The relationship between conservatives and Newt Gingrich used to remind me of a line in The Godfather II: “Your father did business with Hyman Roth, he respected Hyman Roth,” Frank Pentangeli told Michael Corleone, “but he never trusted Hyman Roth!”
Conservatives respected Gingrich — even if they didn’t always trust him.
But more and more, I’m witnessing a disturbing trend — conservatives who disrespect Gingrich. And that strikes me as wrong.
Let’s be honest. He has baggage. And personal peccadilloes aside, he has come down on the wrong side of a lot of issues. But by the same token, there are no philosophically pure candidates in this race. And perhaps accomplishment should be worth something?
And Gingrich’s accomplishments do demand respect. In baseball parlance, he’s in Cooperstown. While there are many little reasons to be skeptical of Gingrich, he has done one big thing which cannot be underestimated or taken away from him.
It was he who led the Republican Revolution of 1994, which — for the first time in forty years — gave Republicans control of the House. Prior to Gingrich, many Republicans were content with minority status. Gingrich utterly rejected the notion that Republicans should settle for the scraps, and began meticulously plotting to change things. As such, in the pantheon of conservative American politicians of the last century, Gingrich’s name has to be included in the same breath as luminaries such as Ronald Reagan, Barry Goldwater, and Robert Taft.
To be sure, some of his competitors have done impressive things — Rick Perry’s jobs record in Texas, for example, deserves applause — but none of them come close to matching Gingrich’s historic accomplishments.
He isn’t just a politician; he’s also an historical figure.
This, of course, does not mean you must vote for him for president — but shouldn’t it have earned at least a modicum of respect?