News Intelligence Analysis
From P.M. Carpenter's Commentary
August 16, 2005
Gingrich on any given Sunday
By P. M. Carpenter
Last week at a Capitol Hill gathering of GOP staffers, Newt Gingrich lectured that liberals have the advantage in speed, cleverness and shallowness. He also noted in casual contradiction - that being a chief advantage of conservatives - that liberals focus on analysis to hide their values.
So whats a right winger to do? This was Newts suggestion: Our core pattern should be there is a BIG difference [between left and right] and it is a fact . We must then take such key facts to immediately illustrate a large vision; we cannot remain in arguments at the detail level.
If youre a conservative, odds are you wont admit what Newt just admitted. If youre a liberal, youll smile at what Newt just admitted, which is that conservatives cannot successfully debate liberals because the details that underlie most debates tend to support the liberal position, not the conservative. If the details supported Newts side, rest assured he would be touting the marvels of the fine point.
His outline of political action was also a resoundingly open call to demagogic arms. The core pattern he mentioned means, in translation, to repeat, repeat, repeat the BIG differences without ever substantiating the conservative arguments behind them. In fact, there should be no conservative arguments - just catchy slogans that appeal to those uninterested in inconvenient details. Its not the Big Difference that Mr. Gingrich stresses as the advisable course of action. Its the Big Lie.
Now, as conservative tactics go, these are not at all new and their instructional presentation to small-time right wingers wanting to be big-time right wingers certainly isnt news. That Newt was huckstering this same-ole, same-ole con artistry as bold and visionary stuff is the only newsworthy angle of what Newt had to say.
Conservatives havent debated or presented honest, detailed arguments since Ronald Reagan. They have instead demagogued and distorted at will and that, of course, explains their electoral success. In his column yesterday Paul Krugman nicely summarized these familiar GOP tactics: The campaign for [Social Security] privatization provided an object lesson in how the administration sells its policies: by misrepresenting its goals, lying about the facts and abusing its control of government agencies. These were the same tactics used to sell both tax cuts and the Iraq war.
For an interesting view of how Newts tutoring plays out in the real world, take the Justice Sunday II event of weekend past, the spookiest conclave yet of religio-political conservatives advocating a sociocultural return to the Middle Ages.
For example Tony Perkins, the Family Research Councils president, pronounced the Supreme Courts ruling in Roe v. Wade as the right to kill unborn children. Period. Let us not bother with all those nasty but legitimate controversies about when life starts, or what right a woman has over her own body, or what rights government should have in interfering with your privacy rights. No, those are inconveniences that cloud the demagogic clarity of killing unborn children. Thats so stirring; the other is so confusing.
Also at Justice Sunday II was ubiquitous malcontent James Dobson of Focus on the Family, who declared It doesnt matter what we think. The court rules. The Supreme Court is an oligarchy. Its the government by the few. To note that Mr. Dobson represents only a fraction of evangelical Christians, who themselves are a fraction of all Christians, who by no means constitute all believers, and that the imposition of his minority views would be government by the very few and the negation of what all others believe - well, once again, these are trifling inconveniences snarling an otherwise wonderful argument. Better left unexamined.
And what would any totalitarian rally be without the Rudolph Hess of right-wing theocracy, Tom DeLay, who bellowed that when it comes to the Supreme Court, rights are invented out of whole cloth. Long-standing traditions are found to be unconstitutional. Moral values that have defined the progress of human civilization for millennia are cast aside in favor of those espoused by a handful of unelected, lifetime-appointed judges.
The extremist falsehoods and downright silly distortions contained in DeLays screed are too numerous to tackle here. Plus, as I said earlier, if youre on the left you already know them and are already smiling; if youre on the right you choose to ignore them. Hence I wont bother.
So there you have it - the fanciful wit and farcical wisdom of Newt Gingrich as heard in action. But I suggest the left take up Newts advice in response. Rather than dissect his rhetorical fallacies, just declare him, in Al Frankenesque style, a little, fat idiot and move on.
P.M. Carpenter's political commentary has appeared on numerous Web sites, including BuzzFlash.com, TomPaine.com and History News Network. He has also written for television and worked in politics. Carpenter holds a doctorate in American history from the University of Illinois.
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