TheDC’s Jamie Weinstein: Newt Gingrich’s blabbering problem

Jamie Weinstein Senior Writer
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Intermixed with Newt Gingrich’s many positive qualities is a proclivity to make outlandish and unproductive statements that won’t benefit him should he win the White House.

He can be, for lack of a better term, a blabbermouth.

As he has steadily risen in the polls to become the GOP front-runner, Gingrich has done a remarkable job controlling his blabbering, but there have been a few lapses. These lapses help highlight one of the major downsides of his candidacy.

His most egregious case of verbal diarrhea occurred Monday when the former House Speaker impugned Mitt Romney’s career in business.

“I would just say if Governor Romney would like to give back all the money he has earned from bankrupting and laying off employees over his years at Bain, then I would be glad to then listen to him, and I bet you $10 — not $10,000 — that he wouldn’t take the offer,” Gingrich said in response to a Romney jab at his working relationship with Freddie Mac.

This is the type of attack a left-wing Democrat would make and likely will make against Romney in the general election should he win the nomination. It is not a criticism a strong believer in the free market would make. As Newt surely knows, sometimes in order to save a company you have to lay off workers. This is not an easy decision to take or easy for the employees laid off, but sometimes it needs to be done.

As Charles Krauthammer noted, Gingrich’s criticism is what one would expect to hear from a socialist. It is as anti-conservative as the comments he made disparaging Paul Ryan’s budget plan on “Meet the Press” in May that nearly doomed his presidential campaign in its infancy.

In some cases Newt’s blabber isn’t untrue. In an interview on the The Jewish Channel (whatever that is) last week, Gingrich declared that the Palestinians to be an “invented people.”

“Remember, there was no Palestine as a state. It was part of the Ottoman Empire” until the aftermath of World War I, Gingrich said.

“I think that we’ve had an invented Palestinian people who are in fact Arabs, and who were historically part of the Arab community,” he said.

In so far as “Texans” are an invented people, so too are Palestinians — though in fairness to the good people of Texas, they at least had a country once.

Yes, the Palestinians are Arabs. There is no “Palestinian” race or historic Palestine nation. But the Arabs of Palestine have built up over the past century a unique shared experience that now binds them together.

It isn’t that Newt’s point was wrong — it was just not helpful or becoming of a serious presidential candidate. It was more suited for the captain of a debate team.

Nonetheless, Newt defended his position during Saturday’s ABC/Yahoo debate by saying it is important to speak the truth, just like Ronald Reagan did of the Soviet Union.

“I think sometimes it is helpful to have a president of the United States with the courage to tell the truth,” he explained, “just as was Ronald Reagan who went around his entire national security apparatus to call the Soviet Union an evil empire and who overruled his entire State Department in order to say, ‘Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.’ Reagan believed the power of truth restated the world and reframed the world. I am a Reaganite, I’m proud to be a Reaganite. I will tell the truth, even if it’s at the risk of causing some confusion sometimes with the timid.”

There is a crucial difference of course. Reagan’s truth had a practical purpose. It shook the Soviet Union at its core and heartened Soviet dissidents.

As president, Newt will likely have to deal with Palestinians — hopefully Palestinian leaders who are serious about peace, though don’t hold your breath. What’s the use of starting out by jabbing them on something that is completely inconsequential? It’s like starting a meeting with Chris Christie by noting that he is enormously fat. It’s true, but what purpose does it serve? Reagan spoke about an important moral truth, he didn’t point out irrelevant truths like that Russians drink too much vodka or that Gorbechev had a grotesque birthmark on his head. That would have been unproductive, don’t you think?

The Palestinian Arabs have many problems and there are many issues upon which an American president will need to speak bold truths to them. For instance, making clear that the right of return is a non-starter in any peace deal. Explaining that they are an invented people doesn’t strike me as particularly important truth the American president needs to be highlighting.

A final example of Newt’s blabbering habit occurred at the end of November when he attacked the Congressional Budget Office.

“The Congressional Budget Office is a reactionary socialist institution which does not believe in economic growth, does not believe in innovation and does not believe in data that it has not internally generated,” Gingrich said in a speech.

The CBO is widely respected by the right and left, including by people like former CBO director and chief John McCain presidential campaign economic advisor Douglas Holtz-Eakin. But let’s suppose Newt has some legitimate gripes with the organization. Is it really a “reactionary socialist institution”?

This isn’t just overstatement. It’s utterly preposterous.

Should Newt win the nomination and ultimately the White House, he is destined to be either a wildly successful president or an unfathomably terrible one. He is not built to be just so-so.

But in order for him to achieve the former and avoid unhelpful and unnecessary international incidents, it will be useful for him to get his hyperbolic blabbering problem under control.

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