Allow me to wax nostalgic as I digest Newt Gingrich’s Twitter announcement that he’s in. Former Georgia Speaker Democrat Tom Murphy must be jumping for joy at the prospect of a Newt – Barack throw-down!
When Gingrich was first elected to Congress in 1978, a gallon of gas was $.68 (that’s 68 cents!), the Federal Debt was $777 Billion and inflation was more than 12%. Yea, Jimmy Carter was president. Queen’s We Are the Champions was the top song, Laverne and Shirley was our top TV show and Grease was the top Box Office flick. Terry Bradshaw and the Steelers won Superbowl Thirteen.
Let’s fast forward to 1994 when Gingrich and others pushed the successful Contract With America which propelled the House Republicans to gain 54 seats and become the majority party in the House for the first time since 1954 – 40 years. And one of the things Gingrich promised to do was balance the Federal Budget. To quote Herman Cain, how’s that working out for ya’?
In 1994, the Federal Debt was $4.6 Trillion, gas was $1.11 per gallon and inflation was a paltry 2.7% (Thanks Ronnie!). In 1994, Here Comes the Hotstepper by Ini Kamoze topped the Billboard Charts, Seinfeld was the TV buzz and Forrest Gump was lighting up the big screen with the wisdom of the day. Steve Young led the 49ers to victory in Superbowl 29.
And Newt Gingrich landed on top of the House heap to become the Speaker.
Four years later when Gingrich hung his head in resignation as the Republican Revolution ended with a whimper, the National Debt stood at $5.8 Trillion. So much for fiscal responsibility!
While there was some good that came out of the Gingrich years as Speaker, the damage done by the Check Kiting scandal – which saw quite a few bounced checks (covered by taxpayers) written by Democrats and Republicans alike, Newt was involved. In another matter, Newt agreed to an ethics violation charge – even though it was pretty bogus. (Democrats charged Newt with 84 ethics violations, and only one gained traction).
So fast forward to 2012 when we see a Republican who is a narcissistic, know it all, professorial windbag who thinks he is smarter and better than the rest of the country potentially face off against a Democratic who is a narcissistic, know it all, professorial windbag who thinks he is smarter and better than the rest of the country and you have a glimpse of a possible Gingrich vs. Obama contest.
There is a lot to like about Gingrich, don’t get me wrong. He would be far better for America than the Community Organizer in Chief we now have. It is impossible to think of anyone much worse than Obama. Well, there is Pelosi and Reid. But they would probably be equally as bad as Obama.
And Gingrich would make as fine a candidate as Republicans seem to be able to proffer. Images of Bob Dole, Bush I and II and John McCain immediately spring to mind. Fortunately for Republicans the Democrats had worse duds as they ran Michael Dukakis, their own version of Bob Dole, against Bush I. And they ran a plastic and cardboard Al Gore against a slightly less hapless Bush II and then tossed in a Dole-McCain hybrid named John Kerry against Bush II redux.
So, what have we learned since the Gipper? (That’s Ronald Reagan for you recent Ivy League grads.)
We have learned that if you run an old, mealy-mouthed, bumbling orator like George H.W. Bush against an articulate, photogenic, and dare I say sexy Democrat like Bill Clinton, don’t expect to win that election.
Next we learned that if you run an old, mealy-mouthed, bumbling orator like Bob Dole against a still articulate, photogenic, and dare I say sexy Democrat like Bill Clinton, don’t expect to win that election either.
Four years later, it was time for the Democrats to try out a new pony.
We learned that if you run a not too terribly old, mealy-mouthed, bumbling orator like Al Gore – completely devoid of emotion and personality against a not too terribly old, even more mealy-mouthed-than-his-father bumbling orator like George Bush II who actually had a smattering of personality, the Democrats come up just short.
After reloading with even more stale ammunition, the Democrats fired again.
And we learned that if you run an old, mealy-mouthed, bumbling orator like John Kerry who also lied about his military service against a still not too terribly old, even more mealy-mouthed-than-his-father bumbling orator like George Bush II who actually had a smattering of personality, the Democrats come up just short. Again.
And then it was the Republicans turn.
In 2008, they ran an old, mealy-mouthed, bumbling orator like John McCain who is a two faced Liberal against an articulate, photogenic, and dare I say sexy Democrat like Barack Obama, the Republicans can expect to come in second.
So, what has America been looking for in new presidents lately?
Experience? An Heir Apparent? Someone that has paid their dues? Someone who has earned the “right”?
Well, if you look to the ones that fit that mold you would be talking about Mondale, Dole, Gore, Kerry and McCain.
So, what attributes have been successful?
While Bush I was an insider, to be sure, the powerful coattails of Ronald Reagan would have been enough (even if the Democrats had fielded a candidate that was not named Dukakis).
Clinton was a charming, likable, and articulate outsider running against a crotchety old man (Bush I). Twice (Dole).
Bush II was a charming and likable outsider running against a crotchety man of about the same age (Gore). Twice (Kerry).
Obama was a charming and likable outsider running against a crotchety old man – McCain. And if Gingrich were to win the nomination, this would be Obama’s obligatory second crotchety old man running against him.
Why would we expect any different results?
Now the economy is the wild card here, no doubt. The dynamic is not unlike 1980 when Jimmy Carter couldn’t manage to do anything right. And Obama has followed the same path. That year, the Republicans ran an outsider who was likable, sharp and confident. Ronald Reagan. Now we all know there will never be another Reagan. But if the Republicans are serious about wresting the White House out of the Democrats hands, they will need to find someone who is likable, articulate and an outsider. Ronald Reagan made people want to pick up and follow him. He offered a clear vision and an out front “follow me” style of leadership. And he followed through on his promises. Obama borrowed the same “follow me” and “yes we can” mantra, but it is clear that, no, he can’t. This time, voters will be wary of any candidate promising “yes we can” platitudes.
Newt Gingrich comes across as arrogant and caustic. He does not inspire people to follow him. America does not want another “Professor” President, they want a true leader.
Republicans know what the Democrats have. A clean, articulate, charming teleprompter reader who will be well programmed by his handlers. As we know from 2008, Obama is in his element memorizing bumper sticker one liners and reading a speech someone else wrote. There is one new twist this time ’round. Obama has a record. And it is an abysmal one. A complete failure. Except for executing Osama Bin Laden.
Republicans must counter with a likable, articulate candidate that inspires people to follow. And he / she must look at least as young and vibrant as Barack Obama or voters are not going to have a compelling reason to vote for someone of less endearing qualities.
So who fits the bill on the Republican side as a vibrant, articulate, charming, photogenic and inspiring outsider? Bonus points for charismatic!
Well, it ain’t Newt!
In fact, there is a whole herd of “aint’s” wanting to lose to Obama.