Welcome to WeeklyWilson.com, where author/film critic Connie (Corcoran) Wilson avoids totally losing her marbles in semi-retirement by writing about film (see the Chicago Film Festival reviews and SXSW), politics and books----her own books and those of other people. You'll also find her diverging frequently to share humorous (or not-so-humorous) anecdotes and concerns. Try it! You'll like it!

The Gingrich Who Would Steal Christmas Hits Davenport, IA, on Dec. 19th

Newt Gingrich in Davenport (IA) on Dec. 19, 2011.

Newt Gingrich spoke at Global Security Services in Davenport, Iowa at 2:30 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 19, to a small crowd of approximately 100 people. There was no press check-in, which was odd, but there was food, which was also unusual. Only 10 chairs were set up in what appeared to be a garage. And a garage across from the Col Ballroom—not the best part of town— an area which the national media following the campaign were photographing in all its paint-peeling glory.

Face the Nation Appearance

The day prior, Newt  appeared on the Sunday, Dec. 18 “Face the Nation” program with Bob Schieffer, where he discounted the Des Moines Register’s endorsement of opponent Mitt Romney saying it was from a liberal paper. He touted his own endorsement by the Manchester Union Leader. [Iowans would not  categorize the Register as liberal.] At that time, he dodged Schieffer’s charges (from Romney) that he was “an unreliable leader in the Conservative movement.” Newt laughed when asked if he had asked for Christine O”Donnell’s (“I am not a witch”) endorsement, which Romney also got. Newt also seemed proud when he said, “I’m not a lawyer. I call that an advantage.”

Newt Gingrich.

From that point on,  Newt rambled about the 1958 Warren Court, the Federalist papers (and the abolishing of over 1/2 of the judges that had just been placed in their posts, by Thomas Jefferson) and called the Dred Scott decision, extending a ban on slavery to the entire nation, bad. (So did Bachmann in the last Republican debate). Newt most famously and repetitively  attacked the 9th Circuit Court because of its stance on “one nation, under God” and repeated that assertion on Monday in Davenport.

Newt: “Everything you’ve heard is true.”

For a guy who’s been married 3 times (cheated on his first 2 wives and asked for a divorce when the first was in the hospital recovering from cancer surgery), who has now announced that he is Catholic (in deference to wife #3), he sure has a “holier-than-thou” attitude. [I’m Catholic, and I’m even wondering how a man who has already been married two times can BE married, as a Catholic. Plus, he’s only BEEN a Catholic for 2 years.] And I’m not even going to get into his censuring by Congress or the lobbying charges hurled by Bachmann in the last debate.

Evangelical Voters in Iowa

Newt points the finger.

I don’t think Newt is fooling the Evangelicals in Iowa (or anywhere else.) In a piece entitled “Pastors: Newt Gingrich Is Empty Suit With Broken Zipper” by Tony Leys on 12/13, the Reverend Albert Calaway of Indianola wrote, “Mr. Gingrich is the Don Draper of 2012.  When it comes to his character record, he’s a very fine, empty suit with a broken zipper. Christians in Iowa—and I understand many of his old U.S. House colleagues as well—desperately want to see a changed man, yet we keep on seeing a glib, wordy cheater. On all fronts, Newt should just be faithful.” The Reverend went on, “When you endorse a check, you sign it.  When you get married, you sign the license. When you sign a contract or covenant, that means you are all in. But, Mr. Gingrich has yet to sign for many things which Christian Iowa cares about very deeply.”

Ouch!

The Courts

Larry Riney, author of the book on the "Effie Afton" and the Lincoln/Douglas debates, is this you in the crowd?

Newt also took some flak from Schieffer (on “Face the Nation”)  over Newt’s avowed intention to reform the courts. Schieffer wanted to know: “Wouldn’t your policies throw the courts into chaos?” Newt pointed out that there were 80 judgeships vacant out of 800 and continued his attack on judges, in general. “There is a fundamental conflict underway about what kind of country we’re going to be,” said the Now Holy candidate. This quote (from Dec. 5, 2011 “Newsweek”) is also telling: “A country which has been, since 1963, relentlessly in the courts driving God out of public life shouldn’t be surprised at all the problems we have because we’ve in fact attempted to create a secular country, which I think is frankly a nightmare.” Oh, Puh-leese. This from the same man who was having an affair while prosecuting Bill Clinton during the Lewinsky mess.

That statement was made at the FAMiLY Leader debate, where Vander Plaats, who ran unsuccessfully for Governor against Terry Branstadt said, “Though they don’t embrace or endorse or condone his (newt’s) personal past,. they might be more willing to get over that if he’s the best one to lead to preserve the America they want for their children.” Well, Bob, he’s not. Get over it. Newt is Newt, and, as he said on Monday—the day after his “Face the Nation” appearance—“I’m really different than what they’re (Washington, D.C.) used to.” I would say that this comment, as well, is quite disingenuous, since Newt has spent more time in Washington than any of the other potential candidates, with the possible exception of Libertarian Texas Senator Ron Paul, who’s got to be the oldest guy running for anything (born Aug. 20, 1935).

An unidentified audience member catches the mood of the crowd.

The Dec. 5 “Newsweek” article stated —erroneously, I feel—“The Bible makes room for complicated, morally compromised heroes. Now Christian conservatives, desperate for an alternative to Mitt Romney, are learning to do so as well.” That was Michelle Goldberg’s view in an article entitled “Let There Be Newt.” No, Michelle, Iowans are not learning any such thing, and if you were from these parts, you’d have picked up on that, but, apparently, you’re not and you haven’t.  Today’s Huffington Post polls show Ron Paul surging at 24%, Romney at 20% and Newt sliding into oblivion at 14%. The article was written by someone named Michelle Goldberg and accompanied by a picture of Newt with a halo light effect. I have a feeling that Ms. Goldberg is not from around here, she said wryly.

The Mainstream Media’s Take
The national media I spoke with today characterized Newt’s appearance this day as “Newt’s book tour” (he’s written 24) and a pushy woman in a red dress seemed to be barking orders about “the books” and getting the books out for purchase. There were precious few other workers apparent. Newt, himself, said in closing, “We need folks in every precincts.

Apparently Newt needs more workers to contact potential caucus-goers, since 60% had been contacted by Romney’s people, according to a poll by the “New York Times,” 47% by Ron Paul’s, and only 30%—-1/2 of what Romney has scored—by Gingrich’s workers. The comment made to me by the other press was that, “He’s disorganized.”

Newt quotes from his Davenport Dec. 19, 2011 appearance :

Zepelin, a guide dog for the blind, toughs out the speech with trainer Julie Hogenson of Princeton, Iowa.

On negative ads:  “The only person who profits from negative ads is Barack Obama, and I think that’s pretty reprehensible behavior.” (Meanwhile, outside in the parking lot, ironically enough, opponents were placing negative flyers under our car door handles.) Most of the carping was about Newt’s taking money from Freddie Mac as a “lobbyist” by some other name.

On Israel:  “I’m not prepared to see Israel annihilated. …We need to give a sense that we are a leading country and willing to defend ourselves.”  In watching GPS (Global Public Square) with Fahreed Zakaria on Sunday, December 18th,  all of the panelists. which included the Jewish editor of the “New Yorker” magazine and well-known Republican speechwriter Peggy Noonan, decried the constant harping by the Republican candidates on Israel as the sum and substance of U.S. foreign policy. All saw it as pandering to the United States  Jewish vote. All noted that foreign policy is notoriously complex and simply declaring one’s support for Israel ignores the complexity of modern foreign policy. Most of the panelists, in fact, were complimentary of Obama’s handling of the Libyan situation. Newt then added that he had “taught 1 and 2 star generals” and you just got the feeling that his giant ego could barely be contained. The man has a HUGE head and  a HUGE ego to go with it.

On North Korea (whose leader, Kim Jong II died recently): “We have no idea whether the new regime will be more open or worse.” [Well, gee, Newt. I’ll alert the media to that insightful bit of hot air.]

This man spoke up about having to work into his 60s and 70s, not being able to count on Social Security, which Newt did not seem particularly keen on preserving.

On the economy:  “I believe it is possible to turn around the economy with amazing speed…That’s why we need a program for very dramatic job creation.” (No specifics offered.) Newt cited Ronald Reagan creating one million jobs in August of 1993 and unemployment dropping from 10.8 to 5.6% during Reagan’s years. Those were very different years, and I don’t see Ronnie (Trickle Down) Reagan anywhere around at this time. Nor do I see ANY president capable of turning around the economy “with amazing speed.” That includes Romney .

On Social Security:  “People should not have to depend on politicians, nor be threatened by the loss of their Social Security check.” Newt seemed to be in favor of letting people not pay in to Social Security and save the money themselves….which, of course, is problematic if they do not.

On college students and student loans:  “They (students at the College of the Ozarks, Newt’s model college for financial assistance) all do real work. I’m an advocate of real work.” Newt held up some College in the Ozarks to a student from Iowa State University in Ames who asked him a question about public education. The student noted that the average student debt for  Ames graduates is $48,000. She wanted to know if that was “public education.” Ames is a fine school. To tell Iowa State University that they should start taking cues from a college in the Ozarks that nobody has ever heard of sounded lame.

On gun ownership:  “Our rights will not be taken away from us by a dictatorial government.” Nice rhetoric. Again, no substantive policy discussion.

The sparse crowd. Only 10 chairs, and 2 of them are empty.

On  Freddie Mac and charges that he received over a million ($1.2 million? $1.6 million?) in payment for lobbying efforts for them:  “I should have had a much more coherent answer. The Gingrich Group was hired. I only made about $35,000 a year.  I make more than that for speeches.” Again, your ego is showing, Newt. Take it down a notch.

On his run for the White House:  “I am really different than what they’re used to.” About that time, as a joke, he said, “It’s tricky for me to turn to the left, but I’m trying.” Whatever Newt does seems “tricky,” to me, and I am not surprised that Donald Trump seemed to be his biggest supporter, while none of the 12 people he served with in Congress has come out and endorsed him, nor did John Boehner during his appearance on “Meet the Press” on Sunday, December 18th.

Would he propose a new Contract with America?  “Yes. I’d use executive orders to do away with 100 to 200 White House czars on my first day in office.” I wonder if he would bring up some of his less feasible ideas about Mars, et. al.? About this time, Newt began comparing Obama to Saul Alinsky. I doubt if many in the room knew much about Saul Alinsky. I did not, so I looked him up when I got home. Here are the results:

Saul Alinsky Reference

Newt signing books, which went on for quite some time.

Saul Alinsky was born in Chicago in 1909 and became a cracker-jack community organizer.  Adlai Stevenson said of Alinsky:  “Alinsky’s aims most faithfully reflect our ideals of brotherhood, tolerance, charity and dignity of the individual.” If you don’t like Adlai Stevenson, consider that William F. Buckley, that Conservative icon said of him that he was a near-genius at organizing.

Alinsky wrote, “What follows is for those who want to change the world from what it is to what they believe it should be. ‘The Prince’ was written by Machiavelli for the Haves on how to hold power. My book was written for the Have-Nots on how to take it away.”

Wikipedia goes on to say that Alinsky would not join political organizations of any kind, including those he formed. He said, when asked about Communist and Socialist parties, “I prize my independence too much. And, philosophically, I could never accept any rigid dogma or ideology, whether it’s Christianity or Marxism.  One of the most important things in life is what Judge Learned Hand described as ‘that ever-gnawing inner doubt as to whether you’re right.’ If you don’t have that, if you think you’ve got an inside track to absolute truth, you become doctrinaire, humorless and intellectually constipated. The greatest crimes in history have been perpetrated by such religious and political and racial fanatics, from the persecutions of the Inquisition on down to Communist purges and Nazi genocide.” When I heard the term(s) “intellectually constipated” and “doctrinaire” and read Alinsky’s description of someone who thinks they know everything, Newt’s name was used to illustrate this personality trait.

So, here’s my question: Why would it be a “bad” thing to be compared to a man who tried to help the poor and disenfranchised to organize and get their fair share? Newt’s comparison of Obama to Alinsky seems to be the fear of the rich white man who sees his grip on power threatened by the likes of the Occupy movement.

Debates Ad Nauseum

Newt Gingrich.

Last,  but not least, Gingrich told the audience (citing the Lincoln/Douglas debates) that, if he is the candidate, he wants to debate Obama constantly and that, if Obama will not agree, he would let the White House be his scheduler and arrive in the towns where Obama was to speak 4 hours behind him.  “Unlike the president, I studied American history,” crowed Gingrich. Right. And Obama studied law at Harvard and life in the streets of both Chicago, the Philippines and Hawaii.  Gingrich went on to say, “How can he say he is afraid to debate some guy who taught at West Georgia College?” (He hasn’t said it, that I have heard.) And Newt added, “I will concede in advance that he can use a teleprompter.” Wow! That old Speaker of the House arrogance just rolled off Newt’s back like water off a duck’s.

Woman Hurt at Rally

I hope this woman had an X-ray. Check out the bump on her forehead.

Gingrich then signed a book for a very nice elderly lady from Florida who fell down on her way into the garage (missed the step) and took a very nasty fall onto hard concrete, giving herself a huge goose egg on her forehead. I urged Lou Phillips to get an X-ray after she said, “Oh, the EMTs looked at it.” All I could think of was Liam Neeson’s loss of his wife, Vanessa Redgrave’s daughter, the actress Natasha Richardson, who fell while skiing and hit her head, but said she was “fine” for several hours afterward, ultimately dying from the fall.

After the rally was over, we were not allowed to leave until Elvis had left the building and we were sternly warned not to take any pictures or video. [Like anyone wanted to.] All the national press referenced this appearance as “Newt’s book tour.”

Polls Show Gingrich Falling; Paul Rising

Gingrich, put a brave face in the wake of the release of a new (Dec. 19) Huffington Post survey of 597 caucus-goers that shows Ron Paul at 23%, Mitt Romney at 20% and Newt sinking to 14% saying, “President Ronald Reagan was 30 points behind in the polls at this same time in his presidential run.”

That sounds about right, and it is what I predicted days ago: a Ron Paul surge. Let’s face it: Bachmann and Santorum are toast. Perry has done himself in with his “oops” moments. Cain was not able.  Romney may take the nomination, nationally, but Iowans are peeved that he didn’t come here and court them, as he did in 2008.

 

Romney in 2008

 

That year, Romney started with his $10 million of ads in March (of 2007) and visited all 99 counties (either himself or via his family members). This year, he spent only about a week in Iowa and had spent $3.1 million on TV and radio spots, but had only used about $868,000 of it, to date.

 

The Col Ballroom on W. 4th St., across from the rally, in a decidedly seedy part of Daveport, Iowa.

I did hear some rumblings about Perry’s ads from the locals, also. They don’t like them.

 

If Iowa could give their seal of approval to Huckabee in 2008, despite the fact that he didn’t win the party’s nomination, there is nothing to stop them from anointing Ron Paul this time. Yes, he’s ancient. Yes, he’s flakey. But he’s likeable and the young support him. He won’t win the national nomination, but anybody but Newt!

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1 Comment

  1. Pamela

    Great article, Connie. I agree with you about Newt; I don’t think he will get the nomination. If he does, I think the Democrats (myself among them) should be very relieved that President Obama is not facing Mitt Romney, whom I feel is a much stronger candidate.

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