OxBlog

Monday, December 18, 2006

# Posted 12:56 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NEWT: A- C B-. Newt was on Meet the Press this morning. Taylor thought that the ex-Speaker went way off the reservation a few times. So, Taylor asked, what grade do you give to someone "who sounds reasonable 95% of the time and then says something truly off the wall"? Kevin asked a similar question coming from the left: Would OxBlog give a Republican a decent grade in spite of saying a half-dozen ridiculous things in a single interview?

Now, I'll be the first to admit that my grades are subjective. But they are entertaining (I hope) and they say something about my gut instincts. If I really think a single remark is offensive, I will grade someone very harshly. But most of Newt's trangessions struck me as more wacky or bizarre than offensive. Taylor put up a good list of candidates below, but here are the ones that stuck out as I listened to the interview:
"If we are defeated in Iraq, there are not enough Marine elements in the world to evacuate the embassies that’ll come under siege."

"You have—you have more censorship in the McCain-Feingold bill, which blocks the right of free speech about American campaigns than you have from the FBI closing down jihadists."

"The question is, do you want to go down the road of Nigeria and corruption and have a country in which, as long as he’s popular, he can break the law? And if Clinton gets to commit perjury on this topic, then what does the next president get to commit perjury on, and then what does the next president get to commit perjury on?"
Compare those statements to "[Democrats] will wave the white flag in the war in terror." That's a quote from Mitch McConnell on CBS back in May. I gave McConnell a 'D', because statements like that subvert rational debate. Statements like that provoke anger and resentment. But Gingrich? His statments strike me as relatively benign.

Also, I would go beyond Taylor's description of Newt as mostly reasonable and say that he is actually a charismatic and talented speaker. His rhetorical talent made him Speaker of the House. But he also got that far by being vicious and manipulative (although he seems to have mellowed out considerably).

As far as running for President goes, I think Gingrich would be the worst of the plausible GOP candidates. But maybe Democrats like Kevin should give him a little more love. After all, how many big name Republicans go on Meet the Press and pronounce the war in Iraq to be a "failure"?
(17) opinions -- Add your opinion

Comments:
I agree that Newt is charismatic, articulate and knowledgement.
Even when I don't agree with him it is almost always about merits, not personality.
I hope he plays a major role in crafting bi-partisan solutions to our challenges.
 
Could you explain how those statements are 'wacky'? The first is certainly hyperbolic, but would you prefer its opposite: "If we are defeated in Iraq, there will be no effect on our standing in other nations"?

Do you think McCain-Feingold does not limit political speech?
 
here are my answers in a nutshell:

1. Of course I don't prefer the opposite. But Gingrich didn't have to choose between one hyperbolic statements and its opposite. There are plenty of sensible options between the extremes.

2. The issue here is deriving lessons for anti-terrorist measures from campaign finance laws. Newt seems to have a defensible position on both issues, but his effort to connect them is, well, wacky.
 
Newt's problem is that he really is too much of an intellectual (and college professor) in some ways. He'll throw up entirely off-the-wall or sweeping generalizations as part of developing a theory, or to develop ideas, or just to make people think. He also falls in love with theories or pat explanations.

On the other hand, he is willing to change his mind, say nearly anything, and be intellectually curious.

Don't think he'd be a good candidate at all, but he makes a decent ideas man.
 
McCain Feingold MIGHT limit free political speech but it does so for such rare instances that it does not matter.

And if you have directly been affected by MFAct, as in, you have had to reduce your donations, please, feel free to contact me, I am asking for donations.
 
I'm not a regular reader of this blog, so I'm not sure what you're grading...I don't find any of Gingrich's noted points to be "offensive."

Except in the sense that it's offensive to see someone making such half-assed generalizations in a forum purportedly dedicated to serious debate. Equating McCain-Feingold to government censorship of Islamist media just has no f*cking purpose other than to be "provocative" in a kind of high-school debate way. Which I guess is his intention.
 
"McCain Feingold MIGHT limit free political speech but it does so for such rare instances that it does not matter."

Right, because speech mentioning candidates during the couple of months prior to an election is so valueless, that limiting it just doesn't count.

Get real, limiting speech, censorship, is the very purpose of laws like McCain/Feingold.
 
Maybe they look crazier in context, but the second and third statements seem perfectly reasonable to me.

McCain-Feingold, which strikes at the heart of the first amendment, is the more serious censorship threat. Also, we are supposed to believe that on one is above the law. With the Clinton impeachment, we have gone on record as saying the president is above the law if the public thinks he should be. That is road we don't want to go down.
 
In McConnell v. Federal Election Commission considered the McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act and held that "Money is not speech." Seems kind of, you know, freaking obvious. The court went on to say that "not all political speech is protected by the First Amendment from government infringement."
 
Anon: I think we are all aware that the Supreme Court disagrees with us. We are simply unpursuaded by its reasoning.

Personally, I went in to law school with very little respect for the Supreme Court, and came out with none whatsoever.
 
If money really were speech, would you be allowed to pay your Congressman to pass favourable legislation?

Wouldn't that be just the same as writing a letter to him/her, and thus just an exercise of the same right?
 
"The question is, do you want to go down the road of Nigeria and corruption and have a country in which, as long as he’s popular, he can break the law? And if Clinton gets to commit perjury on this topic, then what does the next president get to commit perjury on, and then what does the next president get to commit perjury on?"
==========
What, you mean, like greenlight torture?

20 years of reading Gingrich's deliberate provocations, it's no longer hard to see through them, almost instantly.

From 1984:
http://www.motherjones.com/news/feature/1984/11/osborne.html
 
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