Last fall, people in Washington told me, “Get over it, Melissa. Newt’s not going to be the nominee.” Later, in New York City over Thanksgiving, I was told, “Get over it, Melissa. It’s going to be Romney. There’s still so much stuff out there on Newt that’s just waiting to drop.”
Well, here we are in the thick of the race, and I’m still not over it.
Many years ago, I spent a frustrating morning trying to ice skate when it hit me: I wasn’t trying to ice skate; I was trying not to fall. I submit that the Republican establishment is repeating my mistake. They are trying not to fall by endorsing — or at least accepting — the supposed safe bet. It is reminiscent of an encounter I had with some editorial types during another presidential-primary season.
I was in New York with my husband, John, a former editor and current editor-at-large of National Review. He had arranged to meet some friends from the Wall Street Journal for lunch. At the eleventh hour, John had a conflict, and I went in his place. As the meal developed into an election-strategy discussion, one distinguished woman writer declared firmly that obviously the most qualified person to carry the Republican banner into the election was John McCain. She said it was a pity that the Republican rhubarbs in the sticks would not be bright enough to choose him.
“Wow!” I thought, “Mr. Campaign Finance Reform? Our nominee?” I remember being truly stunned that she thought so highly of McCain. Well, she and the Republican establishment got their wish, and we rhubarbs in the sticks got the shaft.
I have been told that Romney is the inevitable nominee, that he is the only one who can beat Obama, and that polls back up both of these propositions. My frustration with such talk is that it is about where the needle points at present. It ignores the issue of who can move the needle.
For conservatives who have served on Republican committees at the county and state levels, have gone door to door for local candidates, and can remember when here in the South we couldn’t even field a candidate for most races, Newt is The Man. Back in the early Nineties he had, dare I say, a “grandiose” idea that we could be a majority party when most Republicans in the House were quite content with the leadership of the nice Mr. Robert Michel, minority leader. For that, I personally am forever indebted to Newt.
Right now, we are in a perilous state of affairs. We have a president who has put the kibosh on the Keystone pipeline at a time when Russia has just announced a new pipeline to provide energy to Western Europe, thereby increasing its influence in the region. China is building up its military while ours is shrinking. Our European partners’ defense spending is in even worse shape, with the U.K. and France having actually discussed a “time-share” arrangement for an aircraft carrier. To say nothing of the problems we face regarding Iran and Venezuela.
Now, Newt is a great debater. He has not failed to deliver in any debate I have seen. More important to me, however, is that as president he’ll hit the ground running on Day One. He is firmly grounded in the kind of knowledge someone acquires by spending the better part of 30 years studying and advocating various public policies. More than that, though, he possesses the contextual knowledge — the historian’s perspective — that enables someone to stand back and draw on past events to understand current crises. And that gives him a larger philosophical understanding of our past, present, and future role in world affairs. He’s not wandering in the dark; he knows where he wants this country to go and — just as important — where he doesn’t.