A version of this column appeared today in the Emory Wheel.
If the picture of Barack Obama laughing had actually coincided with Newt Gingrich winning the Republican primary in South Carolina, it would have been fantastic, though not especially classy.
You may not know the photo and the victory didn’t actually coincide. Rather, a man from Arizona named Don Slutes put together the fake Washington Post cover page that included the Obama cracking up under a headline proclaiming Gingrich had won. The image went viral. Could it be that there is humor in a Gingrich victory?
Well, the short answer is yes.
And unfortunately, Gingrich will forever be my fellow Emory alumnus.
I find Gingrich difficult (deplorable) on ideological grounds, but my complaint at present has little to do with conservative or liberal values. Rather, it has to do with inconsistency, irresponsibility, a severe lack of ethics, and a weird level of unmerited egotism. Plus, he’s representing, but not representative of Emory.
Emory constitutes a community striving all the time to be more responsible and more ethical. We face challenges all the time, but at least we try humbly and authentically to be a mature community of thoughtful individuals.
I think it would be fair to say Gingrich is authentically immature. It was bad enough when most Gingrich media blitzes focused on his three marriages and various levels of dishonesty. Now, despite the fact that at least one donor – casino magnate Sheldon Adelson – has given more than $10 million to the superPAC supporting Gingrich, the campaign itself is $4 million in debt and actually bounced a $500 check to enter the primary in Utah. Fiscal responsibility, anyone?
Yet, Gingrich is besotted by his own large personality. He is, to himself, a born leader, a natural demagogue.
To us, he is a sore loser.
Everyone knows that Mitt Romney has won. As David Graham, an associate editor with The Atlantic pointed out Thursday, at least Ron Paul has reasons to stick around – you know, like a policy agenda and a political legacy by way of his son, Rand.
Gingrich, on the other hand, is still fundraising, still advertising, still campaigning, and with no apparent purpose. If there were ever a poster child for campaign finance reform, it is truly Newt Gingrich, Class of 1965. That we would allow so much to be spent furthering the conceits of ideology – I tried to think of a “rather” to end this sentence, but I am at a loss; rather than do anything else with it.
With some basic exceptions outlined by most major religions, we could do almost anything else with the money currently being spent by big donors and superPACs and it would be more useful.
Even in a conservative think tank, this money would be dedicated to some semblance of a scientific method – to research and thoughtfulness of a kind. Better yet, think of the education reforms that could be implemented if those donor checks had gone to something like Race to the Top, or to interesting experiments in charter schools, or just to supplement Social Security or PELL grants. Even if it had gone to build fighter jets, at least then it would provide jobs.
Instead, we are stuck with ads for a man described as “a caricature of himself” and “a good TV sitcom that runs a little too long” by Republican consultant Mark Corallo, quoted in the Washington Post on Thursday.
Gingrich even has the nerve to compare his so-called race against Romney with the 2008 Democratic primary. If nothing else, the difference is that Democrats actually liked both candidates. According to the Pew Research Center, 80% of Democrats thought Hillary Clinton and Obama were excellent or good options in 2008. This year, less than half of Republicans would describe their candidate choices as excellent or good.
So Romney may be winning, but less than 30% of Republican voters say they like him. That’s pretty bad news for Romney, but it just makes Gingrich look silly.
Of course, I don’t have any vested interest in a strong Republican party. But I do have a vested interest in some dignity for American politics and some dignity for Emory.
It’s not overly idealistic to think that shouting, “You lie,” at the President could be frowned on by both parties (remember the State of the Union speech in 2009? Thank you Representative Joe Wilson). Senators and Representatives can and do work together across party lines. We can and should respect one another.
At some point, having your face on the television screen is not the most important thing. For politicians, the best interests of the people should be the priority. Gingrich is wildly self-interested and only narrowly aware of any bigger picture. He is reliably bizarre and agenda-less; maybe this is just being stubborn to be stubborn and spending money to spend money. Either way, it’s a disgrace.
At least attending St. Andrews expands the pool of fellow alumni to include Prince William and Kate. Thanks for keeping it classy, royals.
To Newt: As a fellow graduate of your alma mater, I urge you to step down. You’re embarrassing us.