Tuesday, December 13, 2011

This generation's Jack Kemp

During the time that I worked in Congress, I got to know Jack Kemp quite well.  He was an engaging fellow; smart, witty and well read.   But as I watched him I became convinced that he should not be president.   The qualities that the best presidents have are a strange mix - they need to have charisma but they also need perspective.  In one sense a person who is driven to be president, probably will not make a good president.  (Although it is hard to think of a successful president in my lifetime who was not driven to be president - perhaps Ike.)

In this election cycle Newt Gingrich seems to fit the mold of Jack Kemp.   I do not know Gingrich but have encountered him in a number of forums.  He is an engaging speaker.  He too is well read and smart. But like Kemp he seems to lack a sense of proportion.   I first noticed it when he was Speaker and he threw a hissy fit for not being included on the President's plane when coming back from Europe.  Everyone should have the ability to have one gaffe but Gingrich has had several.

Witness the following:
1) He called the Ryan health plan "right wing social engineering."  Paul Ryan is one of the few people in Congress who is thinking carefully about how to balance the budget.  There are elements of his budget plan that are not popular - but the low cut on a fellow member of his party and a leader in Congress is bad taste and bad policy.
2) Gingrich worked for one of the two Government Sponsored Enterprises (Freddie Mac) that helped us get into the housing mess.  He claims he was only a "historian" - a claim that is so spurious it is laughable.   In the most recent debate, Gov. Romney criticized Gingrich's post House employment - which involves a lot of work in and around government.  Gingrich shot back that Governor Romney should return the fees he earned with Bain and Co.    Bain's work was in restructuring American companies.  Gingrich seemed to have argued that all of that work was somehow negative - yet the economic growth in the 1990s came in part from the redeployment of capital.  Which is better experience - working for a company like Bain or lobbying?   In my mind that is an easy choice - even if Bain made mistakes. (which they certainly did)
3) Gingrich's personal life has not been a shining light.  He divorced his first wife when she had cancer.  His second marriage was rocky at best.

The current president is such a disaster that we cannot stand four more years.   I'm also not much attracted to any of the other candidates. Perry seems all hat and no horse.   Romney reminds me a lot of his father - a decent man but unable to generate enthusiasm.   The rest of the also rans are just that.   So we may be left with an uneasy choice.  So regardless of who the GOP nominates, I will end up voting for the person just to take us away from the current disaster.

1 comment:

Fr. Cliff said...

While I think that it takes a great deal of confidence to run for President, a confidence that can easily turn into arrogance, a more important quality to me is a ceartain humility that I do find lacking in Mr. Gingrich. I am hoping he is not the GOP choice standing at the end. I am not sure I can bring myself to vote for him.