Skip to comments.Newt and the Roosevelts (Gingrich's affection for both presidents shows his unpredictable side)
Posted on 12/20/2011 6:48:39 AM PST by SeekAndFind
Newt Gingrich took pains to wrap himself in the mantle of Ronald Reagan during last weeks Fox debate in Iowa. He reminded viewers that Reagan was once called not electable, just as he sometimes is. He went on to point out he had accomplished conservative goals as speaker in the 1990s, including welfare reform and a balanced budget. I am someone who campaigned with Reagan, he concluded.
But at the same time Newt tries to wrap himself in the Reagan mantle, he also exhibits another nostalgic tic that should give conservatives agita. Newt is an unabashed admirer of the Roosevelts Theodore and Franklin. Together those two presidents embodied the Progressive Era and the New Deal, developments which dramatically expanded Washingtons powers and radically changed the expectations Americans had of government.
Just last week, Newt made clear his desire to emulate the two men when he told Newsweek magazine that, in handling intractable problems such as poverty, were gonna experiment and experiment and experiment until we break through. When Newsweeks Peter Boyer dryly noted that this might not please the ear of a small-government conservative, Gingrich didnt flinch: It makes me, in some ways, like the two Roosevelts.
Such talk drives many conservatives to distraction. In early December, Larry Kudlow of CNBC confronted Newt with his constant invocations of Teddy Roosevelt by pointing out that the man bolted the GOP in 1912 to run as a third-party presidential candidate, wanted to raise taxes, and was an inveterate regulator and a government activist. Kudlow went so far as to bluntly ask: Are you actually the conservative candidate that so many people are hoping you are?
Gingrichs response was equivocal. Well, first of all, there are a lot of different Teddy Roosevelts. He was a very complicated man, he explained. The Theodore Roosevelt as president is very different than the Theodore Roosevelt in 1912 running for president on a very aggressive big-government strategy. . . . Here was a guy who, as a pragmatic person looked around and said, I want to fix these things. I want to find solutions. Hes also a great American nationalist.
But Newts admiration for Teddy pales before the deference he shows his cousin, FDR. In his 1995 book, To Renew America, Newt called Franklin Roosevelt probably the greatest president of the 20th Century. In subsequent speeches that can be found in the archives of C-SPAN, Gingrich sometimes dropped the probably. The irony is that the same man who has slammed Barack Obama for being a food-stamp president should be such a passionate admirer of FDR, who created the first federal food-stamp program in 1939. (The program was suspended during wartime in 1943, only to be revived by John F. Kennedy after he took office in 1961.)
Newts defenders point out that Ronald Reagan was also a great admirer of FDRs leadership and frequently praised him. Yes, but Reagan was an unabashed liberal during Roosevelts tenure and voted for him in four presidential elections. His nostalgia was formed through a personal bond with the wartime leader that never faded. And when it came time to hang a portrait of a former president in the White House, Reagan chose that great tax-cutter and Yankee conservative, Calvin Coolidge whom Roosevelt viewed with contempt and derision.
Somehow I dont see a President Gingrich hanging a portrait of Silent Cal in a place of honor. Its not that Newt Gingrich isnt a conservative. Its that he is, like Teddy Roosevelt, a very complicated man. For every conservative instinct Newt has, he also possesses a radical impulse for action and experimentation that is at its heart the instinct of liberals or even revolutionaries. Voters sizing up Newt would do well to consider both sides of his outsize personality the one that reverts back to Reaganism on many specific issues, along with the one that pines for the government dynamism of the Roosevelts.
John Fund is a conservative writer and columnist and author of a new edition of Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy.
It seems that almost every really good leader, even those we on the right like and admire, has at least one MAJOR position they are wrong on, be it immigration as the most common, but not only one.
Even Reagan was wrong on a few things.
The Leadership Factor
Roosevelt, according to [Ronald] Reagan, was a strong leader, one to emulate in certain respects. He had taken over the presidency during a time of unprecedented crisis and implemented a plan of action to bring the nation out of its doldrums. Reagan fondly recalled FDRs Fireside Chats, which were designed to give hope to the people. His strong, gentle, confident voice resonated across the nation with an eloquence that brought comfort and resilience to a nation caught up in a storm and reassured us that we could lick any problem. I will never forget him for that. As governor of California later, Reagan had to deal with a Democratic legislature. It occurred to me that I had an opportunity to go over their heads. How? He used radio and television to communicate directly with the people of California, a tactic he traced back to FDRs Fireside Chats, which, he commented, made an indelible mark on me during the Depression.
As president, Reagan often mentioned his admiration for FDRs spirit of leadership. On a trip back to his alma mater, Eureka College, in 1984, he reminded his listeners what it was like to experience the Great Depression, and how the Fireside Chats had been so reassuring. All of us who lived through those years, he instructed them, remember the drabness the depression brought. But we remember, too, how people pulled together, that sense of community and shared values, that belief in American enterprise and democracy that saw us through. It was that engrained American optimism, that sense of hope Franklin Roosevelt so brilliantly summoned and mobilized. In his view, FDR was instrumental in reviving an inherent American optimism that was endangered by the economic crisis.
Did Newt remind viewers that he once said, "the era of Reagan is over."?
Asinine to criticize a person’s admiration for two dead Presidents. There is much to admire and to criticize - is that so hard to understand?
The historical record of the Roosevelts is the reference for judgement.
They were human beings, imperfect and flawed; guided by principles and chaotic times that required leadership.
My dead ancestors were revered men of character and devoid of warts. That’s my mother’s story and she’s sticking to it. Fortunately for her - there are no written records to contradict the legend.
My God the delusions of Newt as the savior of our republic are pathetic! The guy is an over fed political whore of the worst sort who has taken money from the big bankers, the eco-nuts and just about every other liberal advocacy group. He’ll be no different than the O if he gets elected and will continue the big government take-over of our lives and the stealing of our money by the elites.
I agree. However, Newt's bad luck is that he just so happened to be wrong on the major issues of this election. Those are TARP, federal mandates, cap/trade, and overall government expansion.
People may overlook it in this situation against Obama, but I don't see it happening, as it neuters the attacks against Obama in a tremendous way. As the media touts Obama's fidelity to his wife and beautiful children, Obama will say "I took Newt's lead on this issue" when Newt attacks him.
There’s an important difference between being wrong on an issue and lacking conservative political instincts. The two overlap often, but not always.
Newt’s admiration for the Roosevelts would be viewed as exactly as you said if he himself had a different record on how he related to liberal causes.
But it’s the combination of how Gingrich has failed to understand how aligning himself with Liberals might hurt the cause of conservatism — or, at the least, highly tick them off — that makes his admiration for these two Left-leaning presidents grate on some.
Nothing is evaluated in a vaccuum. It is connected to the context of a real person, in this case, Newt.
vaccuum = vacuum
If you look at Newt as a whole, his infatuation with the Roosevelts along with Wilson isn’t a sign of unpredectability. It makes perfect sense — those are the people he actually identifies with and admires. Which should scare the living daylights out of any right-thinking conservative.
If you look close enough, Newt’s the only candidate on our side worse than Romney. Plenty of fiery rhetoric though. Right-wing big gov’t progressive? Maybe. More likely some kind of agent-provacateur. Definitely not a conservative.