Why so many conservatives are against Gingrich

Peter Wehner takes up the charge that the conservatives who oppose Newt Gingrich are “establishment” figures who oppose the kind of fundamental change that Gingrich would bring.

If you’re for Gingrich, so goes this story line, you’re for “genuine” and “fundamental” change. If you oppose Gingrich, on the other hand, you’re for “managing the decay” of America.

Except for this. The single most important idea, when it comes to fundamentally changing Washington, is the budget plan put forward by Representative Paul Ryan last April. When most massive-scale-of-change conservatives were defending Ryan’s plan against scorching criticisms from the left, Gingrich described the plan as an example of “right-wing social engineering.” It was Gingrich, not the rest of us, who was counseling caution, timidity, and an unwillingness to shape (rather than follow) public opinion. (The Medicare reform plan Gingrich eventually put out wasn’t nearly as bold and far-reaching as the one put out by Governor Romney.)

So much for Mr. Fundamental Change.

The reality is that conservative/”establishment” opposition to Gingrich generally falls into three categories. One is that if he won the nomination, he would not only lose to Barack Obama, but he would sink the rest of the GOP fleet in the process. A second area of concern is that Gingrich is temperamentally unfit to be president –he’s too erratic, undisciplined, and rhetorically self-destructive. A third area of concern is the suspicion that the former House speaker is not, in fact, a terribly reliable conservative, that he is not philosophically well-grounded (see his attachment to Alvin Toffler for more).

Some of these criticisms may be appropriate and some of them may be overstated or miss the mark. But to pretend the criticisms of Gingrich — expressed in varying degrees by commentators like George Will, Charles Krauthammer, Charles Murray, Michael Gerson, Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin, Bob Tyrrell, Pat Buchanan, Mona Charen, Mark Steyn, Michael Medved, Hugh Hewitt, Bill Bennett, Karl Rove, Ramesh Ponnuru, Rich Lowry, Elliott Abrams, John Podhoretz, John Hinderaker, Jennifer Rubin, Ross Douthat, David Brooks, Yuval Levin, and the editorial writers at the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Examiner, to say nothing of a slew of conservative members/former members of Congress who worked with Gingrich in the 1990s –are rooted in their fear of “genuine change” is simply not credible.

via The Real Reasons Conservatives Oppose Gingrich « Commentary Magazine.

Then again, I worry that #1 and #3 would also apply to Mitt Romney!  And #1 and maybe #3 would apply to Rick Santorum.  And at least #1 would apply to Ron Paul.   I remain undecided, but depressed.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Trey

    The assumption they will lose is based on polls. While polls give a glimpse of the electorate view. It is not absolute and may be wrong. Plus the mob is fickle. The swing states are really the polls to be examined.

  • Trey

    The assumption they will lose is based on polls. While polls give a glimpse of the electorate view. It is not absolute and may be wrong. Plus the mob is fickle. The swing states are really the polls to be examined.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    I find it strange that the man trying to run as an outsider, Mitt, has so much establishment support.
    Personally I think Newt is the better candidate, and much more reliable than Mitt, who seems to be able to run adds against Newts success without anyone trouncing on him for being anti capitalist…

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    I find it strange that the man trying to run as an outsider, Mitt, has so much establishment support.
    Personally I think Newt is the better candidate, and much more reliable than Mitt, who seems to be able to run adds against Newts success without anyone trouncing on him for being anti capitalist…

  • Dan

    Gingrich made the case that he is electable – despite his huge negatives – because he debates so well. Then, last week, he turned in two dismal debate performances then whined about the debate structure being unfair. If Gingrich only got two debate opportunities with Obama and they went like this, it would be disastrous.

    I maintain Gingrich was only a realistic candidate so long as he shined enough in the debates that everyone forgot his history and record. Not just Romney’s attack machine, but also Republicans of every stripe coming out with both barrels, has reminded us of the history; Newt himself has reminded us that he glowers as often as he glows.

  • Dan

    Gingrich made the case that he is electable – despite his huge negatives – because he debates so well. Then, last week, he turned in two dismal debate performances then whined about the debate structure being unfair. If Gingrich only got two debate opportunities with Obama and they went like this, it would be disastrous.

    I maintain Gingrich was only a realistic candidate so long as he shined enough in the debates that everyone forgot his history and record. Not just Romney’s attack machine, but also Republicans of every stripe coming out with both barrels, has reminded us of the history; Newt himself has reminded us that he glowers as often as he glows.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Bror – reliable in what aspect? As many have pointed out, he is not reliable as a fiscal-conservative. He is not reliable in his Foreign policy judgement (witness his attacks on Reagan). He is not reliable in his moral judgement. He is not reliable in his temperament. He is not reliable on his political game – his bringining out of the “moon as 51st state” at the stage of the game when he did it shows exceptionally poor judgement. Politics is a game – and he plays it well, but drops the ball before the line far too often.

    He is only reliable insofar as he is going to provide entertainment – but in the White House, with that amount of power, that entertainment might be a bit too much.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Bror – reliable in what aspect? As many have pointed out, he is not reliable as a fiscal-conservative. He is not reliable in his Foreign policy judgement (witness his attacks on Reagan). He is not reliable in his moral judgement. He is not reliable in his temperament. He is not reliable on his political game – his bringining out of the “moon as 51st state” at the stage of the game when he did it shows exceptionally poor judgement. Politics is a game – and he plays it well, but drops the ball before the line far too often.

    He is only reliable insofar as he is going to provide entertainment – but in the White House, with that amount of power, that entertainment might be a bit too much.

  • Dan

    There’s still time for conservatives to come back to Rick Santorum, who I believe is not just the cure for candidate depression but also is electable. Santorum is a conviction politician – doing this because he believes in these causes and wants to see positive movement.

    I can’t speak for Romney’s motivations, but I do think he isn’t as electable as many think. Romney will be cast as the candidate to run the country like he supposedly ran Bain, forgetting the little guy to get the money right. Santorum can counter that his entitlement reform will follow the track he took with Welfare reform.

    Santorum hasn’t had the wow-moments in the debates that Newt had. But Santorum has been steady, gaffe-resistant, and persuasive. I’d also argue that the very applause lines Newt uses in these primary debates actually aren’t persuasive to moderates. Newt’s living off the anger of the base, which does not convince moderates to change their vote. Santorum is making the positive case for a conservative agenda.

    Obama led SOTU with manufacturing, showing that Santorum has his finger on the right pulse. If Obama had to run against Santorum, he’d pull out the old playbook about Santorum being too far right on social issues. But the country isn’t in the mood to debate social issues, and Santorum will stay on point on the economy. What makes Santorum seem unelectable to the establishment (who don’t forget an 18 point defeat) is much less a problem this year than Romney’s Bain problems and Newt’s Newt problems.

  • Dan

    There’s still time for conservatives to come back to Rick Santorum, who I believe is not just the cure for candidate depression but also is electable. Santorum is a conviction politician – doing this because he believes in these causes and wants to see positive movement.

    I can’t speak for Romney’s motivations, but I do think he isn’t as electable as many think. Romney will be cast as the candidate to run the country like he supposedly ran Bain, forgetting the little guy to get the money right. Santorum can counter that his entitlement reform will follow the track he took with Welfare reform.

    Santorum hasn’t had the wow-moments in the debates that Newt had. But Santorum has been steady, gaffe-resistant, and persuasive. I’d also argue that the very applause lines Newt uses in these primary debates actually aren’t persuasive to moderates. Newt’s living off the anger of the base, which does not convince moderates to change their vote. Santorum is making the positive case for a conservative agenda.

    Obama led SOTU with manufacturing, showing that Santorum has his finger on the right pulse. If Obama had to run against Santorum, he’d pull out the old playbook about Santorum being too far right on social issues. But the country isn’t in the mood to debate social issues, and Santorum will stay on point on the economy. What makes Santorum seem unelectable to the establishment (who don’t forget an 18 point defeat) is much less a problem this year than Romney’s Bain problems and Newt’s Newt problems.

  • DonS

    At this point, it’s water under the bridge. Newt had his moment in South Carolina, but, as Dan said above, it was narrowly based on his performance in a single debate. Romney has the money, organization, and establishment backing. He will win, and today’s anticipated sizable victory in Florida will go a long way to securing that win, as the increasing inevitability of his ultimate victory will build bandwagon support for him as Super Tuesday approaches.

    The charge that Gingrich is erratic, not ideologically conservative at his roots, and unreliable is based in reality, and it is having its effects on the electorate as they observe examples in real time.

    It’s Obama or Romney. Take your pick.

  • DonS

    At this point, it’s water under the bridge. Newt had his moment in South Carolina, but, as Dan said above, it was narrowly based on his performance in a single debate. Romney has the money, organization, and establishment backing. He will win, and today’s anticipated sizable victory in Florida will go a long way to securing that win, as the increasing inevitability of his ultimate victory will build bandwagon support for him as Super Tuesday approaches.

    The charge that Gingrich is erratic, not ideologically conservative at his roots, and unreliable is based in reality, and it is having its effects on the electorate as they observe examples in real time.

    It’s Obama or Romney. Take your pick.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Meanwhile, the National Post (intentionally) ran this Onionesque headline ” Newt Gingrich ‘clearly the front-runner among conservatives’, Newt Gingrich says”. :)

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Meanwhile, the National Post (intentionally) ran this Onionesque headline ” Newt Gingrich ‘clearly the front-runner among conservatives’, Newt Gingrich says”. :)

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    And the fun just keeps on coming: The man who recently said

    We have a patent office, we have copyright law. If a company finds that it has genuinely been infringed upon, it has the right to sue…”

    – is duly being sued. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the Newt, or rather, his campaing, is embrioled in a copyright lawsuit:
    http://www.theatlanticwire.com/politics/2012/01/gingrich-sued-eye-tiger/48083/

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    And the fun just keeps on coming: The man who recently said

    We have a patent office, we have copyright law. If a company finds that it has genuinely been infringed upon, it has the right to sue…”

    – is duly being sued. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the Newt, or rather, his campaing, is embrioled in a copyright lawsuit:
    http://www.theatlanticwire.com/politics/2012/01/gingrich-sued-eye-tiger/48083/

  • Dan

    If things proceed the way they normally do, Romney will be the nominee. I’m not convinced things will proceed the way they normally have, and having three different winners in SC/NH/IA is historically unusual. Iowa, I think, will end up being paradigmatic for the whole show. The more Iowans got to know all the candidates, the less impressed they were with Newt and Mitt and the more impressed they were with Santorum. I think the whole country is going through that same experience now.

  • Dan

    If things proceed the way they normally do, Romney will be the nominee. I’m not convinced things will proceed the way they normally have, and having three different winners in SC/NH/IA is historically unusual. Iowa, I think, will end up being paradigmatic for the whole show. The more Iowans got to know all the candidates, the less impressed they were with Newt and Mitt and the more impressed they were with Santorum. I think the whole country is going through that same experience now.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Dan – do I detect a little bit of wish fulfillment there? :)

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Dan – do I detect a little bit of wish fulfillment there? :)

  • kerner

    All of the remaining candidates have problems with #3. The question then becomes which has the least degree of problems with #1. If somebody could convince me that Santorum was that guy, I’d jump on board in a heartbeat.

  • kerner

    All of the remaining candidates have problems with #3. The question then becomes which has the least degree of problems with #1. If somebody could convince me that Santorum was that guy, I’d jump on board in a heartbeat.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Reliable in this sense, with Newt you know what you are getting, even if he is a bit erratic. He may not have the greatest track record as a vonservative. Its better than Romney’s. I think I can count on Newt to be anti abortion, Romney? Not so much. And qutie frankly Romney is as phonetic as his religion.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Reliable in this sense, with Newt you know what you are getting, even if he is a bit erratic. He may not have the greatest track record as a vonservative. Its better than Romney’s. I think I can count on Newt to be anti abortion, Romney? Not so much. And qutie frankly Romney is as phonetic as his religion.

  • Pete

    Bror @12

    What’s so phonetic about Mor’-mon-ism? Did you mean phony? Frenetic? Phobic? Am I missing something?

  • Pete

    Bror @12

    What’s so phonetic about Mor’-mon-ism? Did you mean phony? Frenetic? Phobic? Am I missing something?

  • JunkerGeorg

    Why I’m voting for Newt Gingrich…. ;)

  • JunkerGeorg

    Why I’m voting for Newt Gingrich…. ;)

  • Dan

    Klasie Kraalogies –

    Sure, one can hope, although after Mitt outscored Santorum and Gingrich combined, there will be a lot of pressure to call this one done.

    Btw, #4 was spot on.

  • Dan

    Klasie Kraalogies –

    Sure, one can hope, although after Mitt outscored Santorum and Gingrich combined, there will be a lot of pressure to call this one done.

    Btw, #4 was spot on.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Bror – sure, you know exactly what you get with Newt. An unreliable, erratic fellow. You can rely on that. ;)

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Bror – sure, you know exactly what you get with Newt. An unreliable, erratic fellow. You can rely on that. ;)

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  • Tony McCargar

    Ok, so I read the original story link; read Gingrich’s and Romney’s proposals, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t know that much about how the system works. I would long for the days of simplistic government but that is not what we have. An interesting quote from CP article; “This is especially true in a campaign run against an incumbent who does not have to expose himself to the bitterness of a primary campaign within his own party. That’s why candidates sickened with the AH syndrome not only risk killing off one another politically, but assassinating the future as well.” A pretty good read..
    http://www.christianpost.com/news/romney-gingrichs-ugly-slash-and-burn-politics-assassinating-the-future-68322/

  • Tony McCargar

    Ok, so I read the original story link; read Gingrich’s and Romney’s proposals, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t know that much about how the system works. I would long for the days of simplistic government but that is not what we have. An interesting quote from CP article; “This is especially true in a campaign run against an incumbent who does not have to expose himself to the bitterness of a primary campaign within his own party. That’s why candidates sickened with the AH syndrome not only risk killing off one another politically, but assassinating the future as well.” A pretty good read..
    http://www.christianpost.com/news/romney-gingrichs-ugly-slash-and-burn-politics-assassinating-the-future-68322/

  • Tony McCargar

    An interesting comment on the assembly by John Adams while at the Continental Congress of 1775…”Every man in it is a great man, an orator, a critic, a statesman, and therefore every man upon every question must show his oratory, his criticism, and his political abilities. ..I believe if it was moved and seconded that we should come to a resolution that 3 plus 2=5, we should be entertained with logic and rhetoric, law, history, politics, and mathematics concerning the subject for 2 days, and then we should pass the resolution unanimously in the affirmative.” sound familiar?

  • Tony McCargar

    An interesting comment on the assembly by John Adams while at the Continental Congress of 1775…”Every man in it is a great man, an orator, a critic, a statesman, and therefore every man upon every question must show his oratory, his criticism, and his political abilities. ..I believe if it was moved and seconded that we should come to a resolution that 3 plus 2=5, we should be entertained with logic and rhetoric, law, history, politics, and mathematics concerning the subject for 2 days, and then we should pass the resolution unanimously in the affirmative.” sound familiar?


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