THIS IS NOT a hit piece on Newt, but a very well thought out analysis of Newt’s various positions and motivations on climate change. Jonescu tracks Newt’s positions and states he must have been lying to liberals earlier, or lying to conservatives now. I’m not prepared to go that far, but even for those of us that are either “pro-Newt” or “Newt-neutral,” it is an important piece to understand WHO Gingrich is and WHY putting pressure on him is important. From the article:
The most serious concerns about Gingrich, on the contrary, are matters that can only be addressed during the primaries.
I began to simply respond to Dr. Daren’s article by email and (SHOCK!) it turned into a blueprint of HOW we should look at EACH candidate’s decision making ability and track record. My take was this as I responded to the piece:
Excellent column both in tone and research. I am fully willing to believe that Newt didn't know/wasn't aware of the science in 2008/2009. My green tech company has consultants from Lawrence Livermore to Hong Kong University of Science & Technology, and although split 50/50 - it took a couple of months to digest the East Anglia emails to tip our understanding permanently toward climate neutrality. Since then I've battled with Ken Silverstein, Editor of EnergyBiz (some of these articles on www.PolitiJim.com) on the dogmatic insistence that global warming exists – let alone that it is significantly influenced by mankind.
Newt has openly admitted he was trying to "stake" a position in the marketplace of ideas so we conservatives didn't abdicate the issue to liberals. I personally find him sincere in that explanation especially since he has been consistent (and convincing in my opinion) in his embarrassment over his failed theory. And THAT "think tank" mentality Newt has would explain a lot of this. He is too well surrounded by groups like the Heritage Foundation and others that I don't believe he can escape the truth or, more importantly for him, the underlying philosophy and science behind the argument. At least, unlike Romney and Perry, he does acknowledge mistakes.
Is he "lying now or lying then?" To me this negates the possibility of an evolution of understanding on his part. I read this stuff daily and was still ready to concede SOME global warming without any man made catalyst or responsibility up until the BEST data scrutiny. Without many paid advisers until recent campaign contributions surged, and the rigors of a national campaign - I'm willing to withhold judgment that he is ignoring scientific data. Besides ClimateDepot.com's Drudge-like repository of all things climate skeptical, NoFrakkingConcensus.com is my favorite climate change counterbalance cache. Donna Laframboise helped me to come to the standpoint that Newt seemed to exhibit in the debate. That is, that it is incredibly arrogant, to outright dismiss thousands of very well credentialed scientists who legitimately believe some form of warming is occurring. None of us knows definitively. The conservative (and sound science) viewpoint should be that it is SO undecided – NO action should be taken, especially since there is very credible data to suggest no global warming at all. But it begs the question, is Newt unaware of the enormous liberal bias at the National Academy of Science? That to me is a far bigger concern that his ability (once in office) to sort through evidence to make a decision. To whom does he go to gather information?
Many conservatives, sick of the condescension of the media (and members of their own communities) have themselves become as narrow minded and confirmation biased as the liberals they despise. A lovely tea party Herman Cain supporting grandma keeps sending me scourging emails against Newt scrapped from every liberal website often repeating lies that have been well documented to be proven false. These people don't understand that like the New York Times - once you are perceived as promoting an agenda rather than truth, both your influence and your reach deteriorate rapidly. This is what I appreciate about your article. My concern is not so much the person who listens and engages those of opposing viewpoints, as it is for those who can not determine for themselves not just the truth or falsehood in their arguments - but their motive.
And this is "a" concern I have with Mr. Newt. Academics are notorious (present company excluded of course) for seeing little risk in experimentation of a WRONG idea. The "headiness" of being so opened minded that you waste opportunity to act in the land of Theory is often – for them - the joy of “thinking” rather than doing. We learn in business both that a) sometimes decisions need to be made even if they wrong and, b) you should never be pressed into any decision. The key is knowing when to use which axiom. As you point out, it is troubling that Newt wouldn't be able to step back long enough to think through how "urgent" this issue could possibly be, or to purposely seek out credible academic opposition to be "right" rather than to fit an argument for a political purpose. How does Newt make decisions?
- Who does he allow to give input?
- How does he weight similar and contrary opinion?, and,
- When does he commit to a serious decision?
- Does he have the ability to learn from mistakes?
One of the benefits we have in Newt is a very long track record of ACTUAL votes and positions. Welfare reform was not at all popular publicly, but Newt was committed to it and it is one of his biggest conservative accomplishments. (Bill Clinton recently tried to historically revise the record and he received a PolitiJim rant.) We saw the former Speaker’s support for an individual mandate during Hillarycare and a willingness to almost step on the long shadow of Milton Friedman. But when we learned he relied on the studies from the Heritage Foundation no less, we realize we are ALL hypocrites. Who among us wrote him (or Heritage) to show them their error? Let’s be honest, Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, Glenn Beck, Mark Levin and the Tea Party have EDUCATED us about what “conservatism is” more than it has simply reflected well thought out positions. The move by Heritage from accepting a form of socialized medicine is a case in point.
Which leads us to "valuing" input. I can't blame Newt for valuing Heritage's analysis of the healthcare issue. They all thought that healthcare was inevitable. And listen, when the economy is prosperous and growing, even the most die hard conservative has to admit it is much tougher to make a case to not tax a little more to help the unfortunate. Ninety nine percent (99.99%) of all Americans (and 88.88% of all conservatives) are not political science or economic theorists. When we just got a $10,000 bonus at work, dropping $10 in Santa's Salvation Army kennel is almost an afterthought. When we've been out of work for 6 months, and only have $100 in the bank account, we not only can’t rationalize the charity in our minds, we avoid eye contact as if he's that alumni from high school who is now into Amway. The question is - did Newt independently, seek out other thoughts beyond Heritage - or rely on them only?
My construction industry mentor told me to always, no matter what, get 3 bids for every job we had. I was always fascinated WHY it was "3" and not "4" or "2". It never failed that the third objective gave me not just a better handle MYSELF on the real value of that portion of the job, but a depth of perspective about HOW the job would be done. Four bids began the law of diminishing returns wasting time for the same viewpoints. You could get two weeks behind schedule trying to figure out every nuance of electrical work in which YOU were not the expert. But if two guys BOTH would insist on a higher price because of some component the OTHER subcontractor omitted - I could at least go back to the lower price contractor and press him on that issue. I could determine for myself if the other two were trying to soak me, or if the first had just shown they were not very diligently in understanding the job. When it is one against one, there isn’t as much incentive to investigate a particular point of difference. I think Herman Cain has ineffectively communicated this to others. He seems to rely more on the PROCESS of decision making than the actual solution, knowing that as a businessman you NEVER have all the data, and you always have to learn "on the go." Unfortunately, it's tough to rely on one's ability to make the right call on how to handle a foreign policy matter in Croatia from a track record of decisions about pizza crusts. (My personal opinion is that Cain is smart to excel at the economic decisions of the office, but I simply have no evidence on matters of policy, legislation and the political elements of the office.)
Which brings us to asking WHEN any candidate should commit to a position. I try to never turn away a global warming (or liberal) advocate who wants to debate me. If they argue, "the IPCC report proves global warming," I don't need to rethink my position since I've done that already. This seems to be the Herman Cain and Rick Perry dilemma. It's tough to have a ready answer when you haven't researched, deliberated and formed your own conclusion on every little issue of policy involved. Or withstood factual attacks upon your own beliefs. That is how you develop your own understanding on WHY you advocate what you do. On issues I truly don't know - it is tough to not just react out of a desire to emasculate my puny liberal foe and take an arbitrary decision. Or to seek out opinions that support a predefined position I have. As a Christian I defended the Bible for years, really not even knowing what it said. It fundamentally (no pun intended) transformed me when I actually READ the entire bible and it challenged a lot my conservative positions. The process of challenging “what I THOUGHT I knew” was enlightening but practical business experience also taught me I often had to intelligently "guess" on some decisions with less "facts" than I liked. Newt indeed may have "jumped the shark" on global warming. Marc Grove and I had a great discussion on "Flip Flops Versus Real Change" but I think it is worth noting even Saint Ronnie proved that his conservative instincts were not perfect. (Minimal Tax Increases based on Liberal Promises and Simpson/Mazzoli to name two.) It scares me to think that even REAGAN backed off of closing down the Department of Education. In fact the ONLY modern politicians I know that were unfailingly conservative was Margaret Thatcher and likely my perception is poorly formed from my ignorance of modern British political history.
We all want conservative purity. It simply doesn't exist. Even Palin had to reverse herself on "The Bridge to Nowhere." But what she DID do correctly, was to admit the mistake, and actively take steps in line with conservative principles without being embarrassed about the PROCESS of redeveloping her position. She didn’t hide her earlier position. It seemed she never swayed from that from that point on. Has Newt? I believe he's proven that somewhat in his personal life. The unfair attack on him about Freddie Mac will be put to bed if he can get the non-disclosure lifted by Freddie to prove his claim he foresaw the problems with their model (and you can be sure the White House will leak damaging emails if that proves not to be the case.) But Newt's accomplishment of bringing in conservatives to take over the House and Senate with CONTRACT WITH AMERICA, reforming Welfare and fighting against Clinton's liberal policies can't be taken away from him either. When he had a chance to PROVE a basic conservatism that impacted public policy - he didn't just talk the talk.
But your final point (and most brilliant in my opinion) is that NOW is the time for us to make sure WE force Newt to think through and commit to a policy position while we can. As proof of this we can cite George Bush's detour into a huge drug entitlement program, commitment to Head Start, embrace of amnesty and complete reluctance to scale back ANY program throughout his presidency. Forty Three frankly didn't need conservatives once he was elected. Commissar Karl likely served as WormTongue calculating reelection policy rather than "right" thinking. Had he been pressed FARTHER to the right in the nomination process perhaps we might have not just gotten him to commit to more austerity in spending, it might have helped HIM to understand and learn the necessity of that position. Frankly, the only candidates who are fairly consistent on every issue from a conservative standpoint are Bachmann and Santorum and they both have other issues relating to the job. Cain simply has no track record of proving he will make conservative policy except Abortion (strong plus) and TARP (strong minus).
Again we go to Palin for the final word:
Competition makes everyone work harder, be more efficient, debate clearer, and produce more.
All of us who either want to stop pressing EACH of these candidates on the issues for the sake of “peace” or personal preference are really hurting that very candidate. It’s not just important for General Election preparation, it could be critical to how much of the conservative agenda they will stick to once they start unraveling the mess of past eleven or more years.
...and thanks for the material for my blog!
Daren Jonescu’s article at Canada Free Press.