As my regular readers will know from previous posts, I try to avoid picking low-hanging fruit. But Newt stirs up such passion in us lefties that I find him, well, irresistible! Those of us that were attentive adults during the roaring nineties find his candidacy for the highest office in the land implausible to say the least, and downright outrageous to be a little more expressive.
For starters, the truth is the guy just isn’t very likable. David Corn nailed it in his recent Mother Jones post when he queried, Can Newt Be the First Openly Mean President? My first instinct when I read the question, besides belly-laughing out loud, was to yell, “Hell no!” I may be woefully underestimating the guy, and even more woefully overestimating the electorate, but as I recently heard an MSNBC pundit put it, “Newt has more baggage than a 747!” That would seem to disqualify him from winning a general election. Of course, anything can happen in the wild world of Republican primary politics and he just might get the nomination, despite how ridiculous that sounds to some of us.
To revisit one item in the crowded cargo hold of Newt’s plane, he fell from grace in 1999 when resigning from Congress and his role as House Speaker as his rank hypocrisy came back and bit a big chunk out of his corpulent ass. As many may recall, while trying to run President Clinton out of town on high-speed rail for lying about marital infidelity, good old Newt was cheating on wife number two and lying about it. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that prior to that, he infamously served wife number one with divorce papers when she was in the hospital recovering from uterine cancer, so he could continue copulating with number two in good conscience (and, get this: he would subsequently blame his insensitivity and infidelity on “working too hard” and patriotism!). And all this from a guy who ran on a far-right, Family Values, Christian conservative platform and has frequently spoken publicly about his faith.
Although I could fill up this entire blog with instances of Newt’s championship-caliber hypocrisy, I have to reach back no further in history then to last week’s news to dig up another juicy example of it. It was recently revealed that Newt pocketed between $1.6-1.8 million in consulting fees from the publicly financed mortgage behemoth, Freddie Mac. You may be familiar with Freddie Mac and its competitor Fannie Mae, as they both have been long-time Republican punching bags. Although Newt has creatively provided a different answer on every occasion that he has been asked precisely what the nature of his work was with the organization, it appears that despite his insistence to the contrary, he was hired for his influence upon and access to lawmakers in Washington (i.e., to lobby them) to gain legislative advantage. Newt’s access and influence were particularly acute, as he had only just resigned from his four-year stint as Speaker of the House months earlier and still had strong ties to House Republicans.
Aside from the revolving door aspect to this tale that allows members of congress to leave public office and immediately sell their access to former colleagues on the hill to K Street lobbying firms, there is plenty more that doesn’t pass the smell test. I suppose the worst of it is Newt’s incessant bashing of Democratic lawmakers and President Obama for their support of Freddie Mac while having “consulted” for the organization for the better part of the decade in which questionable lending practices that he now criticizes took place.
It should also be noted that Newt has been on the hard-right side of most every issue, including gay rights, the death penalty, social programs and more recently, climate change, none of which seem consistent with the values that Jesus taught and demonstrated. Although a one time believer in empirical science, Newt has abandoned his once reasonable view on global warming to join the chorus of religious Conservative voices that believe man’s divinely acquired “dominion over the earth and its creatures” provides man and corporations (just a group of people anyway, right?) license to destroy it. If there was ever a position that seemed in conflict with one’s faith, the allowed devastation of God’s handiwork would fit the bill. But that’s another post…
hy·poc·ri·sy [hi-pok-ruh-see] 1. A pretense of having beliefs or principles, etc., that one doesn’t genuinely possess.