So what happened while this blog was down?

This blog was knocked out of the worldwide web for a whole week due to technical difficulties.  I have learned that some of you have become overly dependent on this site as a source for what is happening in the world.  (I appreciate the sentiment, but you might want to broaden your web-surfing!)  Still, lots of things happened this past week that I wanted to bring to your attention but couldn’t.

We had posted about Chinese pro-life activist Chen Guangcheng, who escaped from house arrest in the provinces and made it to Beijing, hundreds of miles away, even though he was blind.  He took refuge in the American embassy.  But he was sent away–whether voluntarily, because he was talked into it, or because China reneged on a deal worked out by American diplomats is not completely clear–and he is now in Chinese custody.  Diplomatic efforts continue in an effort to protect Mr. Chen and his family (which had been threatened).  He may end up coming to the USA, which China has found is a good way of removing their dissidents from influence in the country.

In political news, Newt Gingrich dropped out, leaving Mitt Romney triumphant, with only one other candidate, Ron Paul, still in the race.  Though Paul has no chance for the nomination, his supporters have been maximizing their presence among convention delegates, especially in caucus states.  They put themselves forward as being willing to go to the convention, and though they have to vote as directed, usually for Romney, on the first ballot, they will be exerting their influence on the party platform and in other ways.

We blogged yesterday about the European anti-austerity elections and President Obama’s announced support for gay marriage.

So what else happened while this blog was away?  What else occurred that you had wished we could discuss?

The moon as our 51st state

It isn’t just that Newt Gingrich wants us to go back to the moon or that he wants to set up a colony there.  He is thinking that when the population of the lunar colony reaches 13,000 the moon could apply for statehood.  Yes the notion is crazy, absurd, and inappropriate.  But imagine!  The moon as the USA’s 51st state!  Think how indignant the rest of the world would be, looking up in the night sky and seeing America.

First Read – Gingrich promises US moon colony by 2020.

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.

Newt vs. Reagan

Newt Gingrich is always wrapping himself in the mantle of Ronald Reagan, but at the time, when Newt was a Congressman, he was best known for criticizing Reagan’s policies and for putting down the president.  So says Reagan administration official Elliott Abrams, who was there:

Here at home, we faced vicious criticism from leading Democrats — Ted Kennedy, Christopher Dodd, Jim Wright, Tip O’Neill, and many more — who used every trick in the book to stop Reagan by denying authorities and funds to these efforts. On whom did we rely up on Capitol Hill? There were many stalwarts: Henry Hyde, elected in 1974; Dick Cheney, elected in 1978, the same year as Gingrich; Dan Burton and Connie Mack, elected in 1982; and Tom DeLay, elected in 1984, were among the leaders.

But not Newt Gingrich. He voted with the caucus, but his words should be remembered, for at the height of the bitter struggle with the Democratic leadership Gingrich chose to attack . . . Reagan.

The best examples come from a famous floor statement Gingrich made on March 21, 1986. This was right in the middle of the fight over funding for the Nicaraguan contras; the money had been cut off by Congress in 1985, though Reagan got $100 million for this cause in 1986. Here is Gingrich: “Measured against the scale and momentum of the Soviet empire’s challenge, the Reagan administration has failed, is failing, and without a dramatic change in strategy will continue to fail. . . . President Reagan is clearly failing.” Why? This was due partly to “his administration’s weak policies, which are inadequate and will ultimately fail”; partly to CIA, State, and Defense, which “have no strategies to defeat the empire.” But of course “the burden of this failure frankly must be placed first on President Reagan.” Our efforts against the Communists in the Third World were “pathetically incompetent,” so those anti-Communist members of Congress who questioned the $100 million Reagan sought for the Nicaraguan “contra” rebels “are fundamentally right.” Such was Gingrich’s faith in President Reagan that in 1985, he called Reagan’s meeting with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev “the most dangerous summit for the West since Adolf Hitler met with Neville Chamberlain in 1938 in Munich.”

Gingrich scorned Reagan’s speeches, which moved a party and then a nation, because “the president of the United States cannot discipline himself to use the correct language.” In Afghanistan, Reagan’s policy was marked by “impotence [and] incompetence.” Thus Gingrich concluded as he surveyed five years of Reagan in power that “we have been losing the struggle with the Soviet empire.” Reagan did not know what he was doing, and “it is precisely at the vision and strategy levels that the Soviet empire today is superior to the free world.”

There are two things to be said about these remarks. The first is that as a visionary, Gingrich does not have a very impressive record. The Soviet Union was beginning to collapse, just as Reagan had believed it must. The expansion of its empire had been thwarted. The policies Gingrich thought so weak and indeed “pathetic” worked, and Ronald Reagan turned out to be a far better student of history and politics than Gingrich.

The second point to make is that Gingrich made these assaults on the Reagan administration just as Democratic attacks were heating up unmercifully. Far from becoming a reliable voice for Reagan policy and the struggle against the Soviets, Gingrich took on Reagan and his administration.

via Gingrich and Reagan – Elliott Abrams – National Review Online.

Why the “open marriage” charge makes Newt more popular

The rumor on the Drudge Report was that Newt Gingrich’s ex-wife would come out with revelations that would sink his campaign.  It didn’t work that way.  Her interview, along with Newt’s smackdown of CNN’s John King for bringing it up to lead off the last debate, seems to have created a backlash of sympathy.

The biggest revelation was that he had asked his wife for an “open marriage.”  But he didn’t exactly say that.

Marianne Gingrich told The Post that when her husband told her he was leaving, “He said the problem with me was I wanted him all to myself. I said, ‘That’s what marriage is.’ Of Callista, he said, ‘She doesn’t care what I do.’ ”

“He was asking me for an open marriage,’’ Marianne Gingrich said, “and I wouldn’t do it.” She said Gingrich already saw Callista as his first lady, though, telling Marianne, “In a few years I’m going to run for president. She’s going to help me become president.”

Still bad and embarrassing to listen to, but the issue is old-fashioned adultery rather than 1970s-style open marriage, as such.  The above is quoted from an article in the Washington Post about how women are not being particularly sympathetic to Mrs. Gingrich #2:

If anything, Republican women interviewed here today seemed even more supportive than men of the way Newt Gingrich handled debate moderator John King’s question about ex-wife Marianne’s allegation that the GOP presidential candidate had asked her for an open marriage as their union was falling apart in 1999.

They definitely expressed less sympathy for Marianne, Gingrich’s second wife, who told ABC News and The Washington Post that her husband had wanted her to “share” him with Callista, now his third wife, as they were breaking up. Several women noted that since Gingrich was also married, to his first wife, Jackie, when Marianne got involved with him, his infidelity should not have come as a surprise to her.

Kathleen Parker offers an explanation of why digging up transgressions and taking them public can make the accused more popular, as it did also with Bill Clinton:

The more you pick on a person for human failings with which all can identify, the more likely you will create sympathy rather than antipathy, especially if that individual has been forthright in his confession and penitent for his transgression, as Gingrich has been. He was ahead of the curveball this time, with nothing left to tell or for his aggrieved former wife to expose. Thus, her interview and the King question had the feel not of revelation but of a political hit aided and abetted by a salacious press.

Even Bill Clinton, who was less forthcoming and therefore, at least initially, less sympathetic, came to be viewed as a victim following months of investigation and the airing of sordid details only voyeurs could enjoy. Starr, as King, was merely doing his job, yet he became less likable than Clinton among Regular Joes watching television in their kitchens. However nobly Republicans may have considered their mission, everyday Americans — particularly men — saw persecution.

A Catholic friend captures the operative sentiment in terms Gingrich surely would appreciate. When she sees someone succumb to temptation or betray some other human frailty, she says: “I have those weeds in my garden.”

To err is human; to forgive divine. We like that way of thinking because we all need others’ forgiveness. When Gingrich turned to his audience and said that we all know pain — we all know people who have suffered pain — he instantly morphed from sinner to savior, the redeemer in chief. He correctly counted on the empathy of his fellow man, if not necessarily womankind, and won the moment.

But a moment is just that, and projection of the sort experienced by the Charleston, S.C., audience can be fraught with peril. Over-identification clouds judgment, and, though we are all sinners, we are not all running for president of the United States.

via Newt Gingrich and the forgiveness ploy – The Washington Post.

I appreciate all of that.  And I know very well that Christianity is about sin (from which no one is immune) but also redemption and forgiveness.  But I’m still bothered by Newt’s manifest character flaws.  Is that wrong of me?

Newt takes South Carolina in a landslide

Newt Gingrich won the South Carolina primary in overwhelming fashion.  Now each of the four contenders left standing has won a primary except for Ron Paul.

The South Carolina primary results:

Newt Gingrich 243,398      40.4% Winner

Mitt Romney 167,957          27.9%

Rick Santorum 102,213       17.0%

Ron Paul 78,093                   13.0%

Others 10,772                          1.8%

via South Carolina primary results, visits and political geography – 2012 Campaign Republican Primary Tracker – The Washington Post – The Washington Post.

Gingrich rises, falls, then rises again.  So is he now the alternative to Mitt Romney?

I know that Ron Paul is the alternative with the greater difference, but is there a path to his nomination?  He isn’t likely to do well in Florida, the retirement capital of the nation, with his opposition to Social Security.  That’s the next contest, January 31.  Where can Paul win?

Who do you think would be better, Mitt or Newt?

Big campaign developments

Texas Governor Rick Perry has dropped out of the GOP presidential race.  He endorsed Newt Gingrich.  So did Sarah Palin. Ex-candidate Herman Cain, however, endorsed “the people.

Gingrich’s former wife is saying that he wanted “an open marriage” even as he was making speeches about family values.

Meanwhile, Rick Santorum won the Iowa caucuses.  A miscount had given the victory to Mitt Romney, but it turns out that Santorum actually had 34 more votes.

So where does all of this leave us?  If enough candidates drop out, might voters coalesce around someone other than Romney?  If so, who?  Ron Paul is, of course, a major alternative.

Who do you think would be better–or worse–Gingrich or Santorum?

Anti-business Republicans

The line of attack on Romney from the rest of the Republican field (except for Ron Paul) is that he is a capitalist!  He made profits!  He fired people!  In other words, the ostensibly conservative candidates are attacking him from the left, sounding like Occupy Wall Streeters or, at least, Democrats.  National Review is indignant:

Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, and Jon Huntsman seem to be engaged in a perverse contest to be the Republican presidential candidate to say the most asinine thing about Mitt Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital, the private-equity firm at which he served as chief executive, helped turn around a number of failing businesses, and, in the process, produced magnificent profits for his investors and for himself. Mitt Romney ran a firm that invested in struggling businesses, made money, and never asked for a bailout — and Romney’s rivals apparently expect Republican voters to regard that as a liability. . . .

As you can imagine, companies that are buyout targets often are in very poor shape, and reviving them is no small thing. Many of them go into bankruptcy. Product lines are discontinued, retail locations are closed, assets are sold off, and, almost inevitably, jobs are lost. Some never recover. When the restructuring is successful, reinvigorated firms expand, add locations, develop new products, and create jobs. That is the creative destruction of capitalism. Staples has 2,000 stores instead of one store because of a Bain investment. And, as Herman Cain is well-positioned to appreciate, Burger King was severely underperforming when Bain and a group of franchise owners acquired it from corporate parent Diageo in 2002. The restructured burger chain, which went public a few years back, is now valued at more than $3 billion. Household names from Dunkin’ Donuts to Guitar Center have been among Bain’s projects.

Bain’s business is high-risk and high-reward. Romney made a pot of money — by investing in real businesses, which, it bears noting, employ many thousands of real Americans. Governor Perry likes to brag about the jobs created in Texas during his tenure: Perhaps he should subtract from that admirable sum those positions at companies in which Bain invested, for the sake of his intellectual integrity.

Romney also is being roasted for saying that one of the things he prefers about the private sector is that when it comes to the incompetent or the unsatisfactory, “if you don’t like what they do, you can fire them. I like being able to fire people who provide services to me.” Choice — including the choice to fire a non-performing employee, or to fire your bank if you prefer another one — is the essence of the free market. In education, health care, and any number of other spheres of American life, more choice desperately is needed. An education system in which incompetent teachers could be routinely fired would be a real improvement over the current regime of tenure and “rubber rooms” — and Romney has nothing for which to apologize in connection with that remark, nor for taking on the thankless task of explaining the goodness of profits to an Occupy Wall Street heckler. Huntsman mocked Romney for the remark — but whoever the next president of the United States is, he should be provided with a very long list of people in the federal bureaucracies who need firing. If Huntsman does not have one, he has not thought hard enough about the issue.

Wall Street has its share of miscreants, and they should be recognized as such when appropriate. But to abominate Mitt Romney for having been a success at the business of investing in struggling American companies, connecting entrepreneurs with capital and producers with markets, is foolish and destructive. Republicans ought to know better, and the fact that Gingrich et al. apparently do not is the most disturbing commentary on the state of the primary field so far.

via Romney’s Profitable Past – The Editors – National Review Online.

Now there are kinds of conservatism that are, in fact, critical of the untrammeled marketplace, the kind that reduces all values to economic value and that destroys tradition and culture in favor of an uncritical consumerism.  But I think what we are seeing from Newt and company is not Burkeanism but demagoguery.

Also, in the reactions to this rhetoric, I think I am seeing the conservative establishment (Rush Limbaugh, National Review, etc.) finding an excuse to rally behind Romney.

UPDATE:  Newt Gingrich apparently recants this line of attack against Romney.

UPDATE:  Newt now recants his recantation.

The Captain Ahab of the primaries

Charles Krauthammer takes the prize for the best literary allusion in election analysis so far:

Gingrich is staying in. This should be good news for Romney. It’s not. In his Iowa non-concession speech, Gingrich was seething. He could not conceal his fury with Paul and Romney for burying him in negative ads. After singling out Santorum for praise, Gingrich launched into them both, most especially Romney.

Gingrich speaks of aligning himself with Santorum against Romney. For Newt’s campaign, this makes absolutely no strategic sense. Except that Gingrich is after vengeance, not victory. Ahab is loose in New Hampshire, stalking his great white Mitt.

via A worthy challenger – The Washington Post.

Newt wasn’t married after all!

Newt Gingrich is on his third marriage, but the Roman Catholic church, which does not believe in divorce, has granted him  at least one and maybe two annulments!  According to canon law,  annulled marriages were never marriages at all.  So if there was no marriage, there was no adultery, no divorces, and Newt is a once-married paragon of family values.

From the New York Times:

In 1980, Mr. Gingrich left his wife of nearly 20 years, the former Jackie Battley, for Marianne Ginther, with whom he was having an affair. In 1981, Mr. Gingrich married Ms. Ginther, but he later left her for Callista Bisek, with whom he had been having an affair for several years. They married in 2000.

The third Ms. Gingrich is a Catholic, and in 2002, Mr. Gingrich asked the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta to annul his second marriage on the ground that the former Ms. Ginther had been previously married. “We were married 19 years, and now he wants to say it didn’t exist,” she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

In 2009, Mr. Gingrich converted to Catholicism. It is not clear if he ever tried to have annulled his first marriage, which, if between two baptized Christians, would be considered valid by the Catholic Church. Mr. Gingrich’s spokesman, R. C. Hammond, could not be reached by telephone and did not reply to e-mails.

OK, so we don’t know if Newt got an annulment for the first marriage, but apparently he is a communicant member of the church, which must be satisfied with his status.  Here is a Catholic take on the question:

To the fact that Gingrich has re-married twice, as part of his coming into the church he went through the annulment process and as a result of those findings is validly married in the eyes of the church. This may not impress those who do not like or understand the church’s annulment process, but it does give Catholics who wish to forgive Gingrich his previous infidelities some evidence that he has attempted to make right. Catholics, as often as they encounter scandal and disappointment in their elected leaders, want to hope that forgiveness and conversion is possible, too.

via The Catholic Case For Gingrich, For Now.

How a valid, legal, consummated marriage that lasted nearly two decades–with children, who thus must be considered illegitimate–can be annulled by the church staggers the mind and the moral imagination.  Surely that practice is worse than divorce, bad as that is, since divorce at least faces up to what the breaking of a marriage is and does not cover it up with a pious facade.  (In effect, annulments are divorces granted by the church, even as it (commendably) teaches against divorce!  Protestant churches may be too tolerant of divorces, but at least they don’t grant them!)

This is not a matter of simply undoing church actions.  The Gingriches were not Catholic at the time of their marriage.  I have heard that annulment simply recognizes that a marriage was not valid.  In this case because the previous Mrs. Gingrich had been married before.  But other reasons for annulment include such things as immaturity at the time of the marriage or the two not knowing what they were getting into so as to prevent proper consent.   So what I want to know is how any of us can know if we are really married.   I could go on and on citing other problems with this, but I’ll stop.  This just seems like ecclesiastical over-reaching of the sort that necessitated the Reformation.

Maybe I’m missing something.  I’d be glad to hear from a Catholic who could justify this practice.