Sunday, December 11, 2011
Does watching a mean dog get tortured count as wholesome entertainment?
I don't have my TV hooked up to cable or an antenna, so I only hear about the GOP debates after the fact. From what I understand, they are getting ratings that would do reality TV shows proud. After all, if it's fun to watch stupid young women make bad life choices, it might be fun (if less sexy) to watch middle aged (and older) men do the same thing.
And, oh yeah, they have one woman in the crowd and she's batshit crazy. Every reality show needs its own Nene Leakes or Amber Portwood.
If you have paid even the smallest amount of attention, you know the primaries are boiling down to Mitt Romney vs. PleaseDearGodNotMittRomney. Several people in the second category had their moments in the sun - Donald Trump, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain - but all of them were weighed in the balance and found wanting. Now the top ranked PleaseDearGodNotMittRomney is Newt Gingrich.
Why wasn't he first in line? He has more experience and knowledge than Trump, Bachmann, Perry and Cain combined.
For the truly grumpy wing of the Republican party, that is almost his biggest flaw.
His other big flaw for the ideologically pure is what he has done since he left office. He lobbied for Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, which for many conservatives replaced the Soviet Union as the Evil Empire. He made a mint lobbying for health care reform. He supported government action to combat climate change.
As George Will has put it, he is the perfect rental politician.
Will is not the only conservative voice speaking against Gingrich. Will is "old establishment", but Gingrich also has an enemy in Glenn Beck, a frothing ideologue who wants purity above all. (Beck loves Rick Santorum, comparing him to George Washington, an analogy that completely escapes me.) Among other conservative voices speaking against him are Ann Coulter and Karl Rove.
Newt has a real talent for making enemies.
He does have two large allies, Rush Limbaugh and Fox News. Limbaugh has made it clear he doesn't accept Romney as a conservative, so he has to pick someone from the rest of the kennel, and Newt is the one with the least fleas. Fox News is more fickle, and if the tide turns against Newt they might well throw him under the bus, even though he worked for them earlier this year. (Sarah Palin still works for them, but she is mocked by other on-air Fox News personalities with impunity now.)
In many ways, conservative "ideology" is a list of people and things you have to hate. It could be said that conservatives love Israel, but that morphs into hating Palestinians very easily. On this point Gingrich is scoring points. As a new convert to Catholicism, Gingrich hates abortion enough, but it is unclear whether the red meat wing of the party will believe he hates immigrants (both legal and illegal), global warming and Washington deal-making with sufficient fervor.
So far, the four previous PleaseDearGodNotMittRomneys had their rises and falls and the established wisdom is that each lasts about six weeks. If that holds, Gingrich has an advantage. His six weeks coincide with the start of the primary season and actual delegates being distributed. Wins in early primaries and caucuses could give him momentum that will make his front runner status last longer, perhaps even become permanent.
I mentioned two Gingrich allies, Limbaugh and Fox News, but I forgot to mention another non-conservative, Bill Clinton. He has kind words for his former competitor and sometimes collaborator. There is talk that there is bad blood between Clinton and Obama, but I think this is just Clinton going back to his Southern roots, not to support a fellow white Southerner, but instead to invoke a Brer Rabbitt moment, begging the Republicans not to throw his party into the briar patch.
In the general election, Newt Gingrich, mean, petty, condescending, vain, venal with a history of unfaithfulness, both personal and political, will get sliced up worse than John McCain did. Currently, the polls put him slightly ahead right now in Georgia against Obama. If he's nominated, I'm convinced he will be an underdog to win his home state next November and take a hammering that throws his already shattered party into even greater turmoil.