Gingrich criticism of Romney unfair

December 15, 2011


Newt Gingrich — the friend of his detractors, to whom he offers serial vindications — provided on Monday redundant evidence for the proposition that he is the least conservative candidate seeking the Republican nomination. He faulted Mitt Romney for committing acts of capitalism.

Gingrich did so when goaded by Romney regarding his, Gingrich’s, self-described service as a “historian” for Freddie Mac, which paid him more handsomely than anyone paid Herodotus. Romney was asked by an interviewer about the $1.6 million Gingrich earned, or at any rate received, from Freddie Mac, the misbegotten government-backed mortgage giant. In the service of Washington’s bipartisan certitude that too few people owned houses, Freddie Mac helped produce the housing bubble and subsequent crash. It did so even though it paid Gingrich $30,000 an hour. That is about what he received if, as he says, he worked for Freddie Mac about an hour a month, telling it that what it was doing was “insane.”  

Anyway, Romney’s interviewer mischievously asked him if he thought Gingrich should “give that money back” to Freddie Mac. Romney said, “I sure do.” Soon thereafter, Gingrich, when asked about Romney’s cheeky judgment, replied: “I would just say that if Governor Romney would like to give back all the money he’s earned from bankrupting companies and laying off employees over his years at Bain, that I would be glad to listen to him.”

This departure from his pledge that his campaign “will be relentlessly positive” represents the virtue of recycling applied to politics. Gingrich is reusing the attack honed by Ted Kennedy in 1994, when Romney suffered a 17-point loss in attempting to take Kennedy’s Senate seat.

The Kennedy-Gingrich doctrine is this: What the economist Joseph Schumpeter called capitalism’s “creative destruction” is not really creative. Rather, it is lamentable and, when facilitated by capitalists, reprehensible. For Kennedy, this made sense: Reactionary liberalism holds that whatever is, from Social Security to farm subsidies to the Chrysler Corp., should forever be. But Gingrich is supposedly our infallible guide to the sunny uplands of a dynamic future.  

Gingrich has three verbal tics which, taken together — and they usually come in clumps — signal his depth and seriousness. Deploying his three F words, he announces his unique candor by prefacing this or that pronouncement with the word “frankly.” What he frankly says is that “fundamental” change is necessary for America. He knows this because he sees over the horizon, into a “future” requiring “transformational” (Gingrich’s self-description) leadership.

Romney, while at Bain Capital, performed the essential social function of connecting investment resources with opportunities. Firms like Bain are indispensable for wealth creation, which often involves taking over badly run companies, shedding dead weight and thereby liberating remaining elements that add value. The process, like surgery, can be lifesaving. And like surgery, society would rather benefit from it than watch it.

Romney surely anticipated that such an attack would come — but from Democrats, in the general election, not from a volatile Republican. He now understands Rep. Paul Ryan’s response when Gingrich attacked his entitlement reform as “right-wing social engineering.” Said Ryan: “With allies like that, who needs the left?”

Intra-party competitions are supposed to reveal candidates’ potential susceptibilities to attacks. Two unfair attacks against Romney concern his polish and his past. Four years ago, Mike Huckabee, targeting Romney without mentioning him, slyly said, “I want to be a president who reminds you of the guy you work with, not the guy who laid you off.” And there is a photograph of Romney that will eventually be seen far and wide (and can be seen at http://bit.ly/svv3Ho). It shows a young Romney and six Bain colleagues feeling their oats, with paper currency protruding from their dark suits. The young men are overflowing with what John Maynard Keynes called “animal spirits.”

We should welcome such spirits and should hope for political leadership that will hasten the day when American conditions are again receptive to them. Until then, economic dynamism will not return. We should not expect Gingrich to understand this until he understands that his work for Freddie Mac was not, as he laughably insists, in “the private sector.”  

He probably believes that. He seems to believe there is always some higher synthesis, inaccessible to lesser intellects, that makes all his contradictions disappear. One awaits the synthesizing of his multicity tour in 2009 with Barack Obama’s Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Al Sharpton promoting “a common education reform” of primary and secondary schools.  

Disclosure: This columnist’s wife, Mari Will, is an adviser to Rick Perry.

George Will is a columnist for the Washington Post Writers Group. His email address is georgewill@washpost.com.


cato_the_elder 3 years, 11 months ago

When is Will's wife going to wise up?

Romney-Rubio in 2012.

Getaroom 3 years, 11 months ago

George Will's criticism of Newt's criticism of Romney is all just sooooo critical! Gee, as if any of it makes any difference anyway.

Ask Octopus Paul!

Like I say, vote Weebles all the way!! They maybe a bit wobbly, but they never fall down and not inclined to use insider trading to get "a leg up"!

They never fall down.

mloburgio 3 years, 11 months ago

Gingrich proposed tax cuts would add at least $1.3 trillion to deficit

The tax plan proposed by Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich would add $1.3 trillion to the U.S. budget deficit in 2015 alone, a new analysis shows, complicating his goal of balancing the government’s books.

The analysis by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center compares the federal government’s take under Gingrich’s proposal with projected U.S. revenue if current tax law ran its course and existing income tax cuts expired as scheduled after 2012.

The study found that Gingrich’s plan to lower the top individual rate to 15 percent and eliminate taxes on capital gains and estates would push federal revenue for 2015 below the government’s fiscal 2011 collections as a share of the economy. Federal revenue is near postwar lows because of the economic downturn. http://www.americablog.com/2011/12/gingrich-proposed-tax-cuts-would-add-at.html

Fossick 3 years, 11 months ago

Good grief. This year's GOP primary is a choice between diarrhea, pyorrhea, and gonorrhea. And Ron Paul.

Jimo 3 years, 11 months ago

Waiting at the airport .... stuck watching the propaganda channel. Sigh.

Wow. Roger Ailes really, really hates Ron Paul, doesn't he? They even had to trot out that drag-queen fascist Giuliani to denounce him as "irrelevant."

Here's the candidate closest to Reagan and I am surprised at how fully Murdoch-vehicles like NYP and WSJ either ignore Paul or denounce him in terms usually reserved these days for Obama.

Who knew that Republican voters also are allergic to endless wars of aggression, right-wing social engineering, and bottom-less subsidies of corrupt corporations? I hope the Secret Service gets their guys into position around Paul quickly - there's a lot of teat-suckers at risk for being cut off from the public treasury.

(Trigger the "re-look" at Huntsman.)

jonas_opines 3 years, 11 months ago

"Firms like Bain are indispensable for wealth creation, which often involves taking over badly run companies, shedding dead weight and thereby liberating remaining elements that add value. The process, like surgery, can be lifesaving. And like surgery, society would rather benefit from it than watch it."

That's a really good description.

voevoda 3 years, 11 months ago

Ron Paul doesn't need Fox News to discredit him; he has already discredited himself. Just look back at his old newsletters, where he 1) denounced health and safety regulations as "morally...an abomination" (Feb. 1978); 2) called Congress' exercise of its Constitutional authority to levy taxes "the equivalent of a hoodlum robbing a citizen at the point of a gun" (May 1983); 3) opposed public schools because he is "pro-freedom" (1983); 4) called for a constitutional amendment to ban abortion, making no provision for the health of the woman because he "personally never came across a need even to entertain the thought of a therapeutic abortion for the health of the mother" (1983); 5) repeatedly published overtly racist material, including whitewashing slavery: "Before the Civil War, state laws in the south protected the slaves from physical abuse." They were to be fed, clothed, given medical care, and housed" (1982). If voters were familiar with Ron Paul's published positions, very few would want to acknowledge supporting him.

voevoda 3 years, 11 months ago

I took all of this directly from Ron Paul's own writings, Liberty_One. The quotations are his own words. Or are you claiming that he has significantly changed his positions from the ones he espoused earlier?

voevoda 3 years, 11 months ago

I see now, Liberty_One; you're one of the rare voters who actually agrees with Ron Paul on these things. The rest of us, though, will refuse to vote for someone who holds these positions.

beatrice 3 years, 11 months ago

Gringrich's return from the dead has all the zombies stirred up.

jafs 3 years, 11 months ago

Will's criticism of Gingrich's criticism of Romney is unfair.

jaywalker 3 years, 11 months ago

There's just no way Gingrich can get the nomination. He's wholly unlikable for too many reasons. That being said, my stomach churns at the thought of any of these candidates getting the nomination. Whether it's the tea party influence or something not quite defined to me as yet, the overall aura of Republican 'diplomacy' is sickening these days. At this point I'm wondering if the President is going to set a record for the weakest incumbent to win re-election by a landslide.

jonas_opines 3 years, 11 months ago

Posted this on facebook yesterday after reading some news:

"Why does it feel like 2003 when I read the news articles? Oh wait, it's because of a president who's first term in office has felt dreadful, the incessant litany that "Anybody But The President" is a viable and productive political strategy, and the ship-full of circus clown opportunists looking to be the one to poorly and ineffectively take him on. And Ron Paul."

Jimo 3 years, 11 months ago

Not sure how you define a "leading nation." (Who is even the #2 leading nation?)

But for sure - a vote to allow the 1% to finalize their one dollar-one vote strategy would certainly destroy democracy in America.

Will the average American continue to allow themselves to be distracted by lazy gay illegal Mexican-Muslims living off the record-high taxes imposed by elitist college professors, or will average Americans return to the pro-middle class policies of the Democratic-controlled Golden Era of America - 1940-80? The answer would be clearer is billionaires just had one voice in that debate just like everyone else.

billbodiggens 3 years, 11 months ago

Good grief, whether he was right or wrong, the guy (Will) writes a reasoned column to be answered with only with competing wise cracks, snide remarks and name calling. So much for the political process.

jonas_opines 3 years, 11 months ago

"Maybe if you post without a long period of agonizing"


weeslicket 3 years, 11 months ago

uh. did you just call yourself out on a call-out.

wow. just wow.

Stuart Evans 3 years, 11 months ago

we should criticize all of them. What a ridiculous group of people. Here's what Spiegel has to say about it "A Club of Liars, Demagogues and Ignoramuses"


weeslicket 3 years, 11 months ago

just wondering. did anyone REALLY find this editorial comprehensible?

i mean really. it just read like the decoupage* of a chimpanzee's tail painting.

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