What better way for presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich to ring in the Christmas season than with a dubious gift from George Will, who wrote another scathing column attacking the former Speaker of the House — this time for Newt’s stated intention, if president, of removing from the bench federal judges whose decisions he disagrees with.
The Wall Street Journal editorial page, as reliably conservative as any in the nation, went after Gingrich last week for his ties to Freddie Mac. More damning, however, was the WSJ’s questioning of Professor Newt’s dedication to the concept of small government:
The real history lesson here may be what the Freddie episode reveals about Mr. Gingrich’s political philosophy. To wit, he has a soft spot for big government when he can use it for his own political ends.
Here’s my problem with Newt — and it has less to do with hypocrisy or a lack of core convictions than with the man’s abilities. Newt is a brilliant man. I could listen to him talk all day. Indeed, I’ll bet he was a helluva professor in his days at West Georgia College. But as I’ve often said — and I’ll repeat it here for clarity: Pay less attention to what politicians say than what they do. In other words, look at their records — or in some cases, look at the wreckage. The fact that so many people who worked with Newt cannot stand the man is highly instructive.
After leading a brilliant insurgency in 1994 that gave Republicans control of both houses of Congress for the first time in more than 40 years, Gingrich was elected speaker. He did get some big pieces of legislation passed, but at great cost. Because of his imperious personality and his double-talking, the rank-and-file grew to distrust him — so much so that an attempted coup was mounted after only two years.
The rebellion was ultimately quelled and Newt was re-elected speaker by the narrowest of margins. Finally, in another two years, after poor GOP midterm election showings, ethics sanctions and a failed attempt to remove President Clinton from office, Newt was ousted by members of his own party who were fed up with his arrogance and miscalculations.
So Newt had his chance to govern and he was a disaster. Why then should we think a Gingrich presidency would be any different?