Dear Red America, Newt Gingrich Does Not Respect You

He misrepresents his record, spins his career as a special-interest advocate, and otherwise takes you for dupes

Newt Gingrich speaking - AP Photo:Cheryl Senter - banner.jpg

Ross Douthat offers a fleshed-out version of what a lot of conservative intellectuals are saying about Jon Huntsman: that the former Utah governor is genuinely conservative, more likely than anyone to prevail in a general election, and possessed of substantive policy answers to the nation's most serious problems.

There's just one problem.

"His salesmanship has been staggeringly inept. Huntsman's campaign was always destined to be hobbled by the two years he spent as President Obama's ambassador to China," Douthat writes. "But he compounded the handicap by introducing himself to the Republican electorate with a series of symbolic jabs at the party's base. He picked high-profile fights on two hot-button issues -- evolution and global warming -- that were completely irrelevant to his candidacy's rationale. He let his campaign manager define his candidacy as a fight to save the Republican Party from a 'bunch of cranks.' And he embraced his identity as the media's favorite Republican by letting the liberal journalist Jacob Weisberg write a fawning profile for Vogue."

Summing up, Douthat comments that "This was political malpractice at its worst. Voters don't necessarily need to like a candidate to vote for him, but they need to think that he likes them."

Is he right?

If so, I have some information for the GOP base that should change how they feel about the relative merits of Huntsman and Newt Gingrich. Let me level with you, Red America: Huntsman does indeed believe that many of you are wrong about evolution and global warming. But he hasn't shown anywhere near as much contempt and disrespect for you as Gingrich.

Yes, I know, you remember Gingrich as the man who conceived of the Contract With America. But there's a lot more to him than that. This is a D.C. insider who thinks you're dumb enough to believe that he got paid $1.6 million from Freddie Mac for his services as "a historian"; a man who ridiculed Freddie publicly after privately working to advance its favored policies; Gingrich still expects you to believe his disingenuous claim that he never engaged in lobbying for special interests; he is a man who tried in a televised debate to pretend that he hadn't supported an individual mandate in health care, only to be successfully called out by an opponent; he is even someone who tried to tell you, with a straight face, that the breakup of one of his marriages could be blamed partly on how passionately he felt about America (he had an extramarital affair).

That's just for starters.

So if any of you felt disrespected by Huntsman for forthrightly saying that he thinks you're wrong about a couple of things, understand that it could be much worse. You could embrace a nominee who just lies to you when he thinks you won't like hearing the truth. And who tells such audacious whoppers that part of him has to believe that we're all stupid.

What shows more contempt and disrespect, telling someone you think one of their ideas is wrongheaded? Or lying to them over and over about your record, your character, and your business dealings?

Your call, Red America.   


Image credit: Reuters

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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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