The Freak Show: Oh No… Not Newt Again!

The latest Republican polls show the ‘80s retread Newt Gingrich leading the way. For some reason the Republicans just don’t want to reconcile themselves to the fact that their most electable candidate is Mitt Romney, and the most competent is Jon Huntsman. They keep looking for someone else. With the rise and fall of candidates such as Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry and now Herman Cain, we have finally come to the old veteran, Newt Gingrich.

My first recollection of Gingrich was when he was in the House of Representatives and he was attributed with stating that he hoped the economy didn’t improve too much at the time because it would hurt the Republican’s election chances. That was my first exposure to the fact that he was more interested in bringing the Republicans to power than in what was best for the country. I was under the humorous perception that our leaders were more interested in helping people out of work or struggling to make ends meet and improving the lives of Americans, than their own personal goals.

Gingrich has been one of the most partisan politicians to ever serve in Congress. He has blatantly put party over country numerous times. But even if that doesn’t bother you, there are so many blemishes on his record, both personal and political, that to even consider him a serious potential President boggles the mind.

This is a guy that was once censured by the House of Representatives. The House voted, overwhelmingly and by members of both parties, to discipline him for ethical wrongdoing. He was charged with improperly using tax-deductible charitable donations, and then of giving false information about this to the House Ethics Committee. The House ordered Gingrich to pay a $300,000 penalty as part of a settlement.

Interestingly, he was a leader in the effort to impeach President Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky case because he was caught having an extra-marital affair himself. He responds by saying it wasn’t about the sex, it was about Clinton making false statements… please see the above paragraph.

In addition to his seeming double standard of having an affair while trying to impeach Clinton based on an affair, one of Gingrich’s main themes is that liberalism, or as he calls it, “secular socialism,” is to blame for the demise of the family. This from a man who has gone through two divorces after he was caught having affairs.

People fault Mitt Romney for flip-flopping on some of his positions. No one seems to mention that Gingrich has done a few 180-degree turns of his own. He was an advocate of “cap and trade” laws as recently as 2007 in order to alleviate concerns about pollution and climate change. But since that view is at odds with the far right, his position is now the exact opposite.

He also seems to have backtracked on the Food Stamp program. He regularly blasts the Democrats as the “party of food stamps,” yet in 2002 he voted with President Bush to expand the program.

Perhaps the most egregious thing he has done came to light recently, when it was discovered he’s been paid millions by government mortgage programs Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. He was apparently a “historian” for them. Since he was not registered as a lobbyist, he couldn’t use his influence to try and sway votes, but he could, as he claims, “educate” people in positions of power on what they needed.

Obviously he’s a man of great expertise, since another area he has worked extensively in is health care. One of his companies is a for-profit health care firm called the “Center for Health Transformation,” which serves approximately 94 health industry corporations and lobby groups. Despite many meetings with Republican lawmakers to shape health care legislation into a form that will favor the companies he is being paid by, he again states he’s not a “lobbyist” for them, but simply an educator.

His desire for moving his party ahead seems to know no bounds. During a book tour, Gingrich once told an audience in a speech that was televised on C-SPAN that the Bush administration was very successful at intercepting terrorists. But since they had not gotten credit for it, perhaps they should have “allowed an attach to get through” to remind Americans about the danger of terrorism. Nothing like letting a few innocent people be killed if it meant some good PR for the party.

Gingrich certainly doesn’t pull any punches. He has commented on the massacres at Columbine and Virginia Tech by trying to make political points out of them. He blamed what he called “the liberal academic elite, the liberal political elite” saying liberalism is responsible for the “dehumanization” that led to the killings.

From a policy standpoint, Gingrich seems to have learned nothing from history. The financial meltdown we’ve gone through is a result of the massive deregulation that was formulated during the Reagan years, and continued through the Clinton years, much of it developed with the efforts of Gingrich in Congress.

The Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999 did away with restrictions on the integration of banking, insurance and stock trading imposed by the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, which was one of the central parts of Roosevelt’s New Deal in the wake of the Great Depression. Under the old law, banks, brokerages and insurance companies were all separate entities, and not allowed to do what the others did. The new law led to the creation of mega-banks like Citigroup and JP Morgan Chase, who gambled on risky schemes that promised big profits, all the while knowing the government wouldn’t let them fail.

Gingrich’s response? He has admitted it was “probably a mistake.” Yet he is fighting to repeal what little reforms Congress has put back in place after the recent market collapse.

What are the Republicans thinking? Newt Gingrich as President? No way!