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George Will’s “Farewell to Newt”

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Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is pictured in New Hampshire on Jun 13. | AP Photo

MSM is always behind when it comes to recognizing significant stories on the center-right. Even now most of them are unaware that Newt’s campaign is in grave danger of bleeding out, though if they listened to talk radio or watched FNC’s Special Report they would have been in the know for two days.

When on Monday Newt Gingrich attacked Mitt Romney’s time at Bain, I posted the video first posted by Time’s Mark Halperin (nearly alone among the MSMers in sensing it was important) and devoted my entire show to the significance of the one-minute self-immolation. As my radio show began, so did Brett Baier’s television show and during my breaks I listened in as I usually do to see what that superbly produced program is covering, and found that the shock at Gingrich’s remarks had instantly struck two of conservatism’s most influential television presences. I thus wove into my show the audio of the critiques that occurred simultaneously from Charles Krauthammer and Brit Hume. All three of us and many in the audience had reacted the same way to Newt’s outburst: That wasn’t a “gaffe,” a 57-state $10,000 bet on naming three agencies; that was a defining moment.

Gingrich supporters called the show to protest that it wasn’t a big deal. Even yesterday pro-Newt callers gamely tried to explain the Laws of Newtonian Rhetoric and why under them the former Speaker didn’t mean what he had said. Gingrich himself released a letter promising to stay positive and exiled an Iowa staffer who had played a Mormon card in Iowa.

That pledge to stay high road won’t save Newt’s surge because the shock wasn’t at taking a swing at Romney. That’s to be expected. It is because of the substance of the attack, the adoption of class warfare rhetoric at exactly a moment when the conservative movement is sick-to-death of the OWS and the president’s serial assaults on the private sector.

Today George Will sums up the argument about the significance of the Gingrich roundhouse that hit himself.
Key graphs:

The [Teddy] Kennedy-Gingrich doctrine is this: What the economist Joseph Schumpeter called capitalism’s “creative destruction” is not really creative. Rather, it is lamentable and, when facilitated by capitalists, reprehensible. For Kennedy, this made sense: Reactionary liberalism holds that whatever is, from Social Security to farm subsidies to the Chrysler Corp., should forever be. But Gingrich is supposedly our infallible guide to the sunny uplands of a dynamic future….

Romney, while at Bain, performed the essential social function of connecting investment resources with opportunities. Firms such as Bain are indispensable for wealth creation, which often involves taking over badly run companies, shedding dead weight and thereby liberating remaining elements that add value. The process, like surgery, can be lifesaving. And like surgery, society would rather benefit from it than watch it.

Will is no fan of Romney, but the dean of conservative commentary is a fan of capitalism, the free markets that drive it and secure liberty, and the men and women who captain its engines of economic growth. Newt would have had a better chance had he attacked the Cubs.

“We should welcome such spirits and should hope for political leadership that will hasten the day when American conditions are again receptive to them,” Will writes. “Until then, economic dynamism will not return,” he adds somewhat gloomily.

“We should not expect Gingrich to understand this,” he concludes, “until he understands that his work for Freddie Mac was not, as he laughably insists, in ‘the private sector.'”

I said on Monday and again yesterday, the only way out of this hole is for the former Speaker to apologize for the outburst, for the specific attack he made on Romney and the general attack on capitalism it contained. It is probably too late, but trying to put out the fire is better than pretending the improbable comeback campaign isn’t burning out before our eyes.

There aren’t many mortal sins among conservatives, but attacking capitalism is one of them.

UPDATE: Article VI Blog has a very fair summary of this moment in the campaign.

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