Gingrich, Not Romney, To WIN: Buckley Rule Still Applies, But The World Is Very Different
by Larry Perrault on January 2, 2012 at 5:28 PM
I’ve put off getting this out, but for Iowa it’s the last minute now. A few weeks ago, George F. Will was asked if he thought voters would ultimately consolidate around Mitt Romney. Will, who has himself pointedly remarked on Romney’s historical pliability on the issues, answered yes, that it was hard to see how Romney doesn’t wind up the answer to William F. Buckley’s advocacy for nominating “the most conservative candidate, who can WIN.” Well especially in the wake of Obama’s abuse and devastation of America’s most vital elements, we still want to elect the best potential winner. Despite his remarks about Romney, Will has been one of a string of old-line Republicans with an established public platform, who have backed a Romney nomination, because they think “he can win.” It’s a long time and changed world since Buckley made his statement and since these 60 and over men learned to play politics. They all were formed in a time when Republicans survived by offering as little appeasement as possible but as much as necessary to liberal domination of mass-culture. Mass-culture defined “extreme,” and that label was to be avoided at all costs.
I have always been a conservative and chafed at this even though I lived in it too for a long time. But my first 5 presidential votes were for Ronald Reagan: Primary and generals in ’80 & ’84, primary against Ford in ’76. Reagan came very close to taking the nomination from the incumbent President in ’76, won a landslide against an incumbent Democrat I ’80, and a HUGE one in “84 as the incumbent President against a former Vice-President. And that was in the former environment. And establishment Republicans opposed Reagan in 1980, too…until he won the nomination. That was considered a quirk of Reagan’s appealing personality. And part of it was that Reagan was positive and charming. But part of it was also that Reagan was clear and straightforward, not tentative and ambiguous. That’s G.H.W. “not big on the vision thing” Bush, Bob Dole, and McCain: all losers, except for Bush’s first term which was really cast as Reagan’s 3rd.
But besides the clarity and honesty which is really what Independents are looking for, today we have a very changed communications environment. Reagan didn’t even have talk radio. We now also have pay television and the Internet and its social media. Imagine a clear and straightforward message in this new open environment. Romney is the Bush-Dole-McCain candidate. Actually, those were all better than he. They were all patriots who had served the country in the service and long after. I don’t think Romney’s a bad man. But it’s easy for him to take both sides on an issue, because he has no driving philosophy. In business or politics, his agenda is to be a winner. Things are so bad now, and Obama’s popularity may be so low, that Romney could win the election. But after that is the hard part: there’s an errant and damaged country to save. And this most successful nation in the history of the world can only be saved by restoring the founding and unique values that he does not fully understand.
It will require courage. I always point to three events that revealed what Reagan was made of. In the face of enormous pressure from media, advisors or both, Reagan moved ahead by his convictions and values. When everyone doubted that he could, he fired the PATCO (Public Air Traffic Controllers) when they refused his order to return to work from their illegal strike. He had said return to work or be fired. They didn’t, and he fired them. In 1986 at the Summit with the communist Soviet Union Leader Gorbachev in 1986, agreement was reached on a dramatic reduction of nuclear weapons, which was a monumental achievement to the media. But at the last meeting, Gorbachev threw in a requirement that the US abandon any effort to develop a missile defense system, The Strategic Defense Initiative. It was all or nothing. Agree and sign the deal. Reagan told Gorbachev in Russian, “Nyet.” (No) And they went home empty-handed, but the Soviets soon took the deal when they saw that Reagan was serious. And again in 1987, his advisors repeatedly warned him against delivering a line in his speech at the Brandenburg gate of the Berlin Wall, always editing it out, including right before the speech. He delivered it anyway to the Soviet leader: “Mr. Gorbachev (poignant pause) “TEAR DOWN THIS WALL!”
After the Soviet Union collapsed, internal papers showed that the Soviets saw in all of these events that this politician meant what he said. I’m certain that Bush and Dole would not have made these moves, and McCain would not have made at least the first two. Romney would not have made them either. And, he isn’t the candidate to assert a clear distinction from Barack Obama and engage him in campaign and debate. I am conservative fiscally, socially and in foreign policy and defense, and actually regard them as united in principle. And, personally, I like Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, and Michelle Bachmann. But Newt Gingrich is best prepared to engage the campaign, assert a clear vision, and drive an agenda to save America. I think the other three would be competent executives. But applying Buckley’s rule today, Gingrich is the most conservative who can (best) win. That’s clear to me. And Reagan’s son and ideological heir, Michael, is affirming this and endorsing him over the next two days.