“Winning Our Future,” a super PAC supporting Newt Gingrich, has released an ad that complains that the “Republican establishment” and the “liberal Republican establishment” want to “pick our next candidate” — and that candidate is not the “principled conservative,” Newt Gingrich.
I understand the theory behind the ad. The avalanche of attacks being leveled against Gingrich need to be framed in a way that celebrates his virtues. The argument is that the much-reviled Republican “establishment” is afraid of an authentic conservative. And so the establishment is terrified of Gingrich. The problem is that much of the establishment that has been critical of Gingrich consists of principled conservatives, including George Will, Charles Krauthammer, Mona Charen, Rich Lowry, Jennifer Rubin and our own John Podhoretz. Mark Steyn (a frequent guest host for Rush Limbaugh) and Ann Coulter (author of Demonic: How the Liberal Mob Is Endangering America) have been ferocious critics of Gingrich. In what way are they RINOs (“Republicans in Name Only”)?
To complicate things further: many of the so-called Republican establishment desperately wanted Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels and Representative Paul Ryan to enter the race, figures whom the “establishment” considers more conservative, reliable, and disciplined than Gingrich. And to complicate things even further: if there is one person in the race who qualifies as “the establishment,” it’s Newton Leroy Gingrich.
Here’s the real story: some influential conservatives oppose Newt Gingrich because they care about conservatism and believe Gingrich would do harm to the cause. Many people who worked with and for Gingrich admire certain things about him — but would never cast a vote for him to be president. They have concerns about his temperament, grandiosity and ego, and lack of discipline. Still others oppose Gingrich because they don’t believe he can win a general election.
Now these concerns may be right and they may be wrong. But it’s wrong to argue that figures like George Will and magazines like National Review oppose Gingrich because they know he is a “principled conservative” while they are unprincipled RINOs who choose their candidates based on whether it ingratiates them with the liberal political class. What we have is a genuine and deep difference of opinion. That happens in primaries. And to pretend that opposition to Gingrich is based on fears that he is too much of a principled conservative is a fantasy. It is more nearly the opposite.