Newt Gingrich, former college instructor and Speaker of the House, has emerged as the front runner among Republicans for our party's nominee for President.This trend is both surprising and alarming.
It is surprising given Gingrich's situation as the campaign began. He had served a Speaker of the House between 1994-1998 and had helped win the first Republican majority in the House for the first time in 40 years. The Republican majority promoted a number of necessary reforms suggested by the Heritage Foundation and spelled out it the Contract with America. He quickly fell from grace, however, and was deposed by his own party. He's haunted the halls of power ever since, but never in an official government capacity. When the campaign began, many considered him a "washed up" politician with little chance of winning the nomination.
It is alarming, too, because no one knows what to make of him. Critics (and supporters) has labeled him mercurial, undisciplined, erratic, and most recently, zany. Many people concluded that this temperament doomed his candidacy when he decided to go on a cruise at the beginning of the campaign, prompting many staff members to quit. Moreover, he has proposed a number of unusual ideas . Finally, he has reversed himself on a number of core issues. Perhaps the most interesting primary debate would involve Newt Gingrich vs. Newt Gingrich:
Republicans cannot be certain which Newt we are going to get.
There may be more to Gingrich's gyrations than mere lack of discipline. It may be deliberate.
In the 16th century, a Florentine diplomat named Niccolo Machiavelli wrote of couple of books spelling out his theories about republican government and advising prospective leaders on how to maintain their states. The main goal for leaders, he wrote, was to achieve glory, fame, and honor for their states. (This sounds like the vision of "big government" conservatives, including Reagan, who did not reduce the size of government but merely turned it to conservative ends). He also noted that people are easily deceived. “Men are so simple of mind, and so much dominated by their immediate needs, that a deceitful man will always find plenty who are ready to be deceived.” A leader, therefore, should be more concerned with appearances than reality. If a leader does not possess religion and virtue, according to Machiavelli, then it must appear that he does. "Appear as you wish to be." In addition, a leader must to willing to change. “Whosoever desires constant success must change his conduct with the times.” And Gingrich himself has admitted that "I do change things when conditions change."
Mercurial or Machiavellian?