05.20.2011 1

Newt Gingrich—An Inevitable Unraveling

By Howard Rich – The unspooling of former U.S. Speaker Newt Gingrich’s presidential ambitions came fast and furious this week in the wake of his assault on U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget proposals. After previously offering his support for the Ryan plan — which aims to cut $6.2 trillion worth of deficit spending over the coming decade — Gingrich flip-flopped this week and said the proposal represented too much of a “radical change” for him.

“I don’t think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering,” he said during a now infamous interview on Meet the Press.

Those comments sparked a full-fledged uproar — not only among Republican voters who support the Ryan plan, but also among fiscal conservatives who know the Ryan plan doesn’t do enough to address entitlement spending, the root of our nation’s fiscal implosion.

“You’re an embarrassment to our party,” one angry Iowa GOP voter told Gingrich bluntly, urging him to drop out of the presidential race “before you make a bigger fool of yourself.”

So much for the goodwill Gingrich was hoping to earn in the Hawkeye state by pandering on ethanol subsidies. Meanwhile in early-voting South Carolina, U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint said he was “dismayed” by Gingrich’s remarks.

Every bit as illuminating as Gingrich’s gaffe, however, has been the dishonesty he has displayed in attempting to distance himself from his own words. In one of several damage control interviews aimed at mitigating his mushrooming disaster, Gingrich at first tried to deny that he had even criticized Ryan’s plan. Then he suggested he was merely trying to help Ryan “improve” his ideas (ostensibly by pushing them closer to the political “center”).

That’s the problem with Gingrich. It’s not just that he’s a fiscal liberal who is desperate to be accepted by Washington’s special interest elite — he’s also a fundamentally dishonest person who will say anything to try and dig himself out of a hole.

Let’s not forget, this is the same politician who cozied up to Nancy Pelosi and her radical environmental agenda. He’s also the same politician who derisively referred to the Tea Party as the “militant wing of the Republican Party” — while refusing to defend Tea Party leaders against unfounded attacks from the NAACP. And let’s not forget Gingrich’s wholesale betrayal of the 1994 “Republican Revolution,” an ideological retreat from which this nation’s taxpayers have never recovered

Then, as now, dishonesty resided at the very core of his being.

“Our leaders believed breaking our promise in the Contract with America and increasing committee spending was a better way to keep us in power than keeping our word,” wrote then-U.S. Rep. Tom Coburn in his 2003 book, Breach of Trust.

Clearly Gingrich has never believed in limiting the growth of government. Nor does he believe in the primacy of the free market. To him these are rhetorical devices, not bedrock principles.

No wonder he endorsed Dede Scozzafava, the union-backing, stimulus-supporting “Republican” who later dropped out of a key New York Congressional race and campaigned against Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman – who was narrowly defeated by the Democratic nominee.

Predictably the uproar over Gingrich’s most recent comments has him engaging in revisionist history on other fronts. For example, Gingrich has been forced to explain why he supported an individual mandate for health care coverage in 1993 — a mandate he has since decried as “unconstitutional” and labeled a “terrible idea.” To hear Gingrich tell it, supporting an individual mandate was the “conservative position” in 1993, when then-First Lady Hillary Clinton was pushing her version of socialized medicine.

This statement is patently false. The “conservative position” on individual mandates hasn’t changed — they were, are and will always be unconstitutional infringements on American liberty. As a self-proclaimed constitutional scholar, Gingrich undoubtedly knows this — and yet he’s still trying to talk his way out of the hole.

The closer one looks at the disastrous first week of Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign, the more one realizes that this ongoing implosion was inevitable.

“One may smile, and smile and be a villain,” William Shakespeare wrote, but in Gingrich’s case it appears as though the mask of his faux conservatism has come crashing loudly to the floor.

The author is chairman of Americans for Limited Government.

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