Sounds like an ingredient in a witch’s brew.
Actually, Bob Schieffer of the CBS show “Face the Nation” wanted to hear what a couple of prominent Republicans had to say about the future of the Republican party on the national level, and one of the perspectives was put forward by former U.S. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. The other prominent Republican in the discussion with Schieffer was current Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. You can watch the video here, but be aware that the segment with Gingrich and Jindal begins halfway through the show, with bloviating over auto industry bailouts occupying the first segment. Otherwise, you can read a print version of yesterday’s “Face the Nation” episode here.
Among the points upon which Jindal and Gingrich agree are that the GOP needs to show that it can devise solutions, not just be a party of opposition. I agree with that, too. Gingrich talked about the Republican governors across the nation as being the implementers of solutions that the GOP will look to, and that the media will look to. Gingrich fancies himself as someone who dreams up lots of solutions.
Herein lies the rub.
As an onlooker, it appeared to me that Gingrich was patronizingly positioning himself as head wrangler over a stable full of Republican governors. Gingrich is talking as though he is the person who can harness these workhorses together. Translation: Gingrich fancies himself either as a serious GOP prez contender in 2012; or as head of the RNC (probably not, as he dissed the RNC by saying, “I think that the Republican Governors Association is probably more important than the Republican National Committee in trying to get this done”); or as a kingmaker as to which Republican Governor will get his nod for GOP prez contender in 2012 (kiss his ring, or he might have to make himself king).
Newt’s banter seemed inoccuous enough except for his telltale take on Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, which is why my eyebrow is raised. Newt said:
“The natural pattern in the news media is going to be, they know how to spell Sarah Palin’s name; they have it locked in their word processor. She’s going to be a much bigger story in the short run. But, I think, as she goes back to being governor and as she works in Alaska, you’re going to see a group of governors emerge, not just Sarah Palin. And there are 36 governorships up in 2010.
“I think focusing on rebuilding the Republican Party from state legislature and governor to Senate and House is the right model. And I think that the Republican Governors Association is probably more important than the Republican National Committee in trying to get this done”
So Bob Schieffer senses that Palin is being downplayed by Newt Gingrich, so he asks a followup question to confirm Newt’s views once and for all.
“She’s a wonderfully, intelligent, aggressive hardworking person who got, you know, hammered very badly by the press in, I think, fairly distorted ways.
“I think that she is going to be a significant player. But she’s going to be one of 20 or 30 significant players. She’s not going to be the de facto leader.”
Again, this Newt narrative is portraying the Republican governors as all being in a stable with no real leader head and shoulders above the other, leaving room (especially by not mentioning former governors, like Huckabee and Romney) for Newt Gingrich to float to the top.
Let me just say this: Much as we need solutions from GOP leaders, and much as we would welcome solutions from Newt Gingrich, we do not need the new face of the Republican Party to be that of Newt Gingrich. Sarah Palin caught on with Republican conservatives like a wildfire, and Newt Gingrich is catching on with the Republican conservative writing this blog entry like a wet blanket. Not only did Gingrich never capture the enthusiasm with Republican conservatives to the degree that Sarah Palin did, there is also the spectre of sexism that would be raised if Gingrich were to be the new face of the GOP. Not only would Gingrich be suspect in terms of downplaying Palin, he’s also suspect in terms of his marital history, plus he’s most famously suspect for what his mother revealed to Connie Chung about what Newt thought about Hillary Clinton (a word that starts with a “b” and rhymes with a person who might throw an eye of newt into a cauldron). While Sarah Palin did not close the gender gap, with the majority of women voting for the Obama-Biden ticket, it’s hard to see how Gingrich would improve upon that demographic. Sarah Palin did gain a following with men that I don’t think Gingrich quite understands, let alone that Gingrich can match.
As for what we expect to see out of Republican governors in the future, many of the rank-and-file already see something we really like in the performance of Sarah Palin as governor, and that is that she took on corrupt influences entrenched in government, and tossed them out of power. This aligns neatly with what Jindal said: ” . . . we’ve got to stop defending the kinds of corruption we would rightfully criticize in the other party.” Jindal has this as number two on his list, but I think Ohio Republicans would put it at number one on our list, because it is too rare. Jindal’s first item is fiscal conservatism. Well, I can find Ohio Republicans by the droves who believe in fiscal conservatism, and who have implemented such practices in their own respective elected offices. Jindal’s third item is the afforementioned need to solve problems. I can find some Ohio Republicans who can generate solutions. But that 2nd item on the Jindal list, that of rooting out corruption, who’s had the power to do that in Ohio? Only grassroots voters. No prominent elected Ohio Republican has the courage to do what Sarah Palin did in Alaska, and that’s why not only would rank-and-file Republicans put Jindal’s second item as number one, but they’d also look upon Sarah Palin more favorably than the other Republican governors and why they’d think of Sarah Palin as a frontrunner to be the new face of the GOP, despite how Gingrich plays down her appeal.
Will it be Palin vs. Gingrich for the GOP prez nomination in 2012? If so, Newt might emerge KO’d with a black eye from such a tussle.