Friday, January 26, 2007


You Never Thought of Him that Way but Does Newt Resemble Churchill? And if You Thought Romney was Liberal Running for Governor, Remember When He Was More Left than Teddy?

Plus: If you are a social conservative-libertarian and yet hate the Iraq War, you just may find Paul appealing.

By Thomas F. Roeser

Another in a series of articles on the various Republican candidates for president for The Wanderer, the nation’s oldest Catholic weekly newspaper, with some updating.

CHICAGO—So far, we’ve covered the qualifications and idiosyncrasies in previous articles of five prospective Republican presidential candidates: U. S. Senator Sam Brownback (Kansas), U. S. Senator John McCain (Arizona), former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and U. S. Congressman Duncan Hunter (California). Conservatives generally come in four categories: social conservatives whose main preoccupation is in reforming the hedonistic culture; libertarian which seeks to pare back sharply on government intrusion; neo-conservative which sees America’s destiny as assisting in achieving the globalization of democracy; and traditional which seeks to shrink America’s involvement in foreign wars, end illegal immigration and repair what it sees as the deleterious effects of unlimited free trade which hurts U. S. domestic manufacturers. Unfortunately, today’s politics give most conservative voters no choice whatsoever in the Democratic party since all its candidates are pro-abort, pro-gay rights, anti-libertarian and non-traditionalist.

Obviously for many of us it becomes a game of pick-and-choose: perhaps a little bit of trade protectionism here, a dash of libertarianism there, a strong component of social conservatism for biting flavor with a bit of McKinley-like imperialist nationalism for old time’s sake. Candidates don’t come that way, even Ron Paul (to be described below): they’re either strongly one way or the other but most are infinitely malleable. Remember, candidate George W. Bush thundered against nation-building and said a foreign policy must be rooted to total domestic self-interest; now he envisions America as the revolutionary force leading tyrannies to adopt democracy. And those who shrug off Mitt Romney’s liberalism when he ran for governor should go back farther—when he challenged Ted Kennedy for the Senate. Romney was such a far out lefty that Kennedy seemed the stodgy stand-pat. McCain forces are sure to see that Mitt’s pronouncements in that race are given new currency. Any left turns McCain has made in the Senate are nothing compared to Romney’s U-turns between then and now. Such does the world turn.

Having discussed the first tier, now we go to the second, Republicans who are interested in the presidency but have not yet mounted big campaigns and many of them, not all, with no exploratory campaigns. This list begins with probably the brightest of the pack, the most resourceful and the wild card of the group—neo-conservative and self-proclaimed social conservative Newt Gingrich, 63, a Baptist. Like fellow baby boomer Bill Clinton, Gingrich came from a family fractured by divorce. His real name was Newton Leroy McPherson, changed to Gingrich when his mother re-married, to an army officer named Gingrich. (Clinton’s initial name was William Blythe; Gerald Ford’s Leslie Lynch King, Jr.)

Former Congressman Henry Hyde, no friend, described Newt Gingrich as being 50% genius and 50% nuts, by which he meant erratic. Before this comment makes you decide against Gingrich, remember that the same description was given to Winston Churchill, the prime minister who supplied Britain with its indomitable will to win the war and inspiration stemming from his brilliant mastery of history and mobilization of the English language. There are many similarities between the two. Irascible, unpredictable, they often confounded their enemies and alternatively confused some of their allies. Both have been superb self-publicists. Neither were adverse to taking risky chances.

As a journalist covering the Boer War, Churchill was captured and escaped from prison camp, making a harrowing 300-mile trek to freedom—which he himself wrote up in heroic terms which gave him a wide following in Britain. Gingrich was a Georgia history prof, denied tenure at a community college, who ran unsuccessfully twice for the House and on the third try inflamed a placid suburban Atlanta constituency with talk of Disraeli’s conservative reformist ideas applied to Washington (most of whom had never heard of Disraeli) and won a back-bench seat in the U. S. House. After Churchill won a seat in parliament, rather than attending the opening of Commons, he went on a speaking tour selling his books in the U. S. for which he was sorely criticized at home. No sooner had Gingrich won a seat in the House than he wrote a book attacking his own party’s House leadership, proposing a rump group called the “Conservative Opportunity Society,” and went on a speaking tour across the country selling his ideas.

Churchill became so hated by his own party that he was forced to move his seat from the Tory side to the Liberal wing; Gingrich ultimately became so hated by his Republican caucus that in 1997 members launched an abortive putsch against him which caused him to ultimately resign the Speakership and his House seat. Churchill was pronounced politically dead when he masterminded a disastrous British raid at Gallopoli in the Dardanelles in World War I necessitating his resignation as First Lord of the Admiralty, being shunned for a time by both parties which he had alienated. Gingrich was pronounced politically dead when, as Speaker, he was censured by the House ethics committee for accepting a $4.5 million advance for a book deal which he was forced to return. Consumed by selling his books, audio and video tapes to audiences for profit, he was also conducting an affair with a female employee of the House who ultimately became his third wife.

But nevertheless, both men had the power to stir people with imaginative ideas and rhetoric: Churchill being the first to foretell the danger from Adolf Hitler’s 3rd Reich, Gingrich being the first to prompt his party to win the House after 40 years in the wilderness with an imaginative positive program he largely wrote himself, the “Contract with America.” In June, 2006 Minnesota Republicans conducted a straw poll for president and Gingrich won hands-down, after he delivered an exciting speech there at a convention. Still, professionals tend to cringe when they imagine Gingrich as the nominee or president. But increasingly in an era when ideas carry the day, Gingrich seems like a brilliant bolt from the blue in contrast to the bland cliché-speaking pols seeking votes.

Conservatives, Liberals and Labor members trembled when Churchill was summoned by the King to become his first minister. When I went to St. John’s College, Oxford as a lecturer on American politics in the late 1970s, I met a former member of Churchill’s war cabinet who was lecturing on the late prime minister’s legacy. The British Broadcasting Company had just conducted a poll of Englishmen who voted heavily that Churchill was the greatest Englishman who ever lived.

“I will tell you this,” said the former cabinet minister who wanted confidentiality as we lunched together at High Table. “It was all we could do to bat down Winston’s frightening ideas which would have sealed the doom of this island and, practically, that of the United States had Roosevelt been so foolish to follow him. Each day he would have, let us say, seven fresh ideas for winning the war—five of which were disastrous and caused the military staff to gasp, one of which was highly impractical and adjudged unable to be executed. And one which was certifiably brilliant. It was your own Eisenhower who helped us most, keeping the old man on track.”

As would a Churchill, Gingrich is preparing to seek the presidency but wisely is determining not to launch an exploratory committee until this coming September. The reason: he imagines that some of his competitors will blow up—McCain by being too militaristic in supporting the further buildup in Iraq, Giuliani by being too Giuliani as happened when, one night to amuse the media, he appeared in drag complete with lipstick, high heels and a brilliant blonde wig; and Romney by being too buttoned down, dull and harnessed by the Mormon religion (although he is the only major contender to have one wife). In the meanwhile, Gingrich is making a lot of money churning out ideas by the bucket-full. He is seemingly everywhere—as a think-tank member, a Fox News contributor, a tireless convention keynoter, a college adjunct lecturer, a frequent Op Ed contributor and prodigious author who writes books on an assembly-line basis.

He has supported the Iraq War but condemns the way he says Bush botched it, saying that the U. S. cannot win Iraq but only the Iraqis can, criticizing the way we ran the country as an occupying force rather than encouraging Iraqis to govern themselves right from the outset. Yet he does not counsel getting out quickly, saying we cannot break faith with a brave people who voted, risking their lives, with an 80% turnout. He was the firsat to declare that the U. S. needed to train the Iraqis as rapidly as possible and pull back from the cities to bases and air fields, serving as re-enforcers rather than occupiers—a view later adopted as official U. S. policy.

He is pro-life but has not made the issue a specialization; rather he has sought to shore up social conservatives by blistering the way secularists try to remove God from the U. S. identity.

Possibly more than almost any other presidential candidate in history, he floods the marketplace with ideas: some powerfully innovative, some impractical ala Churchill. Among them: Set aside the money spent for space exploration and convert it into prizes with bigger rewards for the private sector to get into space faster than the entrenched bureaucracy…change the FAA and NASA rules to make it easier for entrepreneurs to go into space at a higher risk than is tolerated in government programs…while working to develop a hydrogen economy, use funds to provide incentives for the private sector to develop renewal fuels, wind, solar and bio-fuels—better to give the money to U. S. farmers than to Middle East dictators…create a $1 billion prize for the first affordable car to get 500 miles per gallon of gasoline and be sold at $30,000 a car or less with the same reliability and performance as gasoline-powered cars…a second billion-dollar prize should be offered for a car getting 1000 miles to the gallon of gasoline.

Nowhere is Gingrich more impressive than on the issue of illegal immigration where he denounces the Bush amnesty plan, ridicules the fact that this nation is not controlling its borders, supports a heavy crack-down on businesses that employs illegals. He would end federal subsidies to cities like Chicago and Los Angeles which have declared “open sanctuary” for illegals. On education, he asks how much current curricula in K-12 and higher education actually slow down students, waste their time and taxpayer money and has recommended programs to counteract this.

Ideas from Newt Gingrich pour out of his website every day, ideas that are not staff-produced but are of his own origin, mostly based on free-market initiatives. I know because I first met him when he was a backbencher and on that first day, while we were walking over to his office from the House chamber, he rattled off so many fresh ideas that it was virtually impossible to catalog them. Which has led some veteran Republican politicians who oppose his presidential candidacy to urge that no matter who becomes the Republican president, he should commandeer Gingrich, lock him in a room, give him a pencil and a tablet of paper and hire him to produce at least ten new ideas a day. As with Churchill, of the ten, seven will be impractical, one will be worth examining on a long-range basis, one disastrous for the country—but one brilliant, prescient and a concept of pure genius. The tough part won’t be to get Newt to think up fresh ideas which will come like a splash of water out of a fire-hose but for somebody to pick the right one that will be ingenious.

Libertarians—more than popularly supposed—prefer as candidate a Congressman from Texas who is a skilled medical doctor with almost as many challenging opinions and ideas as Gingrich except that, with few exceptions, they harmonize in libertarian form. While Cong. Ronald Ernest “Ron” Paul is distinctively a libertarian, he is a social conservative as well, an anomaly, since many libertarians believe that abortion and gay permissiveness are rights. Not so Paul, 72, whose 14th district encompasses an area between Houston and Austin consisting of rural areas and small towns running along the Gulf Coast, once Democratic but now firmly conservative. But in his district are some industrial plants—DuPont, Union Carbide, Alcoa and BP Chemicals. He is so opposed to regular congressional pork spending that he is called “Dr. No.”

Under Texas law, passed to protect Lyndon Johnson’s Senate seat while he ran for the presidency in 1960, a Texan can run for two offices at once: president and Congress. On January 11th he announced formation of a presidential exploratory committee but he will run for both president and reelection to the House. This will be his second presidential run: he was once the Libertarian party candidate for president in 1988 and has never renounced his membership in that party.

Dr. Paul would be the oldest candidate running and by all odds the most conservative and most consistent—fiscally, economically and internationally. The candidate, a non-denominational Protestant, was born in Pennsylvania, received his bachelor’s from Gettysburg college and graduated from Duke medical school. He did his internship at Henry Ford hospital in Detroit and was an in-flight surgeon in the U. S. Air Force from 1963 to 1968. After military service, he moved to Texas (with his wife) to practice obstetrics and gynecology. Angered when Richard Nixon cut the connection between gold and the dollar in 1971, Dr. Paul got interested in economics and then politics. He follows his own drummer but arrives at his positions rationally, not viscerally, heedless of whom he will offend.

He was elected to the House in 1976, served four terms and ran for the Senate, losing to Phil Gramm by a huge majority, 73% to 16%. Then he ran for president as a Libertarian, coming in third election after George H. W. Bush and Mike Dukakis with 432,000 votes, slightly ahead of Pat Buchanan’s Reform party attempt in 2000 (although Buchanan had help with federal financing which Paul disdained). It would be fair to say that even Buchanan as president might well be more of an activist chief executive than Paul who supports the concept of a purposefully weak executive who serves as a meticulous constitutionalist.

By means of third party candidacies, often ideas are produced there that are picked up by the two major parties. Two of Paul’s ideas have become coltishly popular among conservative intellectuals—term limits and abolition of the income tax (not so radical as it seems, the latter endorsed by Dick Armey, the one-time House majority leader). But some of Dr. Paul’s views are horridly tough prescriptions: ending all government funding of education, cutting $150 billion from the defense budget and returning to the gold standard.

Returning to the House in 1996 by raising big bucks from gold bugs across the country who still respond excitedly to his economic views, Paul ran 1% ahead of the GOP presidential nominee Bob Dole and beat an ordinary conservative 51% to 48%, a stunning 71.4 % of his contributions coming from outside Texas.

In the House, Paul occupies a distinctively independent stance. He regularly votes against almost all proposals for government spending, initiatives or taxes. But on trade, he’s not been predictable. Most libertarians are free-traders but Paul voted against the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) arguing that it increases the size of government. Because of his philosophy, he has voted solidly against border security as an intrusion on personal liberty although opposing illegal immigration.

He has called for re-introduction of the gold standard requiring the government to make large purchases of gold and to issue currency not beyond its ownership of gold. He wants removal of all taxes on gold transactions, wants to abolish the Federal Reserve Board. He has introduced a bill to give the states the power to regulate hemp rather than the feds, the first weakening of the ban on hemp farming in history. This bill goes along with his belief that the Constitution does not give Congress the power to regulate or ban drugs in general.

Although a pro-lifer, he believes the Constitution does not give the federal government the power to either legalize or ban abortion but that the power to do so should be reserved to the states. He has introduced legislation to keep the Supreme Court from ruling on issues pertaining to abortion, birth control, the definition of marriage and homosexuality with the proviso that previous court rulings on these subjects be no longer binding. His views on the consistent life ethic carries through with his opposition to capital punishment. But hideously unpopular was his vote against governments catching online child predators. Why? Because he believes child-raising in a parental, not a government, issue. He voted against the Federal Defense of Marriage Act but supported a measure to ban gay couples from adopting children in the District of Columbia.

Although a supporter of Pope John Paul II, he voted against a bill to award the pontiff a congressional gold medal at taxpayer expense along with medals for Mother Teresa of Calcutta and civil rights icon Rosa Parks. He ponied up $100 from his own pocket for the Pope’s medal and challenged congressional opponents to the same. When they refused, he shouted: “See? It’s easy to be generous with other people’s money.”

His civil libertarian moves translate into a strict non-interventionist foreign policy, voting against the Iraq War Resolution, the Patriot Act to shore up domestic security against terrorism because he despised curtailing U. S. liberties; and urges withdrawal of the U. S. from the United Nations. His opposition to the war has gained him support from the Left. Despite the fact that many of his own party don’t agree with him, the contention has grown that Dr. Paul is his own immovable man with fiercely independent views and it is unwise to challenge one who has been elected to the House eight times, at least once in each of the past decades.

Call him impractical and an obstructionist to the regular course of governmental business, of all the candidates for president, he maintains he is meticulously faithful to the original intent of the founders. His view of the presidency would make Calvin Coolidge look like a power broker, saying that by studying the Federalist one learns that the president should be the mere administrator of policies designed by the people through the Congress. Hamiltonians can disagree but here is a guy who votes as he believes, condemning arbitrary presidential decisions as unconstitutional, indicting Woodrow Wilson in Mexico in 1916, Harry Truman in Korea in 1950, Eisenhower sending troops to Little Rock in 1954, JFK with the Bay of Pigs, LBJ with Vietnam, Nixon with the Christmas Eve bombing of Cambodia, Ford, sending federal aid to subdue the former Portuguese colony of Timor in order to please Indonesian dictator Suharto, Carter for the Camp David accords which interfered in Middle Eastern politics and for the “Carter Doctrine” that dictated opposition to any foreign nation gaining control over the Persian Gulf; Ronald Reagan for military action in Granada and Lebanon, George H. W. Bush for the first invasion of Iraq; Bill Clinton in Haiti and George W Bush in Iraq. It would be a far different presidency indeed under Dr. Paul.

And it would take a libertarian revolution of avalanche proportions to elect him, but that doesn’t nullify his views from being expressed or considered. As a stormy petrel he ranks with the late individualist Republican members H. R. Gross of Iowa who would halt action in the House to block wasteful spending; Jeannette Rankin of Montana, the first woman elected to Congress, who defied public opinion to be the only representative to vote against our entrance into two world wars and Jessie (“Give `em hell, Jessie!) Sumner of Illinois who opposed federal farm subsidies by telling farmers to “raise less corn and more hell” to block the New Deal.

More about Ron Paul can be found on

Thus far, the polls are almost unanimous in saying the most electable Republican ticket would be John McCain for president and Rudy Giuliani for vice president…his spending four years as veep straightening out his reputation in the public mind so he can take over when McCain who will be 76 when his term expires can turn it over to a vice president who will have re-fashioned his reputation on social issues.

Next week: so help me, we’ll try once more--before room runs out--to review the candidacy of a contender who lost more than 100 lbs. just to run along with some others.


  1. The only principled 'politician' in Washington.

    The rest, Dems and Repubs, can go jump in the Potomac.

  2. Tom,

    Give serious thought to doing a parallel lives of British & American Statesmen. This passage on Gingrich was thoughtful and clear.

    I am no fan of Mr. Newt, as the pill=popper dubbed him, but there is no doubt about his regenerative powers as a politician.

    I am a McCain fan myself, but also. as a 'can't take the soup' Democrat, I like Obama. Complex world, this.

    Wonderful read, Sir!