Insight. Antics.

Nuanced Newt?

In Economy, Politics on February 7, 2012 at 7:34 pm

Are we six weeks into 2012 already? I’ve just been so strapped for time, what with January being National Braille Literacy Month and all. And of course now that it’s Febru-ANY, you can imagine why my schedule is packed.

Rest assured, I’ve kept tabs on the medio-political developments in this young Year of the Dragon. And the contest for the Republican presidential nomination remains front and center.

With his vigorous rejuvenations in the polls and support-sapping slides, Newt Gingrich is the Ra’s al Ghul of the GOP field. He has been around forever. On a respirator after the pointy barrage of negative ads hurled at him, he’s used the debates like a Lazarus Pit.

After an important win over frontrunner Mitt Romney in South Carolina, followed by a rough defeat in Florida, and a foregone loss in Nevada, he’s pressing on, marital baggage and all.

(By the way, I don’t believe Newt’s wife is a robot the way Romney is. Rather, I’m convinced Callista is actually controlled by a tiny alien inside her head, à la Men in Black.)

Gingrich has an uncanny ability to say the best possible thing in the moment to make himself look as favorable as is possible. Whether those comments also end up being absurd, insensitive, ignorant, or plain abhorrent, I leave up to you.

However, just before the Nevada caucus, I heard Gingrich say something surprising, articulate, and that I am pretty sure I agree with, and a wide swath of Americans might also. He gets going in this clip and reaches a crescendo just after the two-minute mark:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Gingrich is riffing off of Romney’s latest gulp-worthy gaffe, on poverty:

“If every American is endowed by their Creator with the right to pursue happiness, then the proper public policy to is ask how we can help the poorest of Americans achieve their full Creator-endowed right to pursue happiness.”

“My good friend, the governor from Massachusetts, said it was okay to not worry about the poor because after all they have a safety net.”

Eventually, he makes his way to this remarkable analogy:

“It’s not a safety net, it’s a spider web. It traps them in poverty. It keeps them at the bottom. It deprives them of independence. One of the reasons I’m running is I want to replace the spider web with a trampoline that launches them into the middle class and gives them a future.” 

Isn’t that something? Those terms are so vivid, they feel Frank Luntz-tested.

Welfare is a perennial political topic. Liberals want to make sure the worse-off have support and conservatives want to make sure lazy people are not mooching off it.

Are services like Medicaid, unemployment insurance, and food stamps useful (The Safety Net)? Are they too enticing to some people who become overly reliant and stick to them (The Spider Web)? Perhaps. But they also provide vital support for people to gain their footing and try for a big bounce into productivity and prosperity (The Trampoline).

Whether we wish the net were wider and sturdier, or thinner and flimsier, we all agree that the goal should be to rise above it, with what we have now (worker training programs and the like) or something else. Nobody aspires to live off of food stamps.

Sure, Gingrich uses anodyne lines (“I believe we are 100% Americans”) and creatively extrapolates and exaggerates (“I don’t believe we are a 99% and 1% country; I believe that is a European socialist model”) along the way, but that’s neither here nor there.

Rather, what this incident reminds me is that it’s important and fascinating to recognize that while you may differ with someone greatly (and even feel they would be a horrendous president), you may agree and give them credit for a point well-made.

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