Tangled Up In Newt

As I’ve noted numerous times, conservatives are very confused these days. Of course, many liberals are confused as well. (I won’t even talk about the libertarians.) Seems to be the zeitgeist. Perhaps tough times and elite failure always have this effect. And who knows, out of the ashes, perhaps will rise a better society. I know I’m looking forward to seeing the plan for how all these disparate, contradictory ideas will produce one.

But as much as dissonance and confusion are overwhelming the political system in general, this attack on Mitt Romney by Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry has to take the cake.

As Rick Perlstein pithily observed:

There is an important lesson in Rick Perry’s saying “There is a real difference between venture capitalism and vulture capitalism.” It is this: Republican presidential candidates have been criticizing the vampire squids of rapine corporate raiding for only the last fifteen seconds, for completely cynical political reasons, and will only be doing it for fifteen seconds more–but already have come up with more compelling messaging language to describe than it is imaginable any Democratic politician, let alone the president, could do.

I’m guessing that’s because, for all their faults, even the Democrats aren’t the colossal hypocrites that Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry are. Indeed, the hypocrisy is so overwhelming it’s downright disorienting.

For instance, Gingrich claims that “if someone comes in, takes all the money out of your company and then leaves you bankrupt while they go off with millions, that’s not traditional capitalism.” I agree, but it flies in the face of every deregulation and corporate tax break Newt backed during the GOP go-go years. Newt himself admits this. Just last month he said:

I was part of Kemp’s little cabal of supply siders who, I think largely by helping convince Reagan and then working with Reagan, profoundly changed the entire trajectory of the American economy in the 1980s. You could make an argument that I helped Mitt Romney get to be rich, because I helped pass the legislation…He should be thanking me! He should be thanking me because I did the macroeconomic things necessary to make his career possible.

Moreover, despite his newfound populism, he is currently proposing exactly nothing that would prevent Romney from doing what he did and his tax plan would inevitably make Mitt Romney even richer at even more working people’s expense than he already is.

Now, it’s true that nobody’s focused much on vulture capitalism up to this point, so it’s a welcome opening to a larger conversation about capitalism in general and how an egalitarian society should deal with it.It would be just terrific if we could have one. But let’s just say I’m a little bit skeptical that Newt Gingrich is going to still be waving the populist flag in his left hand once his extended 15 minutes in the race are over. Newt as a populist is as believable as him as a faithful husband: I’m sure he believes it when he’s saying it.

I think Newts ads are very powerful. I’m glad they’re out there. Thank you Newtie and your wealthy, union busting benefactor. It may be the most positive contribution you’ve made to politics well … ever. But I think it’s also important for some of us to try to keep these various strands of opportunistic populist and libertarian messages straight for the day when it becomes important to try to make sense out of politics again. At this point I’m not sure that day will ever come.

Comments