Don’t forget what happened the last time Republicans nominated a smart, eloquent, combative egomaniac to take on Obama.
Ask Republicans to explain the appeal of nominating Newt Gingrich to take on President Obama and it won’t be long before you’re reminded of the former House speaker’s intellectual and rhetorical acumen. Indeed, some Republicans become downright giddy when speaking about the prospect of Gingrich debating Obama.
It’s hard to blame them. After a decade of inarticulate and reticent standard bearers, and amid a field of much the same, Republicans see in Gingrich a learned and eloquent debater able and unafraid to take it directly to the supposedly golden-tongued Orator-in-Chief.
Gingrich, many Republicans believe, would make the presidential debates something to look forward to for the first time since Reagan.
Gingrich knows that his ability to talk is his chief asset and has invited Obama to debate him in seven three-hour Lincoln-Douglas-style debates should he secure the Republican nomination. “I will concede in advance that he can use a teleprompter,” Gingrich said mockingly of Obama when he proposed the debates in early December.
But before Republicans conclude that as their nominee Gingrich would be able to debate his way to the Oval Office, they should take a moment to remember what happened the last time Obama squared off against a smart and eloquent, but bombastic, pompous and egomaniacal Republican.
Consider the following analysis.
“[He] was not lacking in confidence.… There was no doubt the man could talk. At the drop of a hat [he] could deliver a grammatically flawless disquisition on virtually any topic. On the stump, he could wind himself up into a fiery intensity, his body rocking, his brow running with sweat, his fingers jabbing the air, his high-pitched voice trembling with emotion as he called the faithful to do battle against the forces of evil.
“Unfortunately for him, neither his intellect nor his eloquence could overcome certain defects as a candidate. Unlike most politicians, for example, [he] made no effort to conceal what he clearly considered to be his moral and intellectual superiority.…
Moreover, [his] self-assuredness disabled in him the instincts for self-censorship that allow most people to navigate the world without getting into constant fistfights. [He] said whatever popped into his mind, and with dogged logic would follow over a cliff just about any idea that came to him.
These words describe almost perfectly the intellectual and rhetorical bearing and style of Newt Gingrich. Only they weren’t written about Gingrich. They are Barack Obama’s words — from The Audacity of Hope — about former Ambassador Alan Keyes, Obama’s Republican opponent in the 2004 election for Illinois’ open Senate seat.
I was struck by two things as I recently watched old footage of the 2004 Obama-Keyes debates. First, Keyes comes across as a better debater than Obama. He seems more polished, smarter, and more confident than Obama. Keyes’ verbal fluency makes Obama’s use of verbal fillers and stutters, his repeated words and incomplete and restarted sentences, all the more noticeable.
The second thing I noticed were the striking similarities between Keyes and Gingrich. Keyes is more theatrical than Gingrich, while Gingrich is more overtly egoistic and self-reverential. (He has at various moments called himself “the most serious, systematic revolutionary of modern times” and a “definer of civilization.”)
But the two share many characteristics. For one thing, they both hold Ph.D.s (Keyes in government, Gingrich in history). Perhaps this helps explain why both Keyes and Gingrich have a tendency to talk down to opponents and debate moderators. Keyes was antagonistic toward the Illinois journalists who moderated the Senate debates, cutting off questioners and reacting harshly when moderators told him his time was up.
In a debate in which the candidates got to ask one other questions, Obama asked Keyes about Keyes’ past endorsement of repeal of the 17th Amendment. Keyes replied dismissively, “I think that the question actually illustrates the ignorance that I’ve noticed of your understanding of the American Constitution and its background,” before launching into a history lesson of the Constitution.
The remark — and the condescension with which it was delivered — may have pleased conservatives. But it probably didn’t play well to moderates in Peoria.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online