November 16, 2011

How the Gingrich Can Save Christmas

Hatched by Dafydd

Shockingly, the New York Times misunderstands conservative, tea-party, and Republican attitudes towards Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, and those Republicans who have worked with them, including Newt Gingrich; the Times imagines that the Right comprises the same unsophisticated, unnuanced simpletons as compose the Left.

For instance, to the Left, the Koch brothers are "BadThing," cartoon villains with absolutely no redeeming qualities, like Monty Burns. Any connection to or interaction with BadThing, no matter how faint or remote, taints the interactor and turns him into BadThing as well. Thus, if a leftie discovers that, say, Democratic House candidate Bismuth "Snorky" Riceburner once worked for a company that sold ink and paper to the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research... then Snorky becomes BadThing and must be shunned, shouted down, and refudiated on Facebook.

In stark contradistinction, when folks the Right hear that Newt (rather, his advisory firm, the Gingrich Group) once worked with Freddie Mac, the first question they will ask is not, "Where can we get some tar and feathers," but rather, "What advice did he give them?"

The fact that Freddie paid the Gingrich Group in excess of $1.6 million for his advice won't send Republicans into a mindless, hyperventilating rage, because we don't hate people for being financially successful. As with all other issues, we have a more nuanced approach: Wealth is only bad when it comes from committing immoral acts, such as fraud, extortion, or buddying up with the feds to form a government-enforced monopoly.

(Sadly, however, Hugh Hewitt fell right into the Left's trap; he went to town today on his radio show, savaging Gingrich at a fatcat looter and trying to blur the distinction between advising a company and lobbying for that company -- something that a lawyer, of all people, should understand.

(Of course, one must remember that Hewitt is a Romney guy from way back. So it goes.)

Now that Gingrich appears to be on the rise, in some polls actually topping the leader board, Jeff Zeleny and Trip Gabriel, writing on the New York Times blog "the Caucus," dish out the print medium's "death of a thousand paper cuts" to the Newtster. They appear to be trying their darndest to queer the deal between Newt Gingrich and Republican voters, which I take as a sign that the Left is starting to worry that Gingrich might not only be nominatable but even electable.

In response to the supposed "bombshell" that the Gingrich Group advisory firm had Freddie Mac as a client for a while, Newt Gingrich clarified at least some of the "advice" he gave:

In last week’s debate, Mr. Gingrich sought to explain away his involvement, saying that he had done no lobbying and that he had warned the company that its practices were an “insane” part of a housing bubble.

“My advice as a historian, when they walked in and said to me, ‘We are now making loans to people who have no credit history and have no record of paying back anything, but that’s what the government wants us to do,’ as I said to them at the time, this is a bubble. This is insane. This is impossible,” Mr. Gingrich said during the CNBC debate.

Note the Times' caricature of Newt's point; they say he tried to "explain away" his paid advice, as if he's just mumbling some absurd justification or rationalization. Gingrich explained what he did, he didn't try to explain it away.

And he may very well be telling the truth; certainly the Times has dug up no evidence that he encouraged Freddie to continue its appalling lending practices.

Backgrounder: Freddie Mac (and its sister gorgon, Fannie Mae) guarantees to buy a huge percent of mortgages; this includes a whopping big pile of the bad mortgage debt that Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA, 100%) and Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT, 85%) forced the banks and S&Ls to issue, by requiring them to lend money to people who couldn't possibly repay it. (And to give the devil his due, Jimmy Carter shares the blame, because his Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 paved the way for Frank and Dodd's similar antiCapitalist idiocy.)

The actions of these quasi-governmental entities, Fannie and Freddie -- technically, they're "Government Sponsored Enterprises," or GSEs -- in guaranteeing "insane" mortgages (to use Newt's word) wound up nationalizing hundreds of billions of dollars of bad debt; this in turn precipitated the mortgage crash of 2008.

Back to our story. If it turns out that Gingrich actually aided and abetted Freddie (or Fannie, or both) in this pyramid scheme, even to the point of lobbying for them (being paid to push the Freddie Mac line, then that would indeed severely damage and possibly torpedo his campaign.

But if Newt Gingrich is telling the truth about his involvement, if he warned Freddid that its policies were leading Freddie and the country to financial ruin, then I believe that conservatives, Republicans, and even tea partiers will applaud his efforts (though maybe not Hugh Hewitt)... even if Freddie's response to that advice was to storm off in a huff, mortally offended, and send Newt his fee all in pennies, submerged in a half-million jars of sour cream.

If Newt is honest (and I'm inclined to believe him at this point, considering who his accuser is), then he will easily bat aside the smarmy charges and roar into the Christmas holidays soaring in the polls, probably even taking the pole position. (I'm tempted to say "poll position," but that would be too stupid a joke even for me.) Gingrich himself puts the two possibilities about as cleverly and forthrightly as I've ever seen:

At an energy forum in Des Moines sponsored by Politico, Mr. Gingrich was asked whether he could reassure Republicans who were considering supporting him that he could withstand the scrutiny on his campaign.

“If three or four weeks from now, I have confronted the scrutiny, as you put it, in an even-keeled way, then they’ll be able to relax and go, ‘Oh, he was certainly even-keeled,’” Mr. Gingrich said. “If I blow up and do something utterly stupid, they’ll be able to say, ‘Gee, I wonder who the
next candidate is?’”

This is no mere fluke on the Times' part; here's an even more telling example of the superficial, almost childish take on conservatives found in the nation's "newspaper of record;" this graf is a drive-by whose only purpose is to bash Gingrich as a supposed hypocrite. In the littany of horribles it ascribes to the former Speaker, "the Caucus" includes the following:

Mr. Gingrich left Congress in 1998 after a revolt by some of his Republican members following the party’s losses in the midterm elections. He has been married three times, and has acknowledged having an affair during the time he criticized President Bill Clinton for the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Catch the naive misunderstanding of the real reason the Right despised Bill Clinton? They hated Clinton because he got a you-know-what in the Oral Office -- and everybody knows that conservatives hate and fear sex in general, and especially any sex outside of strict, rigid monogamy. In the missionary position. With the lights off. With nearly all your clothes on. Only for purposes of reproduction. And you'd better not enjoy it, you prevert!

But the reality is that the Right is far more sophisticated than the world-weary, decadent Left. Leaving aside the real reason most GOPers wanted Clinton impeached -- he sold the presidency to Red China for campaign cash -- just sticking to the sex-related scandals, what enraged most of us was not that Clinton got a lewinski, but that he was credibly accused of using threats, intimidation, and brute force to sexually harass and assault women who didn't want such contact. Clinton paid an $850,000 settlement to Paula Jones for her claim that he exposed himself to her and forced her to fondle him when he was governor of Arkansas; Kathleen Willey claimed that Clinton had committed sexual battery on her; and Juanita Broaddrick accused Clinton of forcibly raping her.

In addition to the charges of sexual assault, conservatives were outraged by Clinton's oft-repeated lies about the incidents -- many of those lies under oath, in an attempt to obstruct justice. (But at least Clinton didn't bow deeply at the waist to the Chinese dictator.)

Nothing of the sort has ever been creditably alleged against Newt Gingrich.

True, he did have an affair with a member of his staff, Callista Bisek, while the House of Representatives investigated Clinton's crimes. But the charges they were delving into were perjury, obstruction of justice, and corrupt fundraising; and as part of impeachment, the House investigated cash funneled into his reelection coffers by the People's Liberation Army of Communist China -- after which he altered several aspects of American national-security policy in ways that China requested. It's impossible for any honest observer to equate those serious crimes against individual women and the nation itself with "having an affair."

Newt Gingrich never swore under oath that he did not have sex with that woman, Miss Bisek. He never obstructed justice. He was never accused of sexually assaulting anyone. And in all he reelection efforts, not once was he ever accused of accepting bribes from America's most dangerous foreign enemy.

Evidently, Zeleny and Gabriel can't quite parse the distinction.

So when next you're tempted to think of the east-coast elites (or west-coast decadents) as arbiters of sophistication and a nuanced, layered understanding of reality, give yourself a hard slap in the kisser. They love to gloat about their lofty, refined, complex Weltanschauung; but in reality, they're a bunch of hick rubes who cannot compare or contrast but only equate: Either A equals B, or else A is totally different from B; on the left, there is no middle ground between hard Left and hard Right.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 16, 2011, at the time of 6:42 PM

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