WASHINGTON — Was I wrong about him? I have voiced a low opinion of the Hon. Newt Gingrich since the mid-1990s. It was then that I concluded Newt was the Republican equivalent of Boy Clinton. That is to say, Newt was a 1960s narcissist of the student government variety. A rather good book on these two lovable lugs, “The Pact: Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, and the Rivalry That Defined a Generation,” by historian Steven M. Gillon, confirmed my assessment, right down to their early campaigns as campus Machiavels when the rest of us were drinking beer and avoiding the library. Yet possibly I was wrong about Newt, or possibly he has grown.
The other day in The Good Times — also known as The Washington Times — Newt published a very important piece revealing that Newt has given sustained intelligent thought to the Prophet Obama’s present Carousel of Incompetence. Newt is not the only observer to recognize that we face four years of high seas, after which a Reagan or a Roosevelt (any Roosevelt) will be exigent. Even the left is catching on. Recently in the U.K., Steven Hill, writing in the left-wing Guardian, lamented: “Beyond Obama’s oratorical skills, which excited not only American voters but people all over the world, he is mostly untested as a politician. His previous experience was only a few years in the US Senate and a few years more as a state senator. A sinking feeling is arising (can a sinking feeling arise?) among many that President Obama may not be up to the task.” Hill’s gloomy appraisal reminds me of me … and of Newt.
Now Newt proclaims boldly in the Times that “the conservative hour in America has once again arrived.” In sum and in fine, Newt argues that the combination of Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid has loosed an avalanche of left-wing policy revisions that alarms this center-right nation. The polling advantages held by the Democrats and their candidate, Barack Obama, last autumn have wilted and with unprecedented swiftness. The conservatives are in the running again, as was to be expected notwithstanding our obituaries in the media. For years, as the polls attest, conservatives have outnumbered liberals by a 2-1 ratio. As Newt points out, on the economy, domestic affairs and foreign policy, our conservative alternatives are more agreeable to mainstream Americans than the radicalism of Obama-Pelosi-Reid.
The problem for conservatives with the arrival of our “hour” is leadership. It appears that we are not flush with the kind of leadership that we had in the Reagan years or even in the 1990s (the Gingrich years?). Well, maybe things are not as bad as they appear at first glance. Possibly Newt has been chastened by experience and is ready to lead soberly and steadily. Steadiness was a problem for him in the 1990s. Moreover, we have superb talent in the House of Representatives, with the likes of Eric Cantor, Thaddeus McCotter, Mike Pence and Paul Ryan.
Let me suggest two more potential leaders. Steve Forbes, the editor-in-chief of Forbes magazine, has been selflessly campaigning for Republican candidates. I heard him just a week ago, and no one has a better grasp of the issues. He is eloquent and has years of management skills behind him. In 1996 and 2000, he ran competent presidential campaigns. Speaking out on behalf of the flat tax, immigration reform, a forceful foreign policy, limited government and market-oriented health care reform, he has solutions to the problems facing us today. Incidentally, as the Obamamaniacs run up the bills — now adding a trillion-dollar health care monstrosity — what became of the concern voiced a couple of years back that Medicare faced bankruptcy? The predicted date looms just a few years from now.
Also out there bidding to be a national conservative leader is Dick Armey. The former House majority leader is a solid conservative with a record of advancing intelligent conservative policies similar to those advanced by Forbes. When faced a few weeks back with choosing between FreedomWorks, the conservative grass-roots organization he heads, and continuing with his lucrative work at a law firm engaged in, among other things, advancing Obamacare, Armey took the side of principle and left the law firm. My agents tell me he may resume his political career. I hope he will.
I also hope that Newt is right, that it is conservatism’s hour once again. Giving the matter a second glance, I see some very competent leadership available, and there is always Mitt Romney. He did rather well the last time around until he started listening to his pollsters.