The conservative base is understandably nervous that its nominee, if elected, will sell out. Like many Supreme Court justices, a presidential nominee, they fret, may become a captive of Beltway thinking and seek the approval of the press and liberal elites. It’s a rational concern. And there is substantial evidence that at least one of the candidates is susceptible to the Georgetown Syndrome.
You can spot the signs. The one who covets the approval of the liberal establishment will say such things as FDR should be on Mount Rushmore. He’d even write about it in a book. He doesn’t choose, as the mavericky Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) does, Teddy Roosevelt as his activist model. No, instead he chooses the liberal’s icon, who incidentally was the inspiration for President Obama’s “New Foundation.”
And speaking of Obama, an approval-seeking Republican would provide unsolicited advice to a Democratic candidate about a month before he wrapped up his race, even though his entire agenda was designed to expand the federal government. The slobbering practically drips from the page:
Your campaign has been brilliant. It has given you more support and more momentum than most analysts expected a year ago. Keeping things simple and vague has worked so far, and it might work all the way to the White House. “Change you can believe in” is a great all-purpose slogan. It allows every person to fill in his or her own interpretation of what it means. In some ways, it’s reminiscent of Jimmy Carter’s 1976 promise to run “a government as good as the American people.”
The challenge you will face in the next few months is stark. Do you want to remain vague? You might win—but you might find that, in winning, you have a “victory of personality” with no real policy consequences. Or do you want to provide specifics? If so, your victory could be a clarion call from the American people to Congress to join you in achieving your goals.
Well, obviously such a person, we could reasonably predict, would find conservatives an annoyance and crave the approval of such people as the Clintons and other royalty of the Democratic Party. But we don’t have to speculate.
We know Newt Gingrich did all of this unctuous behavior. And Quin Hillyer reminds of us so much more. Hillyer quotes from a review of Gingrich’s book:
A blow-by-blow account of the “Republican Revolution” in Congress, which collapsed after little more than a year, this feast for political insiders includes moments both absurd (Newt Gingrich confessing to White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta that “I melt when I am around” President Clinton) and critical. (Gingrich’s realization, at the start of 1996, that “He had grievously miscalculated his opposition and strategically botched the most important political battle of his speakership.”) As an insider’s analysis of what went wrong with the largest rightward tilt in the U.S. Congress in this century, Maraniss and Weisskopf’s book is indispensable.
And then Hillyer digs up this from an Esquire interview with one of Gingrich’s prior wives: “‘He was impressed easily by position, status, money,’ she says. ‘He grew up poor and always wanted to be somebody, to make a difference, to prove himself, you know. He has to be historic to justify his life.’”
In short, if you dreamed up a portrait of a “Republican likely to go native” you’d be hard pressed to do better (worse?) than Gingrich. Actually, Gingrich doesn’t need to “go” native since he’s the quintessential insider. He’s not simply comfortable in the Washington scene. He didn’t merely serve as the sherpa for unconservative special interests. He craves acceptance by the liberal establishment. If conservatives saw such a character coming up on a short list for Supreme Court justices, they’d scream bloody murder. So why should they be willing to take this man as their presidential nominee?