[Posted by Karl]
Matt Lewis, explaining why (some) GOP voters prefer Newt Gingrich to Mitt Romney, makes a number of good points, but he may be misinterpreting the latest from Charles Krauthammer in the process:
As Krauthammer notes,
Gingrich’s apostasies are seen as deviations from his conservative core — while Romney’s flip-flops are seen as deviations from . . . nothing. Romney has no signature achievement, legislation or manifesto that identifies him as a core conservative.
That is well put, and I don’t recall anyone else having made the point as eloquently.
Krauthammer also concludes his column by noting: “Every conservative has thus to ask himself two questions: Who is more likely to prevent that second term? And who, if elected, is less likely to unpleasantly surprise?”
That last sentence is the reason Gingrich has a chance.
I’m not sure Dr. K would agree, as Lewis leaves out this part of the column:
Gingrich has his own vulnerabilities. The first is often overlooked because it is characterological rather than ideological: his own unreliability. Gingrich has a self-regard so immense that it rivals Obama’s — but, unlike Obama’s, is untamed by self-discipline.
Take that ad Gingrich did with Nancy Pelosi on global warming advocating urgent government action. He laughs it off today with “that is probably the dumbest single thing I’ve done in recent years. It is inexplicable.”
This will not do. He was obviously thinking something. What was it? Thinking of himself as a grand world-historical figure, attuned to the latest intellectual trend (preferably one with a tinge of futurism and science, like global warming), demonstrating his own incomparable depth and farsightedness. Made even more profound and fundamental — his favorite adjectives — if done in collaboration with a Nancy Pelosi, Patrick Kennedy, or even Al Sharpton, offering yet more evidence of transcendent, trans-partisan uniqueness.
Gingrich has always had a revolutionary bent that makes him — to use some Newt-onian terms — profoundly, fundamentally un-conservative, which is why he has had a near-Romneyesque run of flip-flops. Yet aside from Krauthammer, it’s been mostly lefty pundits noticing the difference in the quality of those flip flops. For example, as Jonathan Bernstein puts it:
[I]f you’re a mainstream conservative and wind up with Romney as president, you know that he’ll betray you sometimes, but — to the extent this is true — it will be a careful, thought-out, purposeful betrayal. That means a lot of things. It means the betrayal may be one in which you would agree, if you knew what Romney knew about the situation; it may be one in which organized opposition could prevent the betrayal, because overcoming that opposition would have to factor into the situation; or, at worst, it would be a betrayal that was designed to keep a Republican (that is, Romney) in the White House. Hey, it’s still a betrayal — and you have to figure going in that Romney doesn’t actually believe the stuff you believe. But it’s somewhat manageable. It’s not unlike the Reagan betrayals, or on the other side the Obama betrayals.
Newt? You’ll be betrayed by him, too. *** The problem is that his betrayals will be, essentially, random and personal. *** It’s not so much that Gingrich has taken the wrong position (from a conservative point of view) on various things; it’s the way he comes to it, which appears to be entirely personal and idiosyncratic. I’m not just saying that he has nothing in common with Burkean conservativism ***, but that there’s no consistency or predictability at all. Or, rather, the only consistency is that he completely wants to redo and remake and tear out everything and start all over again, although what he wants to remake and how it should be remade vary from week to week, or even hour to hour.
For that matter, post-Speakership, what Newt wants to remake and how may bear a resemblance to the business interests of the companies funding his various think tanks. GOP voters may weigh all of that and nevertheless conclude that Gingrich is preferable to Romney. But they ought to weigh all of it.