Newt's Dwindling Conservative Credentials

Posted: Jan 10, 2012 5:00 PM

Apparently Mitt Romney's business dealings at Bain Capital are not to Speaker Gingrich's liking. By now you've heard his comments about how unfair it was when some of Bain Capital's investments didn't work out. Why wasn't Mitt Romney 'out there with the workers'? When asked about this statement during an appearance on Fox and Friends, Newt assured audiences that he is 'for capitalism'.

"I'm for capitalism. I'm for free enterprise. I'm for entrepreneurs."

No one should have to say "I'm for capitalism." If you find yourself defending your remarks in that way, your point was probably anti-capitalist, as Newt's was. He isn't required to trust the free market to right itself and is allowed to believe all sorts of non-capitalist ideas (that certain types of private profit are unfair, that corporations exist not to make money but to fulfill social obligations, that people have a right to a job), but that is a sticking point for most conservatives, and language like that puts him more in the camp with Occupy Wall Street or President Obama than fans of limit government. Where's the conservatism?

Fans of the former Speaker will probably counter with his record of reforming welfare and balancing the budget when President Clinton was in office. But as Star Parker reminds us, reforming entitlement programs is now 'right-wing social engineering'. Why the seeming discrepancy in approaches to welfare? Parker suggests that it takes more courage to reform popular programs like Social Security than unpopular ones like welfare. Ann Coulter has another theory altogether.

Speaker Gingrich did lots of other things while in Congress, too, such as co-sponsoring the Fairness Doctrine. After Congress, he started a think tank that took money to promote the individual mandate to other Republicans. He consulted for Freddie Mac to the tune of $1.6 million (direct quote: "I'm convinced that if NASA were a GSE, we would probably be on Mars today.)

And what about social issues? Speaker Gingrich has touted himself as a champion of traditional values on the campaign trail. Alas, his excuse for his two affairs and three marriages is that he 'worked too hard'. Bloviating about family values while letting himself off the hook comes off as lecturing and opportunistic.

My suspicion is that Newt Gingrich did well because he was able to recite political bromides. But saying things that an audience wants to hear will only go so far when you have enough baggage. To recap: Newt is attacking Bain, arguing that the particular brand of capitalism is not one that is amenable to him. Entitlement reform is 'right wing social engineering'. He supported the individual mandate, took money from Freddie Mac and co-sponsored the Fairness Doctrine. His excuse for multiple affairs is that he was working too hard. It's fine if Newt feels this way, but it leaves me wondering-what exactly makes this man a conservative again?