’s the candidate we want to run against. Bad strategy by the Obama camp!

  40. Scalzi: Odd to have a comment in a thread about Newt Gingrich that has absolutely nothing about Gingrich in it.

    Hm. At one point, I had “Gingrich is batshit insane” at the very start of that post. I’m not exactly sure how it got deleted during the edits. I can’t even blame that one on my phone. I think I was going to rewrite it without the cuss words, got distracted, and forgot to put it back in.

    I really *was* curious where Newt would show up on the political compass chart, along with all the other GOP folks trying to get the nomination, like Mitt, etc. So I went looking for a new chart, but the only thing they had was the chart for 2008 with obama v mccain, et al.

    To make things more newt-specific, will add that I have never had the desire to hunt a giraffe.

  41. “Dear Newt: Obama would love to do a Lincoln-Douglas debate with you. He would love it more than candy.”

    This. After reading some of the discussion about Obama being crushed in debates by Gingrinch I was having a series of fantasy debates going something like this:

    G: And the healthcare this president has inflicted on America will [insert wonkishness]
    O: (Looking puzzled, then smiling) I’m a little confused by this Mr Gingrinch. What in my healthcare program is different to what you proposed when you were speaker of the house? And, you also were for the mandate. Do you only hold positions when you’re being paid to do so?
    G: (Explosive decompression)

    I suspect there are so many potential triggers that it would be hysterical.

  42. Gleeful chortling aside, the downside of a GOP political suicide pact is four more years of 0, which even brainwashed imbeciles (Democrats)* are realizing is a very bad idea.

    It would be nice if ONE party could come up with a competent candidate. Anyone? Anyone? Buehler? Buehler?

    *given the overly stereotypical Republican bashing early in this thread, I figured I’d try a reversal to see how those posters like it. Remember which party started US involvement in Vietnam (Harry Truman), which party escalated from advisers to troops (Kennedy, Johnson), which party removed interest rate caps (Jimmy Carter), which party created NAFTA and free trade with China (Bill Clinton) and which party tossed $5 trillion into businesses “Too big to fail” and Wall Street crooks (0bama) (All with Dem congresses).

    Newt is certainly a scary clown, and I’m on record opposing him. That doesn’t mean the opposition is good. Rather than being suckered into “Your guy’s a twit so ours is Jesus,” how about voters in both parties choose candidates who can benefit the nation, or at least minimize damage?

    And it could be worse–at least Huckabee and Tancredo aren’t in this mudpit.

    Scalzi: Astute and witty. You always offer good commentary. You should like, write a book or something. ;)

  43. @Michael Excellent plan. Tell you what, while we’re doing that, how about you come up with a major war (besides the Civil War) that a Republican President has won?

  44. As often occurs to me when reading rabid anti-Obama stuff :)

    – Stopped a depression (at least put it off a bit)
    – Saved the US car industry
    – Instigated at least some semblance of healthcare
    – Waged a fairly (and in my opinion right-wing) effective war on America’s non-conventional enemies
    – Looked after Wall St and the 1%

    And did all this while actually shrinking the overall size of government… If you take out the tax cuts and the wars he’s actually shrunk spending.

    Screw Gingrinch, Obama is the best republican president this country has had since Bush the elder :)

  45. Oh, Newt, We Hardly Knew Ye!

    Oh, wait . . . nevermind . . .

    As an Iowan, I will say that I’m gettin’ mighty tired of this lurchin’ an’ bobbin’ from one candidate to the next. Newt was just as good as any of the other Not-Romneys, which is like damning with faint praise. But I’m poppin’ corn for the comin’ Ron Paul conflagration, especially livin’ in Randite-central, AKA Fairfield, Iowa.

  46. My main problem with Newt (besides, well, everything else) is that he’s a terrible historian. To pick on the quote you shared as one among millions of examples… Females get infections in trenches? Has the man never heard of trench foot? Trench fever? Spanish influenza? PEOPLE get infections in trenches! Sheesh.

    And they say academic standards are declining among kids these days…

  47. CLP: It wouldn’t be a Gingrich admin who would establish the “ignore the courts” precedent. Bush the Lesser did that frequently and well, and you can go back at least as far as Andrew Jackson.

    Jackson chose to ignore the Supreme Court and sent the Cherokee on the Trail of Tears.

  48. This actually isn’t the first time Newt has talked about arresting judges who disagree with him. I don’t have an actual cite for it and since it’s way past my bedtime I’m not going looking for it now, but I’m reasonably certain of it. Also Newt’s decline started before he said it this time out. The Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac stuff hurt him, Romney got in a couple of good jabs on the Tiffany’s account, and the ad buys from the rest of the pack have left him reeling. Plus he’s incredibly short on cash.

    I’ve been amazed at how volatile the race has been so far, but then it really ought to have only started, not been at a point where everyone is already sick of it. As near as I can tell, they really want to nominate Nehemiah (or possibly Naomi) Scudder, but can’t figure out who he is. I’m hoping they either go so far to the right that the moderates leave en masse or that Romney gets the nod in such a way that far-right wing can think he cheated and they leave en masse. Something has to give to bring back a sane and reasonable counterpoint to the Democrats. It’s necessary for a functioning democracy. (OK, alternately the GOP could implode completely and permanently and the left-wing of the Democratic party could split off, but that seems less likely.)

  49. Some bozo said Gingrich was from Trantor, meaning to imply that he was like psychohistorian Hari Seldon from the Foundation series. Hari Seldon is not from Trantor. More like Geidi Prime.

    In other words, he’s more psycho than historian.

  50. “OK, alternately the GOP could implode completely and permanently and the left-wing of the Democratic party could split off, but that seems less likely”

    I think that’s exactly what’s happening. The GOP is splitting up. Actually, it’s been doing that in slow motion for a long time now, and it’s only recently starting to get really noticeable. The Republicans are three mutually-antagonistic parties in one (neocon/national greatness, theocratic, libertarian), and they have only ever held together because of the siege mentality that comes with being the perpetual opposition party. But in the past two decades, they’ve had an increasing number of comprehensive victories (where they control both the White House and both houses of Congress, something that essentially never happened between the Depression and the mid-90s), and so the siege mentality goes away, and coalition members are less willing to accept policy compromises for the sake of beating the Democrats. Romney is that rare candidate who’s a little bit of all three factions, and as such would’ve been a shoe-in in any other primary season. I take the fact that the obvious compromise candidate is unacceptable to any of the factions as a sign that it’s coming apart. I myself am hoping for the Libertarian Party to pick up the pieces, but I admit it’s not terribly likely. So the volatility of the race was predictable.

  51. “I’d personally like to think it was because Gingrich blathered stupidly about how he’d arrest federal judges whose rulings he didn’t like;”

    That’s certainly one way to interpret it.

    Another way to interpret it is that he meant he wanted to hold federal judges in general, and the Supreme Court in particular, accountable when they issue a decision that is clearly contrary to the traditional interpretation of the law and the Constitution. There is a great deal of difference between “I don’t like the decision in Sykes v. United States so I’m going to arrest the judges who made it” and “virtually everyone thinks Kelo v. New London is a glaringly wrong decision, and there must be some accounting for it.”

    Which interpretation you choose, of course, is entirely up to you. I think Gingrich probably meant the latter, but it’s a measure of his unfitness for the office that he didn’t make that clear when he said it.

  52. wolfwalker, it’s a measure of his unfitness for office that he thinks it’s appropriate to arrest federal judges even for glaringly wrong decisions.

  53. I do not support the idea of subpoenaing judges, but I do believe that the other two branches should exercise the power to dismiss them when they specifically cite things like International law and personal opinion instead of the US Constitution and any literature that explains its intent. I hope the issue of stays in the discussion.

  54. It’s even worse than I thought. He wants to abolish any court that makes a ruling out of line with fundamentalist Christian views.

    This man cannot be allowed to become President. Anyone who thinks that position is appropriate is either entirely ignorant of the Constitution or…something worse.

  55. I will say this for Newt: he really inspires class-A snark from Scalzi specifically.

    Which does not quite make it worth the hazards of putting him in the White House, alas.

  56. when they specifically cite things like International law and personal opinion instead of the US Constitution

    Well, international law (if a treaty ratified by the US Senate) is the law of the land. It may still be unconstitutional, of course. But I’d love to see your citations for judges citing either international law or personal opinion in a way that trumps the Constitution. So, links?

  57. David, actually a duly ratified treaty can’t be unConstitutional if I understand correctly. The Constitution gives treaties authority equal to itself.

  58. My tl;dr take on Scalzi’s post: Gingrich may have limited periods of lucidity, but he’s still basically a crazy person, and people are starting to remember that.

  59. Xopher, fair point. In fact, if I read the Constitution correctly, treaties are actually superior:

    The Sixth Amendment:

    “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”

  60. Xopher @ 7:47:

    That interpretation is reaching a bit. He said he’d arrest judges who he disagreed with (which is horrible and stupid), but I don’t think he claimed he’d abolish entire courts or that he’d pursue an explicitly Dominionist agenda.

    Holy shit, did I just defend Newt Gingrich? Must be time for some Scotch.

  61. Is it wrong of me to ascribe Mr. Gingrich’s comment to a harkening back to the views of Abraham Lincoln on ignoring the Supreme Court when necessary? Is is simply trying to live up to the standard set by Lincoln in the matter of Merryman?

    (Tongue firmly in cheek on this one. I swear!)

  62. Here’s another link with O’Connor defending it and Scalia criticizing it.

    O’Connor Dismisses International Law Controversy as ‘Much Ado About Nothing’

    Hope YenContactAll Articles

    The Associated Press

    April 25, 2005
    At a public forum Thursday over the Supreme Court’s use of international law, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor said “of course” the Court looks at foreign law if there is no controlling U.S. precedent or the states’ view is unsettled. Antonin Scalia disagreed, saying, “I don’t know what a South Africa court will tell you about American law.” The comments come amid a growing divide on the Court over the citation of international opinion to support decisions interpreting the Constitution.

  63. I think Newt should run as as the Whig candidate in 2012. At least then more educated voters can recognize the level of relevance his candidacy would posess. I can see the ticket including Palin as Veep, with promises to The Donald for Treasury, Santorum as head of Homeland Security, Perry for Defense, and Bachmann at State. Let’s make up for the void that the death of Kim Jong Il has left in the World Crazy Supply.

  64. And in the article you link, O’Connor says it’s not binding and Justice Breyer said “”It’s appropriate in some instances to look at other places. It’s not binding by any means. But if they have a way of working out a problem that’s relevant to us, it’s worth reading.”

    You’re protesting the idea that the Supreme Court might pay attention to see how other countries might work out problems, while recognizing those solutions are just examples, without any binding effect?

  65. The Supreme Court might pay attention to academic articles in Law Reviews, though someplace I saw a statistical study that Bush appointees don’t do so as often.

    The Supreme Court might even pay attention to equations in Mathematical Physics, though (long story) when they most recently did so (how far away must Navy sonar equipment be from whales) the actually got it horribly wrong. I am not a lawyer. But my son is, after his double B.S. in Math and Computer Science, deans list, at age seventeen. I’m as proud of him as John is of Athena, to a first approximation.

    Just so I don’t seem to be wandering: does Gingrich, as History professor, agree or disagree with the propaganda film made by the director that the recently deceased dictator of North Korea had kidnapped (said dictator having a library of 20,000 videos, and especially like Rambo and James Bond films), to the effect that said dictator was (I can’t make this up) born in a log cabin in rural mountainous Korea, while a meteor shower peaked. My sources say he was actually born in Siberia, while his Daddy was having goons trained by the KGB.

    I think that Foundation novel-inspired Newt Skywalker might clarify this.

  66. Xopher: “it’s a measure of his unfitness for office that he thinks it’s appropriate to arrest federal judges even for glaringly wrong decisions.”

    Even for glaringly wrong decisions? Suppose a federal judge ruled that prayer in public schools was legal again — but only Christian prayers? Suppose his decision was sustained all the way up to the Supreme Court? That’s one decision that I think we could both agree was “glaringly wrong.”

    Yes, it’s an extreme example. That’s the point. When you make flat declarations, without exceptions, then reductio ad absurdum becomes a valid argument tactic.

    Having said that, I will now make just such a flat declaration: I don’t want to live under an autocratic government. Ever. Not an autocratic Congress. Not an autocratic President. And not an autocratic judiciary. Checks and balances is an essential aspect of the Constitution, and right now I don’t see any effective check on judicial power. The courts do as they wish, and the factionalism that paralyzes executive, legislature, and electorate ensures that no effective countermeasures will be taken.

  67. wolfwalker @ 7:22 pm:

    Another way to interpret it is that he meant he wanted to hold federal judges in general, and the Supreme Court in particular, accountable when they issue a decision that is clearly contrary to the traditional interpretation of the law and the Constitution. There is a great deal of difference between “I don’t like the decision in Sykes v. United States so I’m going to arrest the judges who made it” and “virtually everyone thinks Kelo v. New London is a glaringly wrong decision, and there must be some accounting for it.”

    I would agree that Kelo was a very unpopular decision, and perhaps rightly so, but I think it’s false to say that “virtually everyone” thinks it was a wrong decision. On this web page you will find amicus briefs from various organizations and law professors supporting New London’s side in the case. Also, both the New York Times and Washington Post praised the decision. Like it or not, the decision had some supporters. Besides, what mechanism do you propose we use to decide which cases are unpopular but right, and which cases are “blatantly wrong”, that is not subject to abuse? Remember, part of the courts’ job is to occasionally make unpopular rulings, otherwise the Bill of Rights would be worthless.

    Kevin Williams says @ 8:38 pm: Gingrich has indeed said he wants to abolish courts that he thinks make “radically anti-American” decisions.

  68. Veterans with Newt 2012
    “America needs a strong Commander-in-Chief to provide clear and decisive leadership. Our nation faces threats from all corners of the globe and Newt Gingrich has the strongest and most complete historical and present-day knowledge of these threats. Veterans from all corners of America are with Newt. ..”

    As a grandson and son of heroic vets, who has worked on proudly on contracts with U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Air Force, I want a Commander in Chief who doesn’t get his military strategy from Isaac Asimov’s Foundation novels (much as I miss my friend and co-author Dr. Asimov) and Star Wars. America is a beacon of hope to the world. 2012 is real life; not a movie. Newt Skywalker can be in the Cabinet, but never, please, with his finger on The Button.

  69. Suppose a federal judge ruled that prayer in public schools was legal again — but only Christian prayers? Suppose his decision was sustained all the way up to the Supreme Court? That’s one decision that I think we could both agree was “glaringly wrong.”

    Eek! You are aware that there are mechanisms to deal with this that don’t involve arrest? Good lord, what are they teaching in the schools today?

  70. Kevin, that’s the interpretation of the guy who wrote the article I linked. I haven’t seen quotage to support it, admittedly.

  71. CLP’s got you covered, Xopher. :P

    Could someone enlighten me as to what’s behind the apparent revilement for the independent judiciary in the American right? Rational reasons, if there are any, none of Limbaugh’s paranoid fantasies.

    Scalzi: I just noticed the wee smiley face in the bottom-left. Nicely done.

  72. Now THIS is the type of political post I really like – well thought out and nicely analytical and with that great Scalzi great comedy. I agree that this:

    yet another brilliant thought from the mind of Newt. You’re welcome. And then the idea rears up, hisses at you, and tries to mate, horribly, with your shoe.

    “Is pure comedy gold!”

  73. Kevin, you’re right. Thanks CLP.

    wolfwalker, what David said. Plus…by the time such a thing could be sustained all the way to the Supreme Court, we’d already be living in the Republic of Gilead, and I’d be in Canada raising an army to overthrow the Dominionists. So no, I’m not worried about that.

  74. I really thought Gingrich had peaked at the right time. I didn’t think people would wise up until after Iowa had already voted.

    The most suprising thing to me is that it looks like Ron Paul is the next one to pop, and if he pops soon enough he could win Iowa. If he wins Iowa it seems that he will likely win New Hampshire. Then Gingrich should take South Carolina, and probably Florida. So we could easily make it to Nevada before Romney has a win, and yet even if that all came to pass, Romney would still be the favorite for the nomination thanks to money, money, and money. It is quite a soul crushing scenario for reform minded voters, but it would still be fun to see the establishment lose its mind over the fear of Ron Paul being taken seriously.

  75. Xopher: No worries.

    I think beyond the lack of money, Gingrich’s campaign has been plagued by a lack of organization in general. He’s having trouble gathering enough signatures to get on some states’ primary ballots. When he submitted the names of possible delegates from New Hampshire, it was an incomplete, sloppily handwritten list. If someone can’t run their campaign very well, what makes you think they can run the executive branch of the federal government very well?

  76. There is a great deal of difference between “I don’t like the decision in Sykes v. United States so I’m going to arrest the judges who made it” and “virtually everyone thinks Kelo v. New London is a glaringly wrong decision, and there must be some accounting for it.”

    No, in fact there really isn’t, particularly when you stop trying to make excuses for Gingrich by using the euphemism “some accounting” instead of the more accurate dragging judges in front of Congress if Gingrich does not personally approve of their decisions.

    He is not saying that perhaps we should rethink life tenure for SCOTUS, or make it easier to impeach federal judges for misconduct, or limiting terms of federal judges more. Those are “some accounting”.

    Pretending for the moment that it’s simple to determine which decisions are plainly wrong, remember we have those other government branch thingies that can undo and override a plainly wrong decision, say by passing laws or amending the Constitution. What Gingrich is saying is that he should have the power to punish judges for making decisions that are plainly right, but which offend His Gingricity.

  77. Newt Gingrich’s sudden rise and decline is the perfect example that many people vote emotionally and not rationally.

  78. “I don’t see any effective check on judicial power. ”

    For the judges, there is impeachment. Samuel Chase was impeached in 1804.
    For the decisions, there is a Constitutional Amendment that contradicts the court’s ruling, whci would be by definition Constitutional. The Dredd Scott decision was effectively overturned by the 13th and 14th Amendments.

    Whether the professor if history is unaware himself of the relevant history or thinks that we are unaware, I can’t tell. I would also note that while the US Marshals he would like to send after judges are enforcement officers and therefore part of the executive branch, what they enforce is judicial decisions.

  79. I had the great misfortune of living in Florida when Jeb ran for Gov the first time. If he is the smart one the whole family is in trouble. He picked a guy as his running mate who was on the record with anti-Latino and anti-Semitic remarks! Then I moved to MN in time to suffer the maladministration of Timmy P. They have been stealing from the future for 8 years to pretend they don’t raise taxes while they let the state crumble. They used to have wonderful roads & the best schools in the country; Now? Google I35W bridge to see the end results of a Pawlenty administration and school results are drifting down too.

    BTW – did you read Gingrichs comments about having judges arrested if he disagreed with their rulings? He also said he would ignore rulings he disagreed with! He then lied about Lincolns stand on Dredd Scott (while he disagreed with the ruling Lincoln obeyed it). Noots vision of America sounds a lot more like a dictatorship where the rule of law is ignored for the rule of man.

  80. wolfwalker, who gets to decide where the line is between “ruling I don’t like” and “ruling that is glaringly wrong”? Newt?
    I’ll take my activist judges, thanks.

  81. I figured Newt would be in decline ever since he said that Palistinians are an “invented people”. While there appears to be some debate over the historical accuracy of such a statement, it shows a profound bias that would negatively impact his ability to contribute to Middle East peace discussions.

    Likewise, when Newt or anyone else uses the term “activist judges” I can’t help but translate it to “those jerks who won’t let me legally discriminate against gays or put Christianity in public schools!” After reading the article linked by Xopher, it appears my assumptions were spot on.

  82. “Veterans from all corners of America are with Newt”?!!!
    Not me – Newt is crazy.
    Of course, saying veterans from all corners of America are with Newt could mean that there are four veterans who are with Newt – one in Maine, one in Florida, one in southern California (or should that be Hawaii?), and one in Alaska.

  83. “I’m going to be the nominee. It’s very hard not to look at the recent polls and think that the odds are very high I’m going to be the nominee.” – Newt Gingrich, 12/3/2012

    So prescient precious.

  84. Sandflake:

    One would think that as a historian, Gingrich would be aware that *all* nationalities are “invented”.

    Americans were invented only 235 years ago.

  85. In re Newt and the Palestinians being “invented”: he’s pandering to two voting blocs here: AIPAC and evangelicals.

    It’s another fine example of his mouth running before his brain has a chance to keep up, which really should keep him from being considered for grown-up responsibilities in elective office higher than city councilman.

  86. I still think Newt only entered the race to raise a few bucks, get his name out there, punch his ticket as “Presidential Candidate Newt Gingrich,” then hit the lecture circuit with a new book. I think he was as shocked as anybody to actually be taken seriously.

  87. Peter Sagal had a great comment last week on Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me, to the effect that Gingrich was falling in the polls after an investigation revealed that, yes, he’s THAT Newt Gingrich.

  88. Newt’s a guerilla politician. Kinda crazy and definitely overzealous but skilled at demolition. Useful for sneak attacks and sabotage and such, but most definitely NOT suited for use as a general. His own troops would scrag him (as they have done before). He’s expendable … and he knows it. Just the far right’s latest anyone-but-Mitt. Paul is next for that title, which has a half-life of two weeks.

    The Iowa caucuses really DON’T mean much. But they’re what’s handy for the media to obsess on at this point.

  89. When you asked your GOP readers their opinions of the candidates, I read the comments with interest, and no little disbelief. I couldn’t believe how many of them said they would vote for Newt. “Were those people in a coma while he was Speaker?” I wondered. He was a disaster. I understand that many Republicans despise Nancy Pelosi, but she is effective–that’s part of the reason the Right hated her so much (and still does, apparently.) The Speaker’s job is to keep the Congressional caucus in line and disciplined, and to advance the agenda of their own party.

    Newt Gingrich was undisciplined, and the GOP caucus fell apart because no one knew what they were supposed to be voting on or how to vote, or WTF Gingrich would say or do next. He punished Representatives for actions that he ordered, lost the party votes that should have been easy wins, and aired in-party dirty laundry to the media. He forced the longest gov’t shutdown in US History. He lied to Congress and the ethics committee, violated Federal laws, cheated on his spouses, lost friends and alienated people until he was forced to resign. He can even be blamed for losing the House to the Democrats in ’98, although I think that’s as untrue as him taking credit for the Republican win in ’96.

    Since he’s been out of office, he has attempted to rewrite history to give himself sole credit for ending Congressional entitlements, balancing the budget, and anything else he can think of, including the law of gravity (I kid you not, look it up). His PhD apparently gave him the perspective that “history is written by the winners,” so he’s going to write it and declare himself WINNER. That this tactic seems to be working, at least for some voters, makes me despair.

    The man is a snake.

  90. In the Anglo-American common law tradition, judges create and mold the law, based on their ideas of justice and their recognition of prevailing custom, whenever statute law is silent or ambiguous. This contrasts with the civil-law systems that prevail in Europe, where the legislature and executive prescribe all the details, and judges have very little discretion. (In France, for example, until just last year, a private citizen could not challenge the constitutionality of a French law.) “Activist” decisions by the Supreme Court simply continue that tradition in how they interpret our Constitution—a Constitution that is written very tersely because its framers knew that it would be interpreted within a common-law system. If Newt were a conservative in the “preserve as much as possible of our cultural heritage” sense, he would not want to take our legal system, whose roots stretch across an ocean and a millenium, and debase it with foreign principles of jurisprudence.

  91. Constance:

    I’m no fan of Newt, but I thought I heard on the news that it was actually determined that he did not lie to Congress or violate Federal laws. Anyone know?

  92. Honestly, I think a lot of Newt’s problem is the fact that he loves the sound of his own voice. That, and that he is thoroughly convinced that he is always and forever the smartest guy in the room and that this give him the right to talk down to the rest of us peons. A little humility would go a long way to stopping him running off at the mouth without considering the (possibly?) unintended consequences of what he’s saying before he speaks. Newt might be smart in the sense that he has an education, but I suspect that he isn’t nearly as smart as he thinks he is, and I’m certain that he wouldn’t know humillity if it jumped up and bit him on the nose.

  93. Todd Stull @ 1:07 PM – Gingrich publicly admitted to the charges. See: House Reprimands, Penalizes Speaker.

    Exactly one month before yesterday’s vote, Gingrich admitted that he brought discredit to the House and broke its rules by failing to ensure that financing for two projects would not violate federal tax law and by giving the House ethics committee false information.

  94. Todd,
    It was determined by the committee that he was not *still* violating Federal tax law, at the time of the hearings, but that he had indeed done so in the past. Gingrich acknowledged that he lied to Congress in 1997, though he did so in the most weasely possible way, as party of his guilty plea: “In my name and over my signature, inaccurate, incomplete and unreliable statements were given to the committee”.

  95. “I do believe at this point most political candidates are members of the hand sanitizer tribe.”

    I’m not so sure. I believe that all of the current GOP candidates have signed onto the “the scientific jury is still out on the existence of germs and their impact on the environment” position. After all, you can’t actually *see* them. I think Huntsman was originally onboard with germs, but he later walked it back.

  96. OtherBen wrote:
    I’ll take my activist judges, thanks.

    Yeah, and funny how an “activist judge” by the name of Vaughan R. Walker wasn’t so bad in the right’s eyes until he handed down his decision in Perry v. Schwarzenegger. (As a corollary, Walker’s glass closet was also tolerable until he went all the way off the reservation.) Just saying…

  97. My favorite quote about Newt is courtesy of Paul Krugman, who applied the line that Gingrich “is a dumb person’s idea of a smart person.”

  98. First, the most obvious thing is that the problem with Newt is………..Newt.

    Second, Republican success in 2012 is mostly predicated on the continuing problems with the economy. Which, of course, the Republicans have done their absolute best to aggravate. Now, if by some wild chance the economy starts to turn up, well that could well change the result of the elections.

    I’m just sayin’
    Rick York

  99. Scalzi:
    “Dear Newt: Obama would love to do a Lincoln-Douglas debate with you.”

    Seriously? The Teleprompter President versus the Nimble Speaker? I’d pay money to see that.

    It won’t happen, I agree with Scalzi on that.

    Two reasons:
    (1) Complex games generally go to the player who makes the fewest mistakes, and Gingrich can’t keep his mouth shut and his foot out of same.

    (2) If Gingrich did win the nomination there is almost zero chance that Obama, a man who took two teleprompters with him to a grade school classroom, would agree to any actual open format debate.

  100. Ed, when you resort to childish name-calling like that teleprompter business, you show that you don’t really have any /substantive/ bad things to say. Keep that in mind.

  101. The Teleprompter President versus the Nimble Speaker?

    What is it with this “Teleprompter” nonsense? Did you watch him demolish the Republican House Caucus without a teleprompter, or notes, or anything except the facts? The guy who stayed an extra hour because, and I quote, “I’ll stay, this is fun!”

    He destroyed McCain, he’s great in Town Halls – part of his problem is his teleprompter speeches as president have been they’ve been dire, completely dreadful, boring, trite, rubbish.

    When he’s off teleprompter he’s damn good.

    OTOH Gringrinch really only appears to think he’s a nimble speaker.

  102. The “Teleprompter President” meme is as ridiculous as the “Radical Christian, Socialist, Muslim, Kenyan President” meme. Obama clearly won all three presidential debates in 2008 sans teleprompter, and most of the Democratic candidate debates before that. Last year in Baltimore in an open Q&A session with House Republicans, Obama virtually ripped them a new one. It was so devastatingly embarrassing to the GOP that Fox News cut their broadcast of it short.

    The only reason that Newt appears to be the “Nimble Speaker” recently is because in the land of the blind (Romney, Perry, Bachmann, Cain, et al) the one eyed man is king. In a debate with Obama, Newt’s one eye would get poked out. Then stomped. Then unceremoniously scraped off Obama’s shoe as he stepped from the dais.

  103. I don’t really get this “Teleprompter President” meme, either. What’s the big deal? Who cares if he uses teleprompters? President of the United States is not the kind of job where you have a lot of time to memorize speeches, or even write your own; every modern president has employed a speechwriting staff and speaks from notes. A teleprompter is just a device to display those notes.

  104. Kevin: it was a just boxing metaphor, sorry to confuse you so.

    Daveon: the Caucus? Huh. Are those guys supposed to be even remotely competent as debaters? Yikes.

    Zakur: Fox News conspiracy theories? Um, OK.

    But I agree with you on the sadness of the Republican lineup. But I think that Obama, having to actually defend his policies and record in a real open debate, would just be out there incoherently mumbling what rote responses he could remember from his handlers playbook.

    CLP: well, yes, in moderation. But for grade schools and the press room? That’s a step up (down?).

    British parliamentarians would wipe the floor with either, by the way.

    And, as I said, I’d love to see it, but it just isn’t going to happen. Too bad.

    OT: Since this is a SF author’s blog I’d say that Obama and Gingrich are probably better than either Bush or Clinton for space issues. Obama because he simply doesn’t care enough to get in the way other than (thankfully) allowing the shuttle boondoggle to end, Gingrich because he actually knows a bit about the issues.

  105. Incoherently mumbling? OBAMA? Wow, either you’re from an alternate universe or you’re really steeped in the Republican propaganda machine.

  106. Ed. The point was he walked all over them without aTeleprompter. He destroyed McCain and beat Hilary. He’s also great in unscripted townhalls.

    Frankly the guy’s at his worst with the prompter.

    He’d eat any of them alive. And yes, a British politician would take him.

  107. Xopher and Daveon: Perhaps it’s the pointy ears we all have over here in the alternate universe but Obama always sounds like he has a mouthful of marbles to me ;-)

    Daveon: Thanks for the substantive reply. Mostly I ignored the townhalls, so perhaps you’re right. Though I seem to recall some were not exactly “unscripted”? And although McCain & Hillary weren’t really worthy opponents in the verbal combat field and I agree he beat them, it wasn’t resoundingly.

    So I think that Gingrich is a different kettle of fish. The guy buzzes with ideas and thoughts – too much so, maybe. And, despite his flightiness, he was able to take the high ground and avoid dissing the other debaters and smack the moderators down a few times in the recent set of debates. He can think on his feet.

    Obama, as I said, has to run on his record. This is always a problem for the incumbent, current officeholders can’t just revert to safe platitudes and vagueness – if he or his administration did something wrong or the economy tanked he’s on the spot.

    People like to say Gingrich has too much baggage, but it cuts both ways. And his baggage is a lot older than two or three years: in the Short Attention Span Theater that is politics the last decade of the 1990’s might as well be the last decade of the 1790’s.

  108. Er, make that “the last decade of the 1900’s might as well be the last decade of 1700’s”.

    It’s late here.

  109. Ed:

    Except I wasn’t calling you on the boxing metaphor (you could have picked something a whole lot less stupid than pulling out the teleprompter derp), and you’re digging yourself in further with such a weak excuse.

    Gingrich is probably a better off-the-cuff speaker than Obama, at least in that he has fewer… pauses… in his speeches, but OTOH he’s a lot more likely to say something incredibly stupid like this business with the judges.

  110. Ed. As you say Obama has to run on his record – which, personally speaking, I think is a pretty good given what he took over. What bugs me most is if he had actually behaved like the GOP say he has, then things would probably be a heap load better, especially economically, instead we’ve had one of the best Republican administrations since Bush 1…

    While there’s lots of things that could doom him, the Euro zone crisis (which reminds me to chase that Euro payment I’m owed while it’s still worth something) for example, I’d be feeling pretty happy to have a positive approval rating (yes, only 2% but WTF???) and a billion dollars in the bank, and likely to be facing a candidate the GOP can’t stand.

    As I mentioned, I find him for more fluid off script than on. Yes, he uses “ummm” a fair amount, but that’s actually not necessarily a problem – there’s a myth in speaking, sales and other spoken professions that you have to keep talking all the time. Pauses and related vocalizations actually help grease the gears of getting the message across.

    That said, it’ll be a close one that could go either way – unless the GOP do pick Gingrinch, or one of the other less electable ones.

    Finally – Gingrinch’s baggage seems to be able to make itself relevant to modern politics – the guy has a gift.

  111. And yes, a British politician would take him

    Depends on the British politician. Thatcher, Blair, or Cameron? Sure. Iain Duncan Smith? Not so much.

  112. I’ll give you IDS, but swap him for Hague… I can only imagine that school political debating in the UK is more confrontational than the US counterpart.

    Debates I took part in were not to be resolved, they were that THIS HOUSE BELIEVES… far more direct.

  113. Newt, bless him*, has never understood that campaigning does not follow the rules of brainstorming. (Pay particular attention to rule #3.) Just because an idea is good enough to put in the whiteboard does not automatically mean it’ll pass muster with people who are exercising judgement.

    *intentional Southernism. If this makes no sense to you, imagine hearing the phrase in the voice of Kyra Sedgwick.

  114. One thing he’s gotten out of his rise in the polls is that he’s sold a lot of copies of his book.


    CLP: well, yes, in moderation. But for grade schools and the press room? That’s a step up (down?).

    I don’t want to harp on this too much, because we’re getting a bit off topic, but I still don’t see what’s wrong with this. What’s the difference between having printed notes on your lectern or using a computer to reflect those notes off a piece of glass? Do you really think the president should take the time to memorize every speech he gives? I think he’s got better things to do.

  115. It’s fascinating how a lot of Republicans have taken to heart the idea that if they say something often enough, it magically becomes true. That’s where we get this whole “Obama the mumbling teleprompter reader” meme. It’s manufactured Conventional Wisdom at its most crass. Keep in mind, these are the same Republicans who were concern trolling us all during the ’08 election about how Obama was a smooth talking, charismatic speaker, just like you-know-who-with-a-capitol-H. And way back in ’04 they were telling us that W. could too speak good, we were all just snooty liberals, misunderestimaitng him on purpose.

    Newt is not only, as Krugman put it, “the dumb person’s idea of a smart person” he’s a South Park parody of a college professor, always lecturing in a smug, condescending tone and getting even basic facts wrong. And it’s not just Obama who has to run on his record. It’s not like Newt just descended from a secret conservative ashram on the mountain top, bearing the lost scrolls of Ronald Reagan. Newt tried to impeach a popular president for the same sins he was committing, failed and then was run out of Washington on ethics violations. I’d love to see him try and spin that on stage debating the man who killed Osama Bin Laden.

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