Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Campaign 2012: We Review Newt Gingrich

Today we shall examine the presidential candidacy
of Newt Gingrich, ex-Speaker of the House of
Representatives. With his very recent and surprising
surge in the polls, this is proving to be a most
opportune time to bring our scrutiny to bear on
Mr. Gingrich.


The former House Speaker was born on June 17, 1943
to Newton Searles McPherson and his wife, Kathleen
Daugherty McPherson, who divorced soon after Newt's
birth. His mother would go on to marry a career army
officer, Robert Gingrich, who adopted the boy. Newt
has three younger half-sisters, Candace, Susan, and

The Gingrich family moved around a lot, with each
posting assigned Robert Gingrich by the Army. Newt
graduated from Baker High School (Columbus,
Georgia), followed by receiving a B.A. from Emory
University in 1965, an M.A. in 1968, and a Ph.D.
in European History from Tulane University in 1971.
Later on, Gingrich was an assistant professor of
history and geography at West Georgia College.

Gingrich first became involved in politics during
his college days, becoming the Southern Regional
Director for Nelson Rockefeller's 1968 presidential
campaign. The man who would go on to become the
first conservative Speaker of the House of Represen-
tatives in many years had, ironically, worked on the
campaign staff of the epitome of the liberal Repub-
lican, Rockefeller, the establishment prince himself.
Gingrich made his first run for office when he ran
for Congress against an incumbent Georgia Democrat
in 1974 and lost. He tried again in 1976 with the same
result. However, the third time proved to be the charm, 
as Gingrich won election in 1978. His Georgia district
would send him back to the House ten more times.

Gingrich founded the Conservative Opportunity Society
in 1983, a gathering of GOP congressional members
whose ideas influenced President Ronald Reagan's
policies. In 1988, Gingrich led the move to oust then-House
Speaker Jim Wright (D-TX), who was alleged to have
violated campaign finance rules. The notoriety gave his
career a boost, as Gingrich was chosen to succeed Rep.
Dick Cheney as House Minority Whip when Cheney was
appointed Secretary of Defense by President George H.W.
Bush. Already known for his aggressive style, Gingrich
was pivotal in the Republican Party drafting the Contract
With America, a platform of 10 policies which included
welfare reform and a balanced federal budget. When
the GOP won the House and the Senate in the 1994
elections on the dissatisfaction at that time with
President Bill Clinton and the Democrats, the Republicans
passed much of the content of their contract, resulting in
a massive overhaul of our country's welfare programs and
the first balanced budget Washington had achieved since
the Kennedy years.

The good times for Newt Gingrich were not to last, how-
ever; government shutdowns over budget impasses in
1995 backfired on Gingrich and the Republicans. In that
same year Gingrich returned a $4.5 million book advance
that the House Ethics Committee questioned. He was also
alleged to have funded a college course he taught with
tax-exempt donations. the House officially reprimanded
Gingrich on a 395-28 vote. Not long afterward Gingrich
resigned his position as Speaker and declined to seek
another term in Congress. Since then Gingrich had been a
consultant and commentator on Fox News, and has authored
four books in avocation of conservative solutions to our
nation's problems.

Newt Gingrich married three times: to Jackie Battley in
1962, having two daughters, Jackie and Kathy before their
divorce in 1980; to Marianne Ginther in 1981, having met
her at a GOP fundraiser in Ohio, divorcing in 1999; and
to current wife Callista Bistek in 2000. Through their
production company, Gingrich Productions, they make
documentaries on public policy matters. The Gingriches
live in McLean, Virginia.


Newt Gingrich is a scholarly man with a strong grasp of
U.S. history, especially concerning politics as well as
the Constitution. Gingrich also is conversant in great
detail of many political issues and policy matters, which
would make him a formidable foe in a debate with
President Obama should Gingrich gain the Republican
nomination. Your favorite Peasant is certain that Newt
Gingrich could debate Obama into knots without much
effort. And having been the second person in line for
the Presidency as well as having worked closely with
two presidents, Gingrich knows first hand what it takes
to govern from the White House. His attention to and
grasp of detail would make him a fine administrator and
a fine advocate for legislation that he would favor.


Gingrich is perceived by many people, including some
who otherwise hold him in high regard, as having a
rascally quality. His ethics-related troubles while
Speaker as well as his multiple marriages and divorces
fuel this perception. One of his daughters recently
made a public statement disputing the story of how
Gingrich had presented divorce papers to his first
wife just after she was brought back to her hospital
room following extensive cancer surgery, hoping to
take advantage of her greatly weakened state to get her
to sign them. This tale had been haunting Gingrich for
many years, having some negative impact on his
image if not his career. That, with the rapidity of
his remarrying after the finalization of each divorce,
has been a concern for social conservatives.

When Gingrich was  speaker of the House,
although he was pivotal in getting President Clinton
to sign the legislation making welfare reform and
a balanced budget realities, he was strangely silent
when Clinton claimed sole credit for these legislative
accomplishments. This in turn, your faithful Peasant
believes, helped Clinton to win a second term as
President; so many Americans associated him, and
still do, with these achievements. Although Bill
Clinton is quite the rascal himself for this and
other reasons, he has a smoothness to him that
Gingrich lacks, and therefore has been able to
get away with so much more. Please don't
think that your conscientious Peasant is sugges-
ting that Newt Gingrich should cultivate such
smoothness that he can then function in that
fashion more adroitly!

In recent years, Gingrich has made public statements
to the effect that he believes that global warming is
a clear and presnet threat to the world, and supports
what he terms a "Green Conservatism" to deal with
it. This has been discomfitting to many conservatives
who think that Gingrich will do with enviornmental
regulation what moderate-to-liberal republicans
have done with government --- expand, but not as much
as the democrats would expand. Gingrich also has been
seen to be somewhat soft on the matter of illegal immi-
gration regarding those illegal immigrants who have
been here for some years already, although he does
advocate tighter border security. Moreover, Gingrich
is popular with the beltway set, as is Mitt Romney;
this is not a portent of comfort to conservatives,
especially those of us in Tea Party circles. This
raises the same questions that have been asked about
Romney, which your redoubtable Peasant had stated
in my review of Romney.

In summation, Newt Gingrich is a mixed bag, being full
of pluses and minuses. The pluses are impressive, but the
minuses give worried pause.


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