Posts Tagged ‘Newt Gingrich’

‘What would you have done?’

December 10, 2013

Nelson Mandela, who died last week, was mourned by many Americans as a hero.  But there was a time when the American government regarded him as a terrorist.

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I agree with Newt Gingrich’s judgment.

Mandela was faced with a vicious apartheid regime that eliminated all rights for blacks and gave them no hope for the future.  This was a regime which used secret police, prisons and military force to crush all efforts at seeking freedom by blacks.

What would you have done faced with that crushing government?

What would you do here in America if you had that kind of oppression?

Some of the people who are most opposed to oppression from Washington attack Mandela when he was opposed to oppression in his own country.

After years of preaching non-violence, using the political system, making his case as a defendant in court, Mandela resorted to violence against a government that was ruthless and violent in its suppression of free speech.

As Americans we celebrate the farmers at Lexington and Concord who used force to oppose British tyranny.  We praise George Washington for spending eight years in the field fighting the British Army’s dictatorial assault on our freedom.

Patrick Henry said, “Give me liberty or give me death.”

Thomas Jefferson wrote and the Continental Congress adopted that “all men are created equal, and they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Doesn’t this apply to Nelson Mandela and his people?

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Newt Gingrich, gridlock and “pay to play”

January 28, 2012

Newt Gingrich created the “pay to play” system by which House of Representatives committee assignments and leadership positions hinge on their ability to raise money for the party.  And he also is as responsible as anyone for the partisan divisions that keep the legislative process in gridlock.

Political scientist Tom Ferguson tells the story.

In the mid-1980s, a group of insurgent Republicans broke with the long established norms governing how the U.S. House of Representatives transacted business.  Led by Newt Gingrich, it derided older Republican House leaders as timid, unimaginative, and too inclined to compromise with Democrats.  Self-styled “revolutionaries” launched vigorous public attacks on Democrats as they trumpeted their own agenda of deregulation, budget cuts, lower taxes, and a baker’s dozen of social issues, from abortion to opposition to all forms of gun control.

Result?  The House boiled over.  Statistical measures of Congressional behavior show that party line votes jumped sharply.

Gingrich and his allies were painfully aware that transforming the GOP’s gains at the presidential level into a true “critical realignment” of the political system as a whole required breaking the Democratic lock on Congress.  So they shattered all records for Congressional fundraising in their drive to get control of the House.  Their success in this and their parallel campaign to rally major parts of the media to their standard are what polarized the system.  The GOP insurgents emphasized fundraising, not just through the usual publicly reported vehicles like the national party committees, but also GOPAC, a political action committee that Gingrich had controlled since 1986, which operated mostly in secret.

In 1992, in the midst of a recession, the Republicans lost the White House. But their dreams of a sweeping political realignment did not die.  In fact, by clearing centrist Republicans out of their perches in the White House, the loss probably helped Gingrich and his allies.

Completely undaunted, Gingrich, Republican National Chair Haley Barbour, and National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Phil Gramm orchestrated a vast national campaign to recapture Congress for the Republicans in the 1994 elections.  With the economy stuck in a “jobless recovery” and Democratic fundraising sputtering, the Republicans won control of both houses of Congress.

The tidal wave of political money they conjured allowed Gingrich, Gramm, Barbour and Co., to brush aside older, less combative center-right Republican leaders and persist in their efforts to roll back the New Deal and remake American society in the image of free market fundamentalism.  Once in power, the Republicans institutionalized sweeping rules changes in the House and the Republican caucus that vastly increased the leadership’s influence over House legislation.  They also implemented a formal “pay to play” system that had both inside and outside components.

On the outside, DeLay and other GOP leaders, including Grover Norquist, who headed Americans for Tax Reform, mounted a vast campaign (the so-called “K Street Project”) to defund the Democrats directly by pressuring businesses to cut off donations and avoid retaining Democrats as lobbyists. Inside the House, Gingrich made fundraising for the party a requirement for choice committee assignments. Senate Republicans, led by Phil Gramm and other apostles of deregulation, emulated the House.

And so, alas, did the Democrats.

Click on Standstill Nation as the New Abnormal for Tom Ferguson’s full article for the Roosevelt Institute.

Click on Our Polarized and Money-Driven Congress: Created Over 25 Years by Republicans (And Quickly Imitated by Democrats) for more on Gingrich’s legacy on the Naked Capitalism web log.

Click on Newt Gingrich and Our Dysfunctional Congress for an article on Gingrich’s legacy by Lou Dubose of The Washington Spectator.

Click on Newt Gingrich Is a Saul Alinsky Republican for an analysis of Newt Gingrich’s political tactics from the Washington Examiner.

Click on Language: a Key Mechanism of Control for Newt Gingrich’s 1996 GOPAC Memo on political rhetoric.

Barack Obama lucky in his opponents

January 28, 2012

Throughout his political career, Barack Obama has been lucky in his political opponents.  When he first ran for Illinois State Senate in 1996, his only opponent in the Democratic primary was Alice Palmer, his predecessor, who only decided at the last minute to run for re-election.  Obama was able to show that two-thirds of the signatures on her nominating petitions were invalid, and so he ran unopposed.  In his district, nomination in a Democratic primary was tantamount to election.

In 2004, when Barack Obama first ran for the U.S. Senate, the two strongest potential candidates, incumbent Republican Peter Fitzgerald and predecessor Democrat Carol Moseley Brown, decided not to run.  The Republican front-runner, Jack Ryan, a Goldman Sachs partner who retired to become a parochial school teacher in inner-city Chicago, was embarrassed when the Chicago Tribune sued successfully to have his sealed divorce papers made public.  The papers revealed that his wife, the actress Jeri Ryan, accused him of pressuring her to go to sex clubs in New York, New Orleans and Paris. Ryan withdrew from the race, and Obama’s opponent was the eccentric Alan Keyes, whom he defeated overwhelmingly.

In 2008, with Barack Obama ran for President, he faced a formidable Democratic primary opponent in Hillary Clinton.  But in the general election, Republican candidate John McCain proved surprisingly inept, and then chose the even more inept Sarah Palin as his running mate.   Given the unpopularity of the George W. Bush administration, it is unlikely any Republican could have one.

Now, in 2010, the likely Republican candidate is either Newt Gingrich, a symbol of political sleaze and corruption, or Mitt Romney, a symbol of corporate wealth and economic privilege.   President Obama’s opponents, and not his record, are his best hope for re-election.

Nate Silver thinks there is a possibility that the Republican nominating convention will choose a candidate other than the ones who’ve signed up for the marathon primary race.   I don’t think that is likely, but it would be a way to nominate a better candidate—that is, one better qualified to be President of the United States.

Click on Some Signs G.O.P. Establishment’s Backing of Romney is Tenuous for Nate Silver’s reasoning in his FiveThirtyEight web log and column.

In praise of food stamps

January 24, 2012

The father of the today’s food stamp program was George McGovern, a liberal Democratic Senator from South Dakota who is remembered for running for President in 1972 in opposition to the Vietnam War, and being defeated in a landslide by Richard M. Nixon.  He and Senator Robert Dole, a conservative Republican Senator from Kansas, co-sponsored the Food Stamp Act of 1977, which establishes the food stamp program in its present form.

An experimental food stamp program existed during the Great Depression, and a food stamp program was revived during the Great Society era.  First the government gave away surplus food, such as cheese.  Then there was a program for poor people to buy their own food, using government stamps that could be bought for less than the face value.  The problem with that was that some Americans were too poor to afford food stamps.  Even with food stamps, malnutrition and even starvation existed in the United States.  This was addressed  by Senator McGovern’s and Dole’s bill, which gave the food stamps to any eligible family.   This is an achievement to be proud of.

I remember back in the 1990s when Newt Gingrich talked about “McGovernite” morality.  He and McGovern, make an interesting contrast.  George McGovern served his country bravely in wartime, married and was faithful to his college sweetheart, never took drugs and was respected even by his political opponents.  Newt Gingrich avoided military service, cheated on at least two of his three wives and was despised even by his political allies.  But Gingrich had the audacity to set himself up as an arbiter of morality, and there were people who took him seriously.

Click on Newt Gingrich’s Dodgy Attack on Food Stamps for comment from Business Week.

Food stamps and dog whistles

January 24, 2012

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Newt Gingrich on a number of occasions has called President Barack Obama the “food stamp President.”  An interesting choice of words.  Not the “unemployment President” or the “foreclosure President,” but the “food stamp President.”  Does he mean to imply that it matters less that so many people are unable to find work, and have lost their homes, than that there is a program to make sure poor people get enough to eat?  He said President Obama has “put” people on food stamps, but Obama didn’t write the law.  Would Gingrich have him refuse to administer the law as written?

Juan Williams, among others, asked Gingrich if he wasn’t appealing to a negative stereotype of black people.  Gingrich’s reply was that he would be happy to appear before the NAACP and lecture the delegates on why hard work is better than food stamps.

A few facts:

  • More whites than blacks receive food stamps.
  • Nearly half of those who get food stamps have jobs, and still are poor.
  • Most black people have jobs.
  • Jobs are not to be had for the asking (to put it mildly).

The expression “dog whistles” refers to coded words that are understood by a small group but unnoticed by the general public.  When President George W. Bush referred to the Supreme Court being wrong on the Dred Scott pro-slavery decision, members of the Right to Life movement understood him to be alluding to the Roe vs. Wade anti-abortion decision, since they frequently compare the two.

Newt Gingrich’s remarks can’t be called “dog whistles.”  Their appeal to racially prejudiced white people is not hidden or subtle.  It could not be more plain and obvious.

Many conservative Republicans seriously wonder why so few African Americans leave what they call the “Democratic plantation.” But then a lot of them probably think that the average NAACP convention delegate needs to be lectured on the desirability of hard work.

Newt Gingrich also thinks there is a serious problem with overpaid janitors.  In my biased opinion, the average janitor contributes more to the well-being of the American people than Newt Gingrich ever has.

Click on Newt and the Food Stamp President for comment from The Economist.

Click on Real Racists Do Real Things and On Looking Like a Ghetto Crackhead for Ta-Nehisi Coates’ comments.

Click on Slowpoke Comics archive for more cartoons.

Six notable people to invite for dinner

January 10, 2012

An on-line poll asked viewers to name six notable historical figures whom they’d invite dinner.  One of the responders was Newt Gingrich.  He listed Thomas Edison, Charles Darwin, Orville and Wilbur Wright, Winston Churchill and John Ford.

The composite consensus of top invitees, as I posted this,  consisted of Jesus of Nazareth, Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King Jr., Leonardo da Vinci and Michael Jackson.

As for myself, I in a way already have notable people as guests.  They are guests in my head.  That is to say, I have imaginary conservations with people whom I’ve read or heard about, but never met.  I do not of course mistake them for real people, but I can’t always predict their responses, and I sometimes change my opinion as a result of these conversations.

I have imaginary conversations with George Orwell, Henry Thoreau and Ayn Rand, but I probably wouldn’t invite them.  I don’t think they’d be the life of the party.  But I think I’d have a good time talking to Bertrand Russell, Michel de Montaigne, Samuel Johnson, G.K. Chesterton, H.G. Wells and maybe Richard Feynman or William James.

Or maybe I should invite Socrates, Moses, Jesus of Nazareth, Mohammad, the Buddha, and Confucius and, if I am not too awestruck to open my mouth, ask them what they think of their professed followers.

What notable people would you like to have dinner with?

Click on Who are the six notable people you’d like to have dinner with? for the current version of the on-line poll.

Click on Dinner With Newt? A TIC Colloquium for thoughts about Newt Gingrich’s choices.  Stephen Masty, writing for the Imaginative Conservative, said it would be enlightening to ask all the Presidential candidates for their favorite imaginary dinner guests, more enlightening than the current debates, anyhow.  But the candidates would have to submit to lie detector tests to guarantee honest answers.

Of course the great thing about living in an age like this, when books are easily obtainable from stores, public libraries and the Internet is that you don’t have to meet great people in the flesh in order to interact with them.