It says a lot about the state of the Republican party when the two front runners for the presidential nomination are Mitt Romney, a stiff mannequin, who belongs to a strange religious sect, and the deeply-flawed Newt Gingrich. It's a toss up to determine which of these candidates is hated the most. I think Gingrich has the edge, because while party insiders are not excited about Mitt Romney, at least they don't loathe him they way do Gingrich.
Newt is a headscratching candidate and it is more than surprising that he has risen Phoenix-like out of almost a dead campaign. But I don't buy him as a serious presidential candidate. And although some Republican insiders speak of him in glowing tones, is there anyone outside the GOP who is excited about Newt?
Sure Newt is a good orator, who knows how to get Republican crowds riled up with buzz words like calling President Barack Obama, a "food stamp president," but the president is also a sharp debater who could easily go toe-to-toe with Newt. (By the way, that dubious claim is inaccurate. According to figures provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service, food stamp requests decreased from 14.7 million under Bush to 14.2 million under Obama.)
But the thing is, I doubt if Newt will ever face Obama in a presidential debate. He has way too much baggage.
Here are a few of the major chinks in Newt's armor.
- He has a messy personal life. Gingrich married his first wife, Jackie, who was also his high school teacher, in 1962. He later reportedly asked her to sign divorce papers after she was recovering from a hysterectomy. He married Marianne, wife no. 2, who he took up with while still married to wife no. 1. Newt later divorced her when she was suffering from multiple sclerosis. His current wife, Callista, is about the same age as his daughters from his first marriage. Callista, a devout Catholic, began a long-term adulterous affair with Newt when he was still married to wife no. 2. Got that? Newt claims that now he has converted to Catholicism, God has forgiven him for his past sins. Well the Bible says we should forgive, but people don't forget. Ironically as much as Newt rails against Europe, the Europeans are much more tolerant of politicians and their affairs than puritanical Americans. I seriously doubt that American women will ever accept a first lady who cheated with a married man, old enough to be her father for eight years. And there is that whole thing about his second wife claiming he asked to have an open relationship. It also doesn't help that Gingrich has made a big deal about the decline of family values in his speeches, which is not surprising, because he is an expert on this issue!
- His professional life is equally messy. Americans are renowned for their short memories, but it was not long ago when Newt was hounded out of Washington, D.C. by his own party who were upset that his impeachment of President Bill Clinton failed. By the way, Newt was impeaching Clinton while he was fornicating with good Catholic girl Callista. Newt was also hit with a $300,000 ethics fine while he was speaker of the House. Former Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi says there is enough material in the ethics report to sink Newt's presidential ambitions permantley.
- He is a race baiter. Newt is not only a son of the South, but he is also a master propagandist who understand how to drop in code words guaranteed to appeal to disgruntled working class whites, who are willing to blame their economic problems on blacks and Latinos leeching off the system. His use of the code word "food stamp president," was deliberate. It apes the methods of his idol Ronald Reagan, who conjured up the image of the "Cadillac-driving welfare queen," who was living off the sweat of all tax-paying white folks. Newt grew up in the South, and he knows exactly what to say to get working class Americans to vote against their interests.
- His own party doesn't like him. Newt is a deeply divisive figure. His ascent to speaker, marked a transition in Washington, D.C. Out went the old clubby attitude, when Democrats and Republicans shared a drink at the end of the day, and in came Newt's slash and burn tactics in which he likened politics to warfare. Right now, the Republican establishment is terrified of Candidate Gingrich, because they remember the wreckage of his last spell in power. Former senator and presidential candidate Bob Dole recently said "Hardly anyone who served with Newt in Congress has endorsed him and that fact speaks for itself," and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said, "I think Newt Gingrich has embarrassed the party over time."
Right now the Republican party is praying that Mitt Romney recaptures his mojo and wins the Florida primary. But even that leaves them with one candidate the party faithful is lukewarm about, and another candidate half the party can't stand. Is it any wonder that there are rumors that party insiders are still looking for a "big name candidate" to step into the race?