Now it's Newt's turn. Having risen to the top in some opinion polls, the former speaker of the House is taking heat for large consulting fees paid to him by the government-sponsored mortgage company Freddie Mac for wisdom a New York Times editorial said was so simplistic it might have come from a fortune cookie.
As Republican presidential candidates rise only to fall when their imperfections are brought to light, Republican voters risk disappointment in 2012 by playing the left's game on their turf and by their rules. What they must do instead is to protect their "product" at a time when the opportunity to hold Barack Obama to one term, while taking the Senate and increasing their House majority, has never looked better.
The best candidate would clearly be a composite of the eight still standing: Mitt Romney's business sense and debating skills; Newt Gingrich's experience in Washington and knowledge of how to tear down the enormous bureaucracy and make government function the way the founders intended; Herman Cain's political passion and the added bonus of being a conservative African-American; Ron Paul's fealty to the Constitution and his call for America to rethink its military role in the world; Jon Huntsman's knowledge of China, which will remain important for decades; Rick Santorum's and Michele Bachmann's strong moral voices (along with her singular feminine voice) in an age of societal flux; and Rick Perry's Southwestern values and evangelical faith.
Unfortunately, Republicans can't vote for a composite; they'll have to choose one candidate, hopefully one they won't come to regret.
There is something else Republicans must not do. They must avoid making the same mistake Democrats make by looking to government as a first resource. If they are to reduce the size, reach and cost of government, they must demonstrate how they intend to empower Americans. If they are going to deprive Washington of power, they must show people who have ceded personal control to government why they would be better off taking care of themselves. Tell stories about those who have overcome obstacles to become self-sustaining.
The liberal left has so addicted half the country to government entitlement programs and the fiction that they can't possibly make it in life without the aid of government that many have forgotten the meaning of personal freedom and the power that comes with it.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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