Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Cometh the hour, cometh the Newt – please!

Good God! Newt Gingrich is running second in the Ohio Republican caucus! He's a few points behind Herman Cain, who appears to have trouble keeping control south of the Mason-Dixon Line, as it were. And he’s actually running a few points ahead of that boring, creepy East Coast smoothy, Mitt “Which Desk Would You Like Me To Bend Over” Romney.

 At the start of October, Gingrich was dead and buried, following the resignation of most of his leading campaign aides over the summer – and now the old bruiser looks like he could actually be the man to put Barry to the sword next year.

First, let’s get Barack out of the way (please). I was in a BBC newsroom on the day of his inauguration, and the way the journalists gazed at the TV screens with a universal Moonie-like expression of unquestioning adulation nearly made me retch. Journalists! I kept being told what a healer this man was, what an orator, what an inspirational leader. Couldn’t see any of it. I saw a deeply boring, stiff, deeply uncharismatic lawyer with a good voice, a standard set of left-wing prejudices,  and without a clue how to fix any of the squeaky-bum challenges facing his country. I’m not right that often (you’ve probably noticed) but I had Barry pegged from the start.

Now I look at Obama and wonder whether he actually believes he can make things better. I mean, how many stimulus packages have to fail, how much worse does the American economy have to get, and how low does he have to drop in the polls for him to realise that he is utterly useless at his job? I think he already knows this only too well. He doesn’t give  the impression of a man who’s enjoying power – the real question is whether he actually wants a second term, and what he imagines he might do with it. He doesn't know what he wants to do right now!

Gingrich has his problems, of course. For a start, his private life has been a bit too rackety to appeal to Tea Party types – when he was 19, he married his 26-year old former geometry teacher, divorced her and married the woman he’d been having an affair with, then had an affair with a Congressional staffer 23 years his junior, whom he married after divorcing his second wife.  

Then there’s the fact that he’s a bit of an intellectual: a professional historian with no less than 23 books to his name (he’s just co-authored one about a Civil War battle involving the greatest number of Afro-American soldiers mustered during the conflict). On the whole, right-wing Republicans don’t really cotton to book-larnin’ types.

He’s evidently a somewhat abrasive character. Despite delivering his party extraordinary success in Congress during the Clinton years, his hounding of the cigar-weilding Prez didn't go down well with the public, and he annoyed his colleagues so much that he ended up retiring from Congress.

At 68, he’s getting on a bit. And he’s been around long enough to make any number of mistakes – to which, refreshingly, he tends to own up.

But, and it’s an enormous but, when he was House speaker in the ‘90s, he forced the Clinton administration to change its high-spending, liberal ways (mainly by shutting down the government rather than capitulate) and thus ensured a balanced budget for the first time since 1969 – a feat achieved four times in all under his leadership. Think of that – a balanced budget! Unless I was one of the 20% of Americans who classify themselves as liberal, what possible reason would I have for not casting my vote for a man who has proved he can balance the books

He’s also strong on welfare reform and a genuine expert on defence (stern but undogmatic on both issues). And it helps that he’s religious – although, for many Republicans, the fact that he’s a late convert from Baptism to Catholicism probably isn’t ideal.

At some stage, the Republican nominee will have to face Obama in a series of TV debates – and Gingrich has been nothing short of sensational against his Republican rivals in that department during the current campaign, without directly attack any of them. 

But the main reason I think he’s in with a genuine chance is – what's the alternative? Democrats have a history of voting for sex maniacs, but Republicans don’t, so Cain might be struggling in the polls within a few weeks (or even days). My hero, Ronald Reagan, proved that you don’t have to be an intellectual to be a great president – but Cain is no Reagan. And Gingrich isn’t just an intellectual – he gets good stuff done.

But the most powerful reason any American could have for voting for him is that, if he ends up bagging the Republican nomination, it will prove - not for the first time - his ability to dig himself out of a huge hole rapidly filling with toxic chemical waste. As that pretty accurately describes America’s current status, that has to count in his favour – surely!


  1. Democrats and sex maniacs.On Presidential tours inside and outside the US many a startled White House female staffer was woken up in the middle of the night by a large man who drawled:" Move over, honey, your President needs you." LBJ didn't hang about - that's why he managed to pass so much legislation.

  2. Mind you, if LBJ had been more of a one for foreplay and, as a result, had forced through less legislation, the better for all Americans. His Great Society programme was the single most destructive element America has endured since WWII - including Jimmy Carter and the Credit Crunch! Shame, because everything about LBJ screamed right-wing redneck - and everything he actually did screamed bedwetting, East Coast, pantywaist, Ivy League liberal: not a single thing didn't go to pot during his tenure, mainly because he was such an experienced Washiington operator that he managed to bulldoze stuff through that Kennedy wouldn't have been able to.