Tea Party, Religious Right May Love Him,
But Is Gingrich Best GOP Can Offer?
If So, It’s Good News For Obama

It’s not any kind of a conventional poll, but I can report that among some two dozen Republicans with whom I talked following the Newt Gingrich victory in the Republican presidential primary in South Carolina, not a one wants to see Gingrich as the Republican nominee for president.

All of them hope to vote for someone other than Gingrich in an effort to unseat Barrack Obama.

One conservative with whom I talked said that if it comes down to no choice but to vote for Gingrich as the Republican nominee, “I’d do it, but I’d be holding my nose.”

But could Gingrich—or especially Gingrich, as his supporters would argue—beat Obama?  Very questionable, as I see it.  I think he would have little or no appeal to many political independents who occupy the expanding middle ground of American politics.

(Incidentally, at age 69, Gingrich would be the second oldest president ever to start a first term).

Gingrich carries some heavy baggage.  Smart but devious, short-tempered, an ego which he makes no attempt to hide, comparing himself on occasion to Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan.

In His Three Churches, No Notice Of 10 Commandments?

He is the only Speaker of the House of Representatives to be censured by a vote of the House for ethics violations.  And his non-political life history has included adultery with a younger woman who became his current, third wife.

With the cooperation of the news media, somehow Gingrich has gotten by with calling adultery “an affair.”  Sounds better on your resume.  But by whatever name, Gingrich surely was aware he was breaking one of the Ten Commandments, of which he must have gained some knowledge as he moved through affiliation with a succession of three religions.

Further reflection of Newt Gingrich’s sense of ethical behavior is the fact that while he himself was guilty of an extramarital “affair” he was criticizing President Clinton for an “affair” with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

An example of Gingrich at his worst, as I see it, was his reaction to his second wife’s recent statement that he suggested they turn their relationship into an “open marriage,” in which Gingrich could, with her approval, not only have her as a wife but also have a mistress (the younger woman who later became his third wife).

Gingrich angrily denied the “open marriage” accusation and said two statements supporting his position would be available to the news media.

It turns out that the two statements were from two daughters from his first marriage who, wisely, did not deny that their father had made an “open marriage” proposal but said that the second wife should not have made the accusation—or at least that the news media should not have given it prominent play—because it was past history.

Gingrich cleverly—he is nothing if not resourceful—succeeded in turning his second wife’s accusation to his political advantage by angrily attacking the news media as irresponsible for reporting his second wife’s “open marriage” accusation.

Newt Switches Focus From Self To News Media

Gingrich was especially critical—his jowls fairly quivering with righteous indignation—of the CNN reporter who had started a telecast debate program with a request for Gingrich to respond to the day-old “open marriage” story.  Part of the live audience assembled for the debate rose to cheer and applaud him as he lashed out at the news media in general and the CNN reporter in particular.

As I see it, the CNN reporter, who had a solid history of Associated Press reporting preceding his CNN career, was absolutely justified.  The “open marriage” charge raised the question of just how far Gingrich had gone in his private life to justify his adulterous relationship.  He could have simply denied the “open marriage” accusation—vehemently, of course—and said something like, “Let’s get on with the debate.”

Instead, he exploded in righteous indignation—or simulated righteous indignation.

Paid little media attention, incidentally, was the fact that his second wife repeated the accusation the next day.

The news media, print and broadcast, have to take major responsibility for focusing so much attention on what are early skirmishes in the battle for the Republican presidential nomination.

Miniscule Margin In Iowa Is A Big Deal?

A switch of fewer than a hundred votes in the Iowa caucus results, for example, had former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum claiming a major victory over former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.  Iowa, after all, provides an insignificant percentage of the delegates to the convention which will nominate the Republican candidate for president.  The same can be said for New Hampshire and South Carolina.

The stakes increased, of course, as the primary campaign moved into Florida.  But keep in mind that the media have been talking about only four of 50 states, not yet including the most populous states.

Part of the unjustified media hype is the liberal use of the word “pivotal,” now being applied to Florida as it had been applied to South Carolina.  Catchy journalese language, perhaps, but much over-used.

‘Ronald Reagan And I’—Over and Over

There are times when, figuratively, one wonders whether Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul are running against Newt Gingrich or former President Ronald Reagan.

Gingrich and his supporters link his name with Reagan’s time after time after time.  In Florida, for example, a Gingrich campaign staffer told the news media, “Gingrich is the only Reagan conservative in the field.”

Mitt Romney, incidentally, had a pretty effective rebuttal to the “Newt’s just like Reagan” line.  Romney said a thorough search of a book on Reagan’s presidency turned up the Gingrich name exactly once—in connection with an idea which was floated and rejected during a meeting of Reagan with Congressional leaders.

* * *

Paterno Could Have Avoided Tragic Ending
If He Had Taken Timely Retirement

Enough—and perhaps more than enough unless  you’re as interested in politics as I am—about Newt Gingrich, who, smart as he is, is still a poor excuse for a presidential candidate, as I see it.

The sad final months of the life of legendary Joe Paterno, the Penn State football coach those many years, did not have to be so tragically sad.

I’m not talking about Paterno’s alleged failure to act against a coach who allegedly abused youngsters.

I’m talking about the fact that Paterno made the mistake—perhaps understandable and forgivable but still a mistake—of staying too long—far too long.  Paterno hung on until he was fired at age 84.

He should have stepped down years earlier—a decision that should have been suggested to him, diplomatically and kindly, of course—by his superiors if he did not have the good judgment to make the decision himself.

So “Quit while you’re ahead.”  It’s very unfortunate, even tragic, that someone didn’t convince Joe Paterno of the soundness of that policy.

* * *

Enough Private Funds Available To Help Fund
Additional Major Projects At UNO, UNMC?

The University of Nebraska at Omaha’s future athletics facilities, coupled with the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s ambitious plans for building a new cancer research complex, raise a rather fundamental question.  Since both projects would depend on the raising of a good deal of private money, what are the reasonable prospects for continuing private philanthropy at its recent or current level in Omaha?

I’m not suggesting there isn’t enough money here.  I just don’t know.

Has there been some private calculation of the continued giving potential?  Is there a good deal more of the kind of resources which have put a good many hundreds of millions of dollars into worthwhile projects both in Omaha and at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in addition to smaller projects across the state?

Speaking of the possibility of UNO athletic facility additions and upgrades, isn’t it about time that the public be given a detailed report on UNO athletic department finances?

So far as I can recall, the public has not for years been given the numbers as to revenue and expenses by sport and by total.  And also included should be a projection of how those revenue and expenses will change as UNO retools its athletic program in response to joining the NCAA Division I Summit Conference.

Pop quiz:  Name all the schools in the Summit Conference.  (Answers at the end of the column).

* * *

What’s In A Name?  Tax Diversion Bill
Hides Under Label Of ‘Build Nebraska Act’

Coming up with an offbeat ending to this weekly offering is not always that easy.  Let me try today with a couple of items which I found interesting and/or puzzling.  For example:

A recent headline read:  “As data centers multiply, Midlands stand to benefit.”

I searched the story for an explanation of what data centers do.  What kind of data and what do those centers do to it?

Then there was the story that told about a piece of legislation, enacted in the 2011 Legislature, which was given the grandiose title:  “The Build Nebraska Act.”

I suppose it would have been too long a title to explain that this was State Senator Deb Fischer’s first-of-its-kind effort to tap the state’s general fund for highway construction, including questionably-needed four-lane expressways in sparsely settled Western Nebraska.

I was pleased to see that the “Build Nebraska Act,” which doesn’t take effect until next year, is under legislative scrutiny.  Senator Brenda Council of Omaha proposes to repeal the act devoting a percentage of sales and income taxes to highway construction and using the money for more traditional sales and income tax uses, like aid to public schools.  Highway construction would continue to be financed with gasoline tax revenue and federal aid.

Incidentally, a very modest increase in the state gasoline tax would provide as much money as the diversion of funds from state sales and income taxes.  A practical argument:  With gasoline prices fluctuating above and below $3 a gallon—sometimes jumping or dropping by a fairly substantial amount overnight—a modest increase in the state gasoline tax would go almost unnoticed, in my opinion.

Let’s see now, how did I get into this as a column closer?  Oh, yes, I continue to be amused at some of the feel-good names attached to pieces of legislation—names like “The Build Nebraska Act” which apparently is intended to make a controversial piece of legislation easier to swallow.

* * *

Pop Quiz Answers:  (I Went 4 for 11)

The members of the Summit Conference are:
Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne
Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis
University of Missouri-Kansas City
North Dakota State University
Oakland University
Oral Roberts University
University of South Dakota
South Dakota State University
Southern Utah University
Western Illinois University
University of Nebraska at Omaha

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