Friday, December 2, 2011

Newt Gingrich…Really?

This week we have seen Newt Gingrich rise to the top of the polls, like we have seen almost every other candidate rise to the top of the polls this last few months, mainly because there are so many people out there that can not see themselves voting for Mitt Romney. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to this phenomenon: a candidate steps into the spotlight, gets the attention they have been so craving, and then people actually start listening to the crap flowing from their mouths and they fall back into the basement of the polls. Oddly enough in our little “Not Mitt” parade Ron Paul has not risen into this top spot, thankfully neither has Rick Santorum. Newt of course believes himself to be the smartest person anywhere, and so richly deserving of these new found accolades that he has informed us all of his inevitable victory in the nomination. Polls mean very little in this early stage of the race, and generally the profession of polling has become somewhat laughable (more on that another day), but Newt is taking them seriously, so why don’t we spend a minute or two on Mr. Smart Guy.

Newt is so confident in his ability to secure the nomination that he has challenged Mitt Romney, as the only other logical candidate, to Lincoln-Douglas style debates to show who is the best man for the job. He has also threatened to follow Obama from city to city, giving rebuttal speeches to everything the President says, until he too agrees to Lincoln-Douglas style debates. Romney seems to have refused to engage Newt in one of these debates, and one can be sure that Obama probably will as well. Is it because they are afraid of Newt and that super-big brain of his? Doubtful, it is more likely that they think it is a terrible idea on the merits. For those of you who do not know the Lincoln-Douglas debates went like this: Candidate One speaks for 60 minutes, Candidate Two then speaks for 90 minutes, and Candidate One then is allowed 30 minutes of rebuttal. Lincoln and Douglas did not verbally spar with each other, point and counter point, like so many people might assume, but a set of prepared remarks was refuted by another set of prepared remarks, and then a little off the cuff was thrown in at the end. Now I don’t know about you, but I am pretty sure even Obama would get bored of the sound of his own voice after an hour. As to Newt, at 90 minutes the title of this lecture best be “spinning gold from straw”, not a play book on further shredding the constitution to keep me “safe”. The Lincoln-Douglas debates were from a different era, and while great moments in American history we have to also remember they are colored in the editing that was allowed back then. Misstatements and gaffes were as common then as they are today, they were just treated differently by the press and history. The partisan published remarks from your parties newspaper allowed you to have always used perfect English and to have always been on point, while the people in the audience had a very different experience.  In the age of You Tube those gaffes live on in perpetuity as done, to later become fodder in an opponent’s ad, hence why most candidates prefer the short, meaningless, pre-rehearsed answers they can give to the inane questions asked by idiot journalists. The debates certainly need some shaking up, but this constant refrain from Newt about how you must be scared of him if you refuse this debate format is already getting old.

As to policy, what can be said about Newt? He is certainly trying to paint himself as the only “true” conservative. He does this by saying things like we need a stronger PATRIOT Act. You see we are not properly scared enough about all the evil people out there who wish to do us harm. There are nefarious individuals who would detonate a nuclear weapon in an American city if given the opportunity. Therefore you should not be concerned with your government’s ability to spy on you, it is for your own good after all. And that seems to be all he needs to say. Scary people + less rights = more security, the simplest of equations throughout history. You are somehow naïve if you do not trust the government to make the right decision at all times when it comes to National Security. This is of course the Conservative problem that never gets addressed in these discussions. If limited government is good in all other circumstances, because bureaucrats can’t be trusted with your money or important choices, how is it Conservatives can blindly trust in government to make the right call on who should be spied on or indefinitely detained without oversight? Why is it simply enough to make this ridiculous argument about nuclear weapons in a city (mind you something that would have happened many years ago if it had ever been feasible) and a platitude about “safety”? No limits Newt? Trust in Newt to make the call on when it is enough? The reason for the Constitutional limits on power, and someone as supposedly smart as Newt should know this, is that you can not simply trust in government to make the right decisions. Power is what we are talking about, and trusting our leaders with vague power should be antithetical to every Americans psyche. I do not trust in Obama to make the call on which American citizen can be assassinated abroad without trial, I certainly will not trust in Newt to do who-knows-what with an “improved” PATRIOT Act.

We also see that Newt will keep up his conservative bona fides by doubling down on the drug war. For him there is not any question that we need to keep all drugs illegal always for our own good. To have adults decide for themselves what intoxicants to ingest is just way too much freedom for Americans to handle. Even though he is just so damn smart, he can’t seem to admit that the drug war has been a failure. For me the long and the short of it has always been this: If not for Prohibition would you know the name Al Capone? (here to read more on that score) Prohibition made the gangsters rich and powerful, because people wanted what they had to offer, and the illegality of it made it extremely profitable and violent. Drug Prohibition has done the same thing. If cocaine was not illegal, or if the government hadn’t made interdiction a high priority in the 1980s, you would have never heard of the name Pablo Escobar, he certainly would not have had the resources to take on his own government. If not for the high profits garnered by the illicit nature of the drug trade, there would not even be such a thing as the Zetas Cartel, and 40,000+ Mexicans would not have died in the last five years in an effort to keep Americans from getting high. Somehow or another Newt sees a Federal death penalty for drug dealing as a viable option for stopping the drug trade. This of course is ridiculous given the fact that many of these individuals get into the drug trade knowing full well they risk a very quick, ugly and painful death from their competitors. A government death sentence is probably not going to keep you away from the promise of hundreds of millions of dollars. Newt, a lover of America, its constitution, and its history of freedom, believes we should be looking to the great success autocratic and repressive Singapore has had in squelching its drug trade with incredibly harsh sentences and excessive use of the death penalty. This should be very comforting I think for all Americans, that Mr. Genius looks to a tiny island nation without personal freedom to come up with criminal justice policy. It should also reinforce how he’s not just “book smart” but practical and grounded in comparing keeping drugs out of an area the size of Augusta vs. the third largest country on Earth.

We could go on and on with how ridiculous it is that the Union Leader endorsed Newt, and how meaningless that is, or we could keep going on and on with a Newt’s history of flip-flopping (supposedly Romney’s grand sin with the conservatives) but honestly what is the point? Another week or two of people remembering the long and ridiculous history of Gingrich will probably do him in as front runner. He might also continue to talk, which has always been his short coming in the long run. But in the end it won’t matter about the polls or the pundits, it will come down to the people, and they can on occasion actually vote for someone they are not supposed to (remember John Kerry running 4th in the polls going into Iowa 2004?) and really change the dynamics of everything. Of course for the sake of already being bored with everything coming out of his self-righteous mouth lets hope for one of the former over the latter.

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