25 Jan 2012

“Not As Lovable”

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Rich Lowry compares the GOP’s favorite unfaithful husband to his former adversary in the White House.

Newt is the Republican Clinton — shameless, needy, hopelessly egotistical. The two former adversaries and tentative partners have largely the same set of faults and talents. They are self-indulgent, prone to disregard rules inconvenient to them, and consumed by ambition. They are glib, knowledgeable, and imaginative. They are baby boomers who hadn’t fully grown up even when they occupied two of the most powerful offices in the land.

Steven Gillon, author of The Pact, a book about the Gingrich-Clinton interplay in the 1990s, was struck by their “unique personal chemistry, which traced back to their childhoods.” Both were raised by distant or abusive stepfathers and surrounded by strong women. Both were drawn to politics and wanted to serve, in Newt’s case on a vast, civilizational scale. Both were allegedly sleeping around on the campaign trail before they had won anything.

Yet their personalities are different. Growing up in an alcoholic household, Gillon notes, Clinton was a natural conciliator. Gingrich was given to defiance. Clinton was gregarious, a people-pleaser. Gingrich was bookish, a lecturer at heart. Clinton made his way in politics in the unfriendly territory of Arkansas; he had to dodge and weave and seduce. Gingrich climbed through the ranks of the House Republican conference; he stood out as a partisan provocateur.

And so he remains today. He utterly lacks the Clinton soft touch. No one will ever consider him a lovable rogue. Quin Hillyer of the American Spectator says he’s the “Bill Clinton of the Right with half the charm and twice the abrasiveness.” Republican voters lit up by his debate performances believe he’s the most electable candidate, even though the three recent national polls show him with a favorable rating in the 20s. Presidents dip that low after they lose a war or before they get impeached. Newt Gingrich starts out there.

And he ends by joining a growing chorus of pundits predicting doom, because Newt Gingrich is just too obnoxious to be electable.

I will readily admit that I am personally biased strongly in favor of excessively talkative, intellectually condescending guys with overly large waistlines, and it’s obviously true that Newt is never going to win the Mr. Congeniality award. Yes, the American voting public does have a decided preference for smooth and handsome guys with positive charisma.

But… I agree with the statements made frequently during the GOP debates that any of the candidates on that stage could defeat Barack Obama. Obama is going into next Fall’s election with an albatross of the US economy around his neck that nobody could overcome. Voters will be desperate and will find a way to justify voting for anybody offering change from the current administration and the current economic mess.

When things really go to pot, the voters will throw the bastards out and give the other side a chance. You doubt it? Let me remind everyone: they elected Richard Nixon twice. Newt Gingrich may not be Cary Grant, but compared to Nixon he is Mr. Charm.

Hat tip to Lynn Chu.

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