I’ve known Newt Gingrich for about 20 years now and I’ve always enjoyed him intellectually, but detested him politically. The reason for the latter is his now-anachronistic first resort to anger; again and again, he cheapens public discourse through exaggeration and wild claims. One imagines that if John McCain were President and Paul Krugman had said, out of the box, that he wanted McCain to fail, Gingrich would be leading the charge, calling Krugman “unpatriotic” and even, perhaps, traitorous.
As it is, I won’t call Newt–or the other conservative hyperbolic baloney slicers–unpatriotic. Just graceless, boorish. And completely, demagogically out of touch with the national mood–which is concerned, serious and resistant to right-wing bullpucky. The latest was Newt’s completely over-the-top reaction to Tim Geithner’s new regulatory plan on the vile Hannity’s program the other night:
We are seeing the biggest power grab by politicians in American history. The idea that they would propose that the treasury could intervene and take over nonbank, nonfinancial system assets gives them the potential to basically create the equivalent of a dictatorship.
You don’t want to do what they want, they take over your company. You do what they want, Congress retroactively, and this is what made last week’s lynch mob like a third world government when the Congress literally got out of control, panicked, panicked because people were mad at it, and it turned out that the Congress had passed the authorization in the stimulus bill for AIG to pay those bonuses.
The Congress had approved it, the people at AIG were acting what they thought was the rules set by the government. Suddenly they’re being attacked, they are retroactively losing their money. Why would anybody want to invest in a country.
Actually, what we’re seeing is a reasoned public reaction to the fact that the financial services industry was given free rein–by Republicans and Democrats (I’m still looking at you, Larry Summers)–to engage in the most outrageous Ponzi schemes since the 1920s. Millions and millions of people have had their retirement plans shredded by these banker-mopes, millions have lost their jobs. But those are people who do not inhabit the Beltway-right-wing-lecture-circuit planet that Newt and various others live on. Their unwillingness to protect average Americans from the untrammeled rapacity of an unregulated market is a disgrace.
So far, Geithner–and yes, Summers–have shown excellent balance, a respect for the free market system plus an awareness that the public needs to be protected from the sharks. Gingrich et al will remain banished somewhere in the outer darkness–and the Fox News cave-ghetto–until they realize that the Obama Administration’s economic plans are not at all extreme, but a reflection of the broad American middle. Just ask Paul Krugman.