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Opinion

Opinion

Gingrich, Romney pose unpalatable choice

December 3, 2011

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— It’s Iowa minus one month, and barring yet another resurrection, or something of similar improbability, it’s Mitt Romney versus Newt Gingrich. In a match race, here’s the scorecard:

Romney has managed to weather the debates unscathed. However, the brittleness he showed when confronted with the kind of informed follow-up questions that Bret Baier tossed his way Tuesday on Fox’s “Special Report” — the kind of scrutiny one doesn’t get in multiplayer debates — suggests that Romney may become increasingly vulnerable as the field narrows.

Moreover, Romney has profited from the temporary rise and spontaneous combustion of Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry and Herman Cain. It required no exertion on Romney’s part.

Enter Gingrich, the current vessel for anti-Romney forces — and likely the final one. Gingrich’s obvious weakness is a history of flip-flops, zigzags and mind changes even more extensive than Romney’s — on climate change, the health care mandate, cap-and-trade, Libya, the Ryan Medicare plan, etc.

The list is long. But what distinguishes Gingrich from Romney — and mitigates these heresies in the eyes of conservatives — is that he authored a historic conservative triumph: the 1994 Republican takeover of the House after 40 years of Democratic control.

Which means that 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.

So what is he? A center-right, classic Northeastern Republican who, over time, has adopted a specific, quite bold, thoroughly conservative platform. His entitlement reform, for example, is more courageous than that of any candidate, including Barack Obama. Nevertheless, the party base, ostentatiously pursuing serial suitors-of-the-month, considers him ideologically unreliable. Hence the current ardor for Gingrich.

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.

Two ideologically problematic finalists: One is a man of center-right temperament who has of late adopted a conservative agenda. The other, more conservative by nature, is possessed of an unbounded need for grand display that has already led him to unconservative places even he is at a loss to explain, and that as president would leave him in constant search of the out-of-box experience —  the confoundedly brilliant Nixon-to-China flipperoo regarding his fancy of the day, be it health care, taxes, energy, foreign policy, whatever.

The second, more obvious, Gingrich vulnerability is electability. Given his considerable service to the movement, many conservatives seem quite prepared to overlook his baggage, ideological and otherwise. This is understandable. But the independents and disaffected Democrats upon whom the general election will hinge will not be so forgiving.

They will find it harder to overlook the fact that the man who denounces Freddie Mac to the point of suggesting that those in Congress who aided and abetted it be imprisoned, took $30,000 a month from that very same parasitic federal creation. My own view is that Republicans would have been better served by the candidacies of Mitch Daniels, Paul Ryan or Chris Christie. Unfortunately, none is running. You play the hand you’re dealt. This is a weak Republican field with two significantly flawed front-runners contesting an immensely important election. If Obama wins, he will take the country to a place from which it will not be able to return (which is precisely his own objective for a second term).

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?

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.

Comments

fastwalker 2 years, 4 months ago

it is imperative that the GOP nominate Jon Huntsman. he is the only one in the field now capable of whipping obama in the debates and at the ballot. if jon huntsman isn't the next POTUS, we're all screwed.

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beatrice 2 years, 4 months ago

Amazingly, he doesn't ask the question every person should be asking, which is: Who would be better for the nation? Instead, it is all about party over country.

The idea that any social conservative would even consider voting for Gingrich is laughable. To sell out your core values for the sake of your party? I don't see it happening.

The Republicans will lose in 2012 simply because they aren't going to win by running as "Not Obama."

Of course, the key issue for our nation's future isn't really who is in the White House, but if we can get Congress to work together to help lower the deficit and pay down the debt. This will mean serious cuts along with some undesired, but likely necessary tax increases. It will take teamwork from both Republicans and Democrats, not just constant pandering to the party bases.

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ThePilgrim 2 years, 4 months ago

None of these candidates are presidential - including our current one.

Obama unfortunately can mop the floor with Romney or Gingrich. Gingrich has too many skeletons on the closet that it won't even need an October Surprise.

Having Romney as candidate would be terrifically amusing to see the Conservatives flip flop and embrace him, while gritting their teeth about his Mormonism.

One more thing - Obama needs to return his Nobel Peace Prize for his foolish acts in Libya. It is the only responsible thing to do. If humbly done right it could be a great PR gain.

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Armstrong 2 years, 4 months ago

I find myself typically in agreement with Mr K.This time he missed the mark however. I believe literally anything with a pulse is more palatable than Obama. $5 trillion in additional debt in 3 years. I think what Charles doesn't highlight is ( god forbid ) another 4 years for Obama we will cease to be the United States of America and simply known as " the debtor". as well as the laughingstock of the world. ( current title est .January 2009 )

IMHO, America has had enough of the spectator and chiefs Chicago style politics and is ready to move on.

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jayhawkinsf 2 years, 4 months ago

IMHO - The headline should read: "Gingrich, Romney, Obama pose unpalatable choice". Or, "Democrats and Republicans unable to nominate palatable choices". Or' "Two parties have forgotten how to work in America's best interests". Or how about this one' "Voters urged to vote for candidates who best reflect their ideas, even if they are members of third parties".

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 4 months ago

"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?"

He was thinking that global warming is the most significant threat the human race currently faces. But now he's running for the Republican nomination, and needing to appeal to its base of know-nothings. There's method to his madness, but it's still madness at its core.

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its_just_math 2 years, 4 months ago

"If Obama wins, he will take the country to a place from which it will not be able to return (which is precisely his own objective for a second term)."

Whatya mean "he will"? He already has. Just a second term will ice the cake for a finished US---at least finished as we've known it.

My wife and I see our future going down the drain and we are about to send our youngest off to college here in 8 mos. or so. We have seriously discussed being expats. This nation is nearing disastrous conditions as reward for letting the wrong people run this once great nation. We've become a laughing stock due to this joke of a president.

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jafs 2 years, 4 months ago

Just one point about the 1994 "takeover" by Republicans - if I recall correctly, that was due to Clinton's implementation of NAFTA and the unions subsequently voting Republican as they had pledged to do if he did that.

I wouldn't give Gingrich one bit of credit for that occurrence.

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Getaroom 2 years, 4 months ago

And as always Krauthammer is unpalatable, but he is correct about the two candidates.

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