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In 1927 the physicist Werner Heisenberg famously postulated that an observer can know either the position or momentum of a subatomic particle, but not both simultaneously.
The position of Newt Gingrich, political particle, is generally the object of voter measurement–right now securely ensconced in the orbit of the tea party–but Gingrich’s momentum is the fascinating unknown, indeed unknowable, variable. In the past, we have been unable to predict where he is headed politically, and we therefore have no sure basis to predict where he is headed next.
This wasn’t supposed to take quantum mechanics to figure out.
The campaign narrative of my dreams runs this way: Newt Gingrich, prodigal conservative, hero of the Contract With America, returns from his K Street exile, donning the mantle of Reagan and offering a limited government alternative to a public weary of temporizing ratifiers of Marxist thought. Sweeping the pretenders before him, securing a nomination thought unattainable, Newt swiftly and surely defeats a billion-dollar Obama campaign mistakenly calibrated for battle against a private equity executive likely to be found in a defensive crouch.
It’s a great narrative. If I were a liberal I’d stop here. The dream shall never die, right? Unfortunately, as John Adams pointed out, facts are stubborn things.
And the fact is, many true-blue conservatives with a great deal of first-hand Gingrichian lore at their command are taking us to school about our favorite lapsed history professor. The title of American Spectator founder R. Emmett Tyrell’s piece in the Sun today, “William Jefferson Gingrich,” pretty much says it all.
After Newt’s and Bill’s disastrous experiences in government both went on to create empires, Bill in philanthropy and cheap thought, Newt in public policy and cheap thought. As an ex-president Bill has wrung up an unprecedented $75.6 million since absconding from the White House with White House loot and shameless pardons. I do not know how much Newt has amassed, but he got between $1.6 million to $1.8 million from Freddie Mac, and he lobbied for Medicare Part B while receiving, according to the Washington Examiner’s Tim Carney, “Big Bucks Pushing Corporate Welfare.” Now after a lifetime in Washington he is promoting himself as an outsider.
Meanwhile, over at National Review, Elliott Abrams, an assistant secretary of state in the Reagan Administration, observes that Gingrich, who constantly compares himself to Reagan today, was less complimentary at the time.
Gingrich scorned Reagan’s speeches, which moved a party and then a nation, because “the president of the United States cannot discipline himself to use the correct language.” In Afghanistan, Reagan’s policy was marked by “impotence [and] incompetence.” Thus Gingrich concluded as he surveyed five years of Reagan in power that “we have been losing the struggle with the Soviet empire.” Reagan did not know what he was doing, and “it is precisely at the vision and strategy levels that the Soviet empire today is superior to the free world.”
There are two things to be said about these remarks. The first is that as a visionary, Gingrich does not have a very impressive record. The Soviet Union was beginning to collapse, just as Reagan had believed it must. The expansion of its empire had been thwarted. The policies Gingrich thought so weak and indeed “pathetic” worked, and Ronald Reagan turned out to be a far better student of history and politics than Gingrich.
Adding fuel to the foreign policy fire, former UN Ambassador John Bolton, no establishment moderate, has endorsed Mitt Romney, even though Newt earlier promised to appoint Bolton secretary of state in a Gingrich Administration.
I have previously criticized Mitt Romney for distancing himself from “Reagan-Bush” during his 1994 race against Ted Kennedy. However, Newt arguably one-upped him by failing to support President Reagan when it mattered.
And of course, there’s Ann Coulter’s support for Mitt Romney to consider.
What to do? I am experiencing something very unusual for me, very quantum mechanical: I’m uncertain.