Politics

Gingrich Would Help Trump

| by Nik Bonopartis
Newt GingrichNewt Gingrich

There's a lot to dislike about Newt Gingrich.

The former Speaker of the House was credited with leading the "Republican Revolution" of 1994 that saw the GOP gain 54 seats in congress, giving the party its first congressional majority in 40 years. TIME Magazine named the Georgia congressman its Person of the Year in 1995, and Gingrich assumed his post as Speaker of the House with an enormous amount of goodwill and a mandate from voters who had lost patience with Democratic leadership.

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That didn't last long, and Gingrich took every opportunity to squander the goodwill he'd earned. In less than four years, Gingrich went from visionary leader to persona non grata, with his own party threatening to remove him as Speaker of the House. Gingrich resigned before suffering that indignity, but couldn't save face.

Worse, Gingrich squandered that goodwill by relentlessly hammering Democrats on social issues, moralizing like a preacher on a Sunday morning. He presided over the longest and most disastrous government shutdown in U.S. history. When the press found it was because of a perceived snub by then-President Bill Clinton -- who didn't let Gingrich sit up front on Air Force One during a flight to Israel -- writers and cartoonists pilloried him, epitomized by a Nov. 16, 1995 cover of the New York Daily News depicting the then-Speaker as a baby in mid-tantrum, stomping his feet and crying as he gripped a bottle of milk.

And then there was the Gingrich-led effort to impeach Clinton over his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinski. Not only was Gingrich himself conducting his own extramarital affair at the time, he placed all his eggs in one basket -- Gingrich assured fellow Republicans the scandal would decimate Democrats during the 1998 mid-term election, costing them as many as 30 congressional seats.

Not only did the Democrats hold onto those seats, they gained five more, leading to Gingrich's downfall.

So why would Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, consider Gingrich as a potential running mate? Why would he place Gingrich, if the reports are to be believed, on the short list alongside a decorated military general and a capable governor?

The short answer is that Gingrich, for all his shortcomings and his leadership failures, lends political credibility to the Trump ticket without detracting from Trump's image as a Washington outsider.

If you think about it, Gingrich isn't so different from Trump, and the real estate mogul surely recognizes that. Like Trump, Gingrich is comfortable speaking off-the-cuff. Since his days in congress, Gingrich has reinvented himself as a political analyst, reminding people of his positives by delivering shrewd political insights. An entire generation of new voters know Gingrich as an insightful commentator, not as a politician.

Then there's Gingrich's press smarts. Not only is he adept at handling traditional media, as Trump is, but Gingrich also shares Trump's affinity for speaking directly to voters through social media platforms like Twitter. With almost two million followers on the platform, people pay attention to what he says.

Most of all, Gingrich knows how government works, which may reassure some voters who like what Trump's been saying on the campaign trail, but are wary of his inexperience with Washington.

Like Trump, who casts himself as the ultimate deal-maker, Gingrich has shown a willingness to work across the aisle. In 2008, he appeared side-by-side with Nancy Pelosi, who was Speaker of the House at the time, appealing to both parties to work together on climate change.

"We don't always see eye to eye, do we Newt?" Pelosi asks in the ad.

"No," Gingrich said with a broad smile, "but we do agree, our country must take action to address climate change."

Gingrich was also a critical negotiator in the 1996 welfare reform package, working with Democrats -- and Bill Clinton himself -- on finding a middle ground for a popular piece of legislation.

And while Gingrich has worked with the Clintons, he clearly has no problem criticizing them. Gingrich's presence on the ticket won't convince Democrats to vote for Trump, but those Democrats can't be convinced anyway, according to polls that show partisans on both sides are set on who they plan to vote for.

There are obvious risks in picking someone like Gingrich, but there's no denying he's a specter from the days of the Clinton administration who can remind independents that Bill and Hillary's heyday wasn't all soaring stock markets and success. His presence alone is enough to antagonize presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, and to remind voters that the Clintons come with baggage -- baggage that has, in the past, convinced voters that putting another Clinton in charge just isn't worth it.

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Sources: Slate, New York Daily News, The Guardian, The Washington Post (2), ABC News, Pelosi/Gingrich via YouTube / Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr