EXIT THE CLOWNS
By Steven Woodruff
It’s been a good week. Gingrich is flying high on his way to Iowa which means it’s only a matter of time before he crashes and burns. Like Palin, Trump, Bachmann, Perry and Cain before him his shelf life is about to expire, perhaps catastrophically. It was Herman Cain’s turn this week. I liked the assessment by one writer who covered the suspension of Cain’s bid for the Presidency and commented on “the disorganization, the blues band and supporters dressed in colonial garb”. In the end it wasn’t 9-9-9 but a 9-1-1 sit down with his wife Gloria about the ongoing sexual harassment accusations and extramarital disclosures the spelled doom for the pizza guy. The campaign is over for now, sort of, but it was still a party at his going away event and Cain wanted us to know that he was embarking on a nationwide tour that was going to be devoted to tax and foreign policy issues, two areas in which his credentials are wafer thin.
Trump was a front runner for a while. He flamed out after the “birther” dustup was put to rest when President Obama released his long form certificate. Bashing Obama’s citizenship was the only ace he had. He played it hard early on and got hammered.
Palin always seemed more interested in her book deals, speaking tours and fawning admirers. She was never a declared candidate. That saved her from having to drop out and reprise her role as the GOP’s most spectacular quitter. She had her potential campaign ending moment during the summer when she got in deep explaining Paul Revere’s ride. She said that our colonial hero Paul Revere had ridden to warn the British to protect arms, either theirs or ours, she wasn’t quite sure. Below is her breezy retelling of the events. It’s not clear if it makes any sense at all.
“He who warned the British that they weren’t going to be taking away our arms, by ringing those bells, and making sure as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be secure and we were going to be free.”
I like Longfellow’s version which I learned in the fifth grade. Many of us can hack our way through some version of it from memory. But it has the ring of authentic history and the English is pretty good as well. Lanterns not bells, and no warning shots because Revere was on the QT as far as the British were concerned. It has everything a patriot like Palin might want: fast horses, guys with guns, and the air of sedition.
He said to his friend, “If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,
One, if by land, and two, if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm.”
For a while, Palin continued to show up (like the bad house guest that won’t go away) at other Republican candidate’s events until her daughter complained sourly that the press was ruining the Palin summer vacation by following their bus around. Then she was gone.
Bachmann, the LGBT basher (and fellow traveler anti-historian) caught herself up in some nonsense about our abolitionist founding fathers citing John Quincy Adams as being one. This Adams, though he was old and dusty in a colonial sort of way, was not actually a founder in the sense that Franklin, Hancock and Jefferson were. Later on she confused New Hampshire and Massachusetts when she talked about Lexington, Concord and the “shot heard ‘round the world”. It’s tough extemporizing on New England history in front of folks who walk the Freedom Trail regularly.
Bachmann probably knows her 18th century Minnesota voyageurs like nobody’s business but what happened in Boston Harbor, Concord, and Philadelphia has proved more elusive. And even before the actual campaigning began, there she was on national TV saying that we should be giving special tests to certain congressional representatives to determine if they are ”real Americans”, her kind of “real American”. She rose like Midwestern cream in the Iowa straw poll and is now circling the drain.
Governor Good Hair, Rick Perry, was on fire for a while but that was before news about the family’s camp in the Texas hills called Niggerhead surfaced, and before he floundered spectacularly in the Republican debates when he couldn’t remember the three departments of government he wanted to cut and then thought that eliminating the cabinet position for Education would be a good place to start. He said the EPA should go too, the better to conform to his guidelines for downsizing lousy, big government. There’s drilling to be done in Texas and Perry wants the EPA out of the way so the miracle of the free market can save us from dependence on foreign oil. For him the Deep Water Horizon disaster and the ongoing tax free business deal and dirty drilling that characterizes the natural gas industry and its hydraulic fracturing leases are the solution, not the problem. He continues to drive nails into his coffin with a recent YouTube ad that bashes homosexuals on behalf of the Evangelical types in the GOP. His exit is not far off.
That brings us to Gingrich who has had his share of exaggerated pronouncements. He reminds Americans continually that he is a practicing historian but he is doing his best to forget his own history of being drummed out of Congress at the end of the Clinton era for a book deal involving the unethical use of his political office and for lying to the House Ethics Committee. He left in disgrace after resigning in order to avoid a full scale investigation. And it wasn’t a Democratic Congress that voted to censure him either. He was, as Barney Frank said recently, the guy who put the current war between Democrats and Republicans front and center. His Contract with America was a precursor to Tom DeLay’s permanent Republican majority, a notion that lives on with the members of Tea Party who are convinced (and Gingrich with them) that only Republican ideology, evangelical family values and their own special reading of the Constitutional should form the true cross of American politics.
When he called President Obama a “Kenyan, anticolonial socialist” he was borrowing a page from his Tulane dissertation on post WW II colonial education in the Congo. It was a snappy rejoinder that made Gingrich look like more of an academic fool than a real critic. Reading the Africa section of Obama’s book, Dreams from my Father tells you that the Obama story is more about family than politics.
In a recent public appearance Gingrich called child labor laws “truly stupid” and suggested that poor grade school kids should become janitors at public schools so they could get a taste of what it means to have to be somewhere on time, unlike their slacker parents, who just hang around and collect welfare. I suppose he thought it would be useful as a kind of early training for permanent membership in the 99 percent class. He said the remark was taken out of context but it’s hard to imagine what context would make that seem like a good idea. One of his strategists put it this way: “Until the underlying principle is well understood, it is risky in a campaign to offer ideas.” He didn’t have the guts to say that what he was really talking about was poor black kids and their families.
He is the historian who doesn’t rub anti-elitist, anti-academic Republicans the wrong way. When it came to light recently that he had accepted big money for being a lobbyist on behalf of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac he said he had been retained by those organizations as an historian, not a lobbyist. Now he’s a new man with a new wife, a generous line of credit at Tiffany’s and ready to assume the Presidency with a pure heart. He makes it seem possible to have the trappings of being a smart guy but still vote Tea Party. Untainted by a real education and its application would be another way of putting it. He pompously puts himself forward as the big idea man. But there he is stumbling around advocating child labor and bloviating on complex constitutional issues that only Gingrich the PH.D.can grasp. Somewhere in his professorial mind, an America permanently locked down by conservative philosophy is where we need to be. A whopping 33% of Republicans in Iowa want him for their candidate. It leaves an awful lot of folks unaccounted for.
Gingrich has angered many of his Republican fellow travelers with some of his more liberal thinking on immigration, global warming, and foreign policy and tax issues. But here are a few doozies that might leave you gobsmacked. They were culled from his books, speeches and recent interviews:
Loyalty tests for all Americans
Rewards for High School girls who graduate as virgins
Personal scholarship payouts for kids at really troubled public schools
The American people (should) insist on electing Senators who promise to confirm judges who enforce the Constitution as written. The legislative & executive branches can limit jurisdiction of the federal courts to hear certain types of cases where they believe the federal judiciary is wrong.
Incentives, innovators, and entrepreneurs will solve environmental problems without government providing legislative pressure, regulation or protections.
Advocates installing a system of orbiting space mirrors to provide nighttime lighting for streets and highways.
The Palestinians are an invented people.
Gingrich has been all the things that conservative voters hate: world class philanderer, big money lobbyist, Washington insider working his government office for payola, academic elitist. Having resigned his position as Speaker of the House over his misuse of public office should have been the final story in his political career. In the conservative universe being rehabilitated is even better than never having fallen in the first place. Send in the clowns? Don’t bother, they’re already here.