Memo to the GOP Establishment: STOP trying to manipulate conservative voters (UPDATED)

Most people who know me understand that I rarely ever use the terms “RINO” and “establishment” seriously.  And in the instances I do, it’s usually sarcastically to make fun of someone one who has mistakenly interpreted my disagreement with other conservatives as a sign of my alleged “RINO” tendencies.   The terms “RINO” and “establishment” have both, sadly, become the GOP’s version of the left’s “racism” cry – that is to say that I believe the terms have become meaningless because, like the left with the word “racism”, many on the right accuse someone of being a “RINO” or part of the “establishment” over simple disagreements that usually rise no where close to the level of someone being a “RINO” or “establishment” type.   As an example, I was frequently called a “RINO” during the immigration debates during the Bush era because I was more in the middle on the issue than most conservatives were.

Yeah, ME – a RINO.  Hopefully for most of you, it doesn’t even compute that I could possibly be an ACTUAL RINO. If it does, you clearly haven’t been reading me long enough. Get glasses or something. ;)

In any event, in this instance, I’m using the word “establishment” to mean exactly what I understand it to mean: old guard, Beltway-type politicos who have forgotten why they got started in politics in the first place who have gotten used to their positions of power, privilege, wealth, influence and the perks of political office, who don’t want to see the apple cart rocked – and who will fight anything and anyone who seeks to change the rules of the game … by any means necessary  I’ve never for a second believed their wasn’t an “establishment” in existence –  but I often got tired of seeing people so frequently misuse the term, especially those who blamed “the establishment” for things problems they had little to nothing to do with.

A couple of days ago I posted my commentary alongside a pretty scathing piece about Newt Gingrich’s time in Congress during the Reagan years that was written by Reagan’s assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams.  In the piece, Abrams painted a picture of Newt that was not flattering nor complimentary and made Gingrich appear to be someone who was anti-Reagan’s bold plan to defeat Communism – a plan we know was immensely successful.  In fact, it made Newt Gingrich hardly look like the Reagan Republican he makes makes himself out to be.   Later in my blog post, I noted in an update that another Reagan-era official, Jeff Lord, had written a piece in the American Spectator arguing that Gingrich was in fact a Reagan Republican – but it was a piece that didn’t persuade me much at all to his point.  All that I could see and hear in my mind was Newt Gingrich blasting one of the greatest Presidents we’ve ever had about how what he was doing was going to ultimately fail – and doing so at a time when Democrats in Congress were turning up the heat on Reagan’s plan to defeat Communism as well.

Since that time, Lord has been one of a few people who have responded forcefully to Abrams recollection of events during the time Newt served in Congress during Reagan’s two terms in the WH and it’s become pretty clear to me that Abrams piece was a snow job on Gingrich that took quotes out of context.   I’m still not comfortable with how Newt expressed that disagreement, but at least now I – and others – know that the context was a lot different than Abrams presented it.  Lord wrote today:

Due to the diligence of one Chris Scheve of a group called Aqua Terra Strategies in Washington, Mr. Abrams has been caught red-handed in lending himself to this attempted Romney hit job.

Mr. Scheve, you see, is himself a former foreign policy aide to none other than Speaker Newt Gingrich in his days as Speaker. While now out on his own and not working for Gingrich, Scheve is considerably conversant with the Gingrich foreign policy record.

Uh-oh.

That’s right. Mr. Scheve, incensed at what he felt was a deliberate misrepresentation of his old boss by Abrams and the Romney forces, specifically of Gingrich’s long ago March 21, 1986 “Special Order” speech on the floor of the House, and aware “that most of [Abrams’] comments had to have been selectively taken from the special order” — Scheve started digging. Since the Congressional Record for 1986 was difficult to obtain electronically, Scheve trekked to the George Mason Library to physically track down the March 21, 1986 edition of theCongressional Record. Locating it, copying and scanning, he was kind enough to send to me.

So now I’ve read the Gingrich speech that is the source of all the hoopla. All seven, fine print pages worth of it exactly as it appeared in its original form.

I can only say that what Elliott Abrams wrote in NRO about Newt Gingrich based on this long ago speech is not worthy of Elliott Abrams.

Specifically, Abrams implies that Newt Gingrich was spewing mindless vitriol about Reagan on the House floor. Not only not so, it was quite to the contrary. Of President Reagan, Gingrich says:

• “Let me be clear: I have the greatest respect for President Reagan. I think he personally understands the threat of communism.” Gingrich then goes on — at Newtonian length — praising Reagan for Reagan’s understanding of Lenin, Reagan’s understanding of the real “purposes of a Soviet dictatorship” and much more. He lists and applauds Reagan repeatedly for the President’s appreciation of “the threat in a more powerful Soviet empire” and the threats posed by Communist Cuba and Nicaragua. He ranks Reagan with the great cold war presidents in protecting freedom.

In short, time after time after, Newt Gingrich — true to form — is there on the floor of the House relentlessly praising and crediting Ronald Reagan. Is it any wonder that years later Nancy Reagan would speak so publicly and warmly about “Ronnie” passing the conservative torch to Newt? Is there any wonder that Michael Reagan has stepped into the middle of this current brawl to endorse Newt?

Not only has Abrams misrepresented (deliberately?) Newt Gingrich’s Reagan-era remarks, but a whole host of longtime GOP politicos like Tom DeLay and Bob Dole have come out of the woodwork to say Gingrich isn’t who we need, isn’t a Reagan conservative, yada yada.  The pile-on has come on rather, pardon the pun, fast and furious which almost makes me think it’s a coordinated attack by GOP power players who don’t want to see that apple cart tipped over and who – shockingly – apparently would rather see a snake in the grass like Mitt Romney, who has spent his every moment as a Republican apologizing for it, take on Barack Obama in the fall election instead of Newt Gingrich, someone whose conservative accomplishments during the Clinton years were and are legendary.

It boggles the mind, when you really, really think about it.

We’re at a time right now when a lot of Republicans are still trying to make up their minds about who they want to take on Obama, and the information flowing out there about the candidates is coming in rapid fire and, frankly, is hard to keep up with even for people who make their living writing and commenting on politics, let alone people who work 40+ hours a week who simply can’t keep up with it all – and who have precious little time to devote to fact checking, especially on PEOPLE THEY SHOULDN”T HAVE TO (hint: I’m looking at you, Elliott Abrams).   It’s expected that you can’t trust the mainstream media at all but especially this time of year, because their mission shifts from propping up Democrat politicos during non-election years to trying to keep them in office during election years (especially Presidential election years) by writing misleading piece after misleading piece about their GOP opposition (case in point).  And, yes, even though you’re not supposed to put your 100% trust in just anything written by Republicans and conservatives about politicos and policy you have reasonable expectations that what they say isn’t going to be almost 100% deliberately misleading and/or fact-free.  After all, we ALL as Republicans have the same goal and that is to have as our primary winner someone who has more often than not demonstrated conservative principles over the course of his or  her political life, right?

Wrong.

For whatever reason, establishment types like Abrams, Dole and others have decided that Newt Gingrich is too conservative for their tastes and they’ve put their money on Mitt Romney instead.    I have no idea what – if anything – they’ve been promised in return for their endorsements and hit pieces but whatever it is it’s a sell-out of the highest order that Reagan himself probably would have frowned on if he were alive and cognizant of what was going on today.  Though Reagan was a strong proponent of the 11th Commandment, that didn’t mean he wasn’t beyond taking his own side to task when he felt it was necessary – and at a time like this when the opportunity to defeat a radically far left President like Barack Obama has presented itself, he more than anyone else would be aware that it was time for “all hands on deck” and not a time to be playing around and misrepresenting the facts and lying about your Republican opponents.  Vigorous debate, yes, but misrepresentations and lies, no.

I still find Newt, like Mitt Romney, is a deeply flawed and untrustworthy candidate (most of what I wrote in this post still applies – he’s done a lot of questionable things the last 20 years that make me wonder about his conservatism and opportunistic side) and yes, he’s made some of the same unfair attacks on Romney that Romney has on him.  But Romney wrote the book on slandering opponents and I don’t anticipate Gingrich coming anywhere near that level in his campaign.  I’m satisfied thanks to what Lord and his ilk wrote in defense of Gingrich and his relationship with Reagan in the 80s.  At least on that issue, Newt’s not being dishonest.  His opposition most certainly is, and on an issue that is very near and dear to every conservative: Reagan conservatism.

Related to all this, ST reader Great White Rat wrote a comment yesterday that I think is worth repeating on the issue of Reagan and our current crop of candidates:

Look, the fact is, Reagan is NOT running, and NONE of the candidates measure up to his legacy. Out of the candidates left, I’d prefer whichever one has the strongest track record of holding to, and fighting for, conservative principles of smaller government, and a robust capitalist economy. Romney is probably very good on the second, but he’s by far the worst of the lot on the first.

I’ve also seen another good point made by others that not even Reagan himself could measure up to the legacy many of us have built up of him in our minds.  So while it’s ok to be nostalgic about Ronaldus Maximus and hope that candidates of the future share his love of country and passion for conservative ideals, perhaps now is as good a time as any to stop comparing our current candidates and any future candidates who run to him and focus instead on who they are and where they stand – even though so many of them will try to claim the Reagan mantle themselves, as we’ve seen happen so often.

As for GOP establishment politicos like Abrams, to see what they’re doing this week in an effort to put Romney over the top is deeply disappointing and in some ways disgusting, considering – again – the man has been an apologetic Republican practically his whole political life, something no one can say about Newt Gingrich.  Now more than ever we need someone who can give conservatism a foothold in the White House again at a time when socialistic left wing policies are becoming the norm.   Unfortunately, though, many establishment politicos have drawn their line in the sand and expect conservative Republican voters just to fall in line with them as they have so often in the past.   These people clearly don’t understand that the more they argue in favor of Mitt Romney, the more conservatives will push back against him and them – so in effect, the Abrams and Doles of this country are effectively doing what Newt has had trouble (up until recently) doing: getting conservatives to support the Gingrich candidacy.

And on that note, Newt gets my official endorsement at this stage of the game – for better/for worse (for what it’s worth – which is not much).  I will NOT pull the lever for Mitt Romney unless I absolutely have to – which means only if he wins the primaries.  The thought of him being President makes my stomach queasy, but the thought of Obama winning another term frightens the hell out of me and I will use whatever little influence I have to try and make sure that doesn’t happen.  That doesn’t mean I’ll be a shill for my candidate, but it does mean I won’t be so quick anymore to believe what I read about my candidate and even his opposition from GOPers who should damn well know better.

Update – 6:14 PM:  Sarah Palin takes on the establishment GOP here.

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