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Newt Gingrich --- Shades of Reagan
or Nixon?

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January 21, 2012
By Michael P. Delhomme,  Columnist

In the battle for the 2012 Republican nomination, the most
intense “war within the war” is being fought for the right to
claim the mantle of legitimate heir to the legacy of President
Ronald Reagan. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich has
been the most vocal aspirant for the “Reagan” vote, peppering
each of his debate performances with what has become a
mantra of “when I worked with Ronald Reagan” moments. In
fact, Gingrich so often cloaks himself in Reagan references that
he at last drew the ire of his rival, former Massachusetts
Governor Mitt Romney.  In the second and last Republican
debate in South Carolina, Romney challenged Gingrich’s
“Reagan” credentials as an exaggeration, saying “I have read
every page of Reagan’s autobiography and only found one
mention from Reagan of an idea that said he got from you, and
that one he said he dismissed”.

The desire among this season’s candidates to channel one’s
“inner Reagan” is understandable. Reagan is revered as a
Republican President who ended the Cold War and restored
American economic dominance. However, Gingrich’s fiery
personality and quickness to retaliate call to mind another
President as well – Richard Nixon.

There are dissimilarities of course. Nixon was not an
accomplished debater, as is Gingrich. But there are also striking
similarities. Nixon, the son of middle class Quakers, came to
view himself as an intellectual from the other side of the tracks.  
Among those he despised – and the list was long – he reserved
a special hatred for the blue-blooded, Ivy League-schooled
political“elites”, such as the Kennedy clan and certain of the
Rockefellers.  A graduate of Whittier College in California and
Duke Law School in North Carolina, Nixon took special glee in
displaying his intellectual prowess.  Nixon's personality often
was described as "mean" and  “mercurial”.  His long memory
for slights was legendary. He kept an “enemies list” of those
whom he believed had crossed him. Even among his allies, he
was often called “unstable”, a charge that subsequent events --
Watergate -- revealed had more than a modicum of basis in

Likewise, Gingrich has been described by former colleagues in
terms that evoke Nixonian comparisons. Gingrich’s Republican
comrades who served under his leadership as Speaker of the
House in the 1990]s have been unusually forthright in their
alarm at the prospect that he might achieve the presidency.
Republican Representative Peter King of New York, has called
Newt Gingrich “erratic”. Former Representative Susan Molinari,
of Staten Island, New York, said of Gingrich: ”Newt Gingrich
had a leadership style that can only be described as leadership
by chaos”.   Even Gingrich's campaign supporters affirm his
instability.  "Newt is volatile-to say the least", remarked former
Republican Representative Bob Livingston of Louisiana.
“Erratic”, “chaotic”, "volatile", with a need to prove his
intellectual prowess. Sound familiar?

Back to the future. In the race for the Iowa caucuses, Gingrich
once enjoyed a commanding lead, with some polls putting him
ahead by double digits.  Then, a slew of commercials cut him
down at the knees, and Gingrich finished the race in 4th place
behind Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum who were in a virtual
tie, and Ron Paul in 3rd.

Perhaps the most devastating blow against Gingrich was a
commercial by Representative Ron Paul, highlighting Gingrich’s
history of “serial hypocrisy”.  That charge was particularly
stinging as it cut two ways at once : it hit Gingrich for his serial
marital infidelity and his serial changes of political positions.

Notwithstanding that it was the Ron Paul commercial that finally
sunk him, Gingrich fastened upon the commercials run by the
SuperPac supporting Governor Romney. When asked by a
reporter if he felt he had been “swift-boated” in Iowa, a
reference to the smear tactic used against Senator John Kerry
by Republicans in the 2004 race, Gingrich curiously chose to
ignore the devastating attacks from Ron Paul, instead replying ”
no, I think I’ve been Romney-boated”.

A week later, Ed Rollins, the veteran Republican political
operative who served as National Campaign Director for the
1984  Reagan-Bush team, astutely observed on Fox News that  
Gingrich had become Romney’s “ enemy for life”.

After his defeat in Iowa, Gingrich swiftly retaliated, launching a
scorched-earth  attack against Governor Romney’s wealth and
business success, borrowing anti-capitalist lines typically
reserved for Democrats. Conservative analysts winced.
Krauthammer, widely viewed as the most brilliant political
scholar of his generation, observed that Gingrich's attack
essentially undermined a pillar of the Republican brand, in effect
shooting himself and all Republicans in the foot: "Yet, in a
stroke, the Republicans have succeeded in turning a Democratic
talking point -- a last-ditch attempt to salvage re-election by
distracting from their record -- into a central focus of the
nation's political discourse."

Gingrich's pivot to the left had another unintended effect. It
reminded those Republicans who had forgotten that it was
former Speaker Gingrich who had caused the shut down of the
government itself after he felt slighted that President Clinton did
not give treat him properly on Air Force One. Indeed,  hell hath
no fury like Newt Gingrich scorned.

For those who don’t remember the details of the Air Force One
incident, here is a contemporaneous account from the Seattle
Times of November 16, 1995:

Gingrich complained yesterday that in 24 hours of flying to
and from the Jerusalem funeral of slain Israeli Prime Minister
Yitzhak Rabin last week Clinton failed to discuss their budget
differences - and made Gingrich and Senate Majority Leader
Bob Dole, R-Kan., sit in the back of the plane and leave by the
rear exit.
The speaker said his personal pique helped prompt the partial
shutdown of the federal government.
The alleged "snub," the Georgia Republican told reporters, was
"part of why you ended up with us sending down a tougher
continuing resolution" - the stopgap spending bill that Clinton
vetoed Monday, leading to the shutdown.
"It's petty, but I think it's human," Gingrich said of his
.” (italics added)

When you absorb the full sequence of events, the incident is
both revealing, and deeply concerning in light of a potential
Gingrich presidency. The Speaker of the House caused the
partial shutdown of the government of the United States
because he felt personally snubbed.

Shutting down the government to retaliate for a snub? Going
postal with an anti-capitalist anti-
Republican argument in a
Republican primary?

In his penchant for taking offense, his need to retaliate
disproportionately --- killing a fly with a sledgehammer -- and
his preference to explain his defeats solely in terms of being a
victim of those he views as blueblood elites,  Gingrich bears an
eerie resemblance to Nixon. Nixon was a brilliant man who was
undone ultimately not by the external enemies he imagined
among the bluebloods but by the internal enemy of his own
fragile psyche.  Somewhere in the dark, unhealed, hurt places
of his mind, Nixon lost his better judgment.   

It's a serious flaw, to so willingly bargain away one's better
judgement to soothe a petty hurt. Yes, it is, to borrow a phrase
from Gingrich,  "petty" but "human". But it’s one human flaw
that a President of a nuclear superpower cannot afford to
have.  For the inhuman pressures of a Presidency have an
uncanny knack of testing just these type of petty human flaws,
with sometimes disastrous consequences for us all.  

Related:   Barack Obama 's Net Worth

           Gingrich or Romney-Which Candidate Do Men Prefer?
Rick Perry-Winging It to Oblivion

           10 Superfoods for Men's Health

            Top 10 Tips for Prostate Health

            How Many Pull-ups Can an Average Man Do?

Recommended: Find out what Obama's estimated net worth
will be after his first term in office and what other world leaders
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