Sunday, May 15, 2011

Understanding Newt Gingrich

On "Meet the Press," Newt Gingrich said that everyone has a responsibility to get health insurance:

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Conservatives are criticizing his remarks. But his stand is not completely surprising: he has never been a pure, orthodox conservative. Here is an excerpt from a 1996 paper I wrote on Gingrich:
When a liberal interviewer asked him if there were problems with private enterprise, he said: "Oh yeah. But see, I'm not a libertarian. I say it pretty clearly in the book Window of Opportunity, I am not for untrammeled free enterprise. I am not for greed as the ultimate cultural value." When a libertarian interviewer asked what would keep his vision from becoming an industrial policy, he said that the answer was in "restricting government to setting up very large systems" and emphasizing decentralization. The interviewer was not satisfied, and libertarians continue to doubt his free-market credentials. Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr., president of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, in 1995 belittled the scope of Gingrich's economic proposals
and damned his failure to "give a black eye to the Leviathan State." He concluded that Gingrich had always been "a big spending, big taxing, big regulating, welfare-warfare statist."

Rockwell was exaggerating. But if Gingrich is not a traditionalist, a social conservative, or an economic libertarian, then what is he? In a 1989 interview with Ripon Forum, Gingrich suggested the answer: "There is almost a new synthesis evolving with the classic moderate wing of the party where, as a former Rockefeller state chairman,I've spent most of my life, and the conservative/activist right wing." Seven years later, Rep. Don Young (R-AK) reinforced the point: "The moderates like Newt, because Newt has always been a moderate." Most House Democrats would loudly disagree with Young's observation, since Gingrich leans well to the right of his partisan foes. But Young was measuring him against other Republicans, and by that yardstick, the "moderate" label makes more sense.

For the complete paper, see below: