In Defense Of Newt Gingrich...

…who I do think is wrong where NY-23 is concerned, he does make an argument that is defensible on certain levels.

Gingrich, on Greta Van Susteren’s show tonight, said several things defending his endorsement of Dede Scozzafava in that race.

First, Gingrich does make a point that the local GOP’s choice of Scozzafava over Doug Hoffman and others was a LOCAL choice. And while that choice indicates that local Republican hacks in upstate New York are probably less worthy of Republican hacks inside the Beltway, it is, sadly, a valid argument to say that if you’re sick and tired of top-down leadership of the party from Washington and it’s going to require listening to local folks to fix things, you can’t then turn around and invalidate local choices because you don’t like the outcome.

I don’t like what he’s saying there, but I will at least admit that he has a point.

Gingrich also alleges that Hoffman doesn’t live in the district and has little financial support within it. I can’t speak to the first allegation and I’m not impressed with the second, given that most of Scozzafava’s local support comes from people who are habitual Republican donors and Hoffman couldn’t really be asked to match that institutional advantage.

There are several lessons to be drawn from this. First, Newt is clearly attempting to position himself with the Powers That Be within the GOP for some future role – whether that’s running for president in 2012 or to take over for Michael Steele as the RNC chair when Steele is put to pasture at some future time. Gingrich’s high negatives among leftists and moderates are seen as a major problem for him to achieve some official role on a national stage; he’s obviously trying to ameliorate that problem. Taking a stand on behalf of a “moderate” (which is an extremely forgiving description of Scozzafava) Republican, particularly one who is female and from the Blue-State Northeast, is a juicy gambit for him to embark on as a repositioning effort. It’s also an opportunity for Gingrich to prove his fealty and trustworthiness within the party elite after several years of running what essentially amounts to a parallel political organization – backing Scozzafava is an attempt to “come back into the fold” and thus garner support with a constituency that has never been friendly to him.

In other words, Gingrich had a choice between being a conservative and being a Republican, and he chose the latter. He chose it because he thinks there aren’t enough conservatives to win a majority in the House, Senate or Electoral College, which based on current polling (America is 40 percent conservative, 36 percent moderate and 20 percent “liberal”) and previous electoral history is a dubious stance. And he also may have chosen it because he sees a political advantage for himself. Gingrich is a politician pursuing office, after all, and such people cannot be trusted to stand on principle at all times.

I’ve been a Gingrich fan, though to be that as a conservative is to subject yourself to frequent disappointment. He’s a flawed individual who lacks the charisma a Reagan could use to bend the nation to his vision – and knows it. As such, Gingrich is prone to making compromises on disadvantageous terms with enemies of conservatism – in pursuit of greater good, without doubt, but with lackluster results.

Gingrich isn’t alone in his missteps. He has a tremendous talent for formulating and articulating an agenda, but tactically he’s weak. Most political leaders lack even those skills. But despite the assets he brings to the table, Newt doesn’t have the moxie to fulfill his ambitions and we’re seeing that now. He might be attempting to help unify the Republican Party with his involvement in NY-23, but he’s having the opposite effect – to his personal detriment.

Still, Newt has value. As conservatives, we must use him when he can be useful – and ignore him when he chooses unwisely.