Guy Benson

They cover a lot of ground -- from health care, to climate change, to progressivism -- so eat your Wheaties and click "play:"
 


 

Allahpundit distills the inherent tension succinctly:
 

Ultimately, I think this interview was less about debating ideology (note that Beck rarely engages him in a sustained exchange on any topic) than fostering an uneasy but necessary rapprochement between Beck’s “get government out of the way” wing of the party and Newt’s “use government to foster conservative policy goals” wing.


That's the take-away I gleaned, too.  Beck, like many people in the Tea Party movement, is deeply cynical about the federal government's power (not to mention competence) to solve national problems through massive programs.  As Ramesh Ponnuru notes in his Bloomberg column today, Newt embodies government-empowerment conservatism.  The frustrating reality for small government conservatives?  Both "acceptable" GOP frontrunners have exhibited a "yes we can" attitude toward government power throughout their careers.  Beck hits Newt with a number of challenging audio snippets, several of which Newt handles nimbly.  Too often, though, Newt retreats into the rhetorical terrain of complex historical allegory and big ideas-ism, which almost seems like a verbal tick at this point.  Even if he's not intentionally obfuscating, it sounds like he is.  Here are two of the clips Beck sampled in the segment.  First up, Newt in 2003 waxing eloquent about the necessity of the federal government to take a "leading role" in reshaping the American healthcare system:
 

"Government has to lead."


If you watch the full clip, Newt parses and explains his apparent government cheerleading pretty well and deserves credit for telling hard truths about Medicare.  Beckians won't like his Teddy Roosevelt fetish, though -- a point Newt addresses during the radio exchange.  Next, Newt "debates" John Kerry on climate change in 2007. (While we're on the subjects of Kerry and problematic old videos, here's Mitt Romney in 2004 mocking Kerry for, er, flip-flopping). Watch as the senior Senator from Massachusetts pronounces himself "excited" by Newt's insistence that the federal government ought to take "urgent" action to combat anthropogenic global warming:
 


Confronted by Beck, Gingrich (again) gives a fairly deft answer, but directly states that he opposes cap and trade.  Except...in the above clip, Newt doesn't sound overly concerned about a cap and trade regime ("they'll pass something) -- which he (and a sizable handful of Republicans) has explicitly supported in the past.  Some anxious Romney supporters are urging the campaign to start teeing off on Newt more forcefully, but Team Romney is surely hoping that others will do their dirty work for them.  Michele Bachmann has been lighting into both Newt and Mitt over the last few days, and Ron Paul is set to air a shorter version of his merciless "serial hypocrisy" attack ad against Newt in Iowa in the coming weeks.  Here's the iteration Iowans will see:
 


 

Gingrich's campaign has smartly responded by reiterating its commitment to the high road -- a strategy that has paid major dividends in recent months.  Since much of this post has been devoted to criticisms and controversies surrounding the Republican frontrunner, I'll leave you with this clarifying observation from Rush Limbaugh, who cuts through much of the morass (which isn't to say these issues shouldn't be thoroughly examined) and focuses the mind on a relevant point:
 


Guy Benson

Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Senior Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson.

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography