I’ll avoid the “Well, he oughta know” lede and get straight to the charge.
At about the 15-minute mark of the interview, Gregory asked Abramoff – who finished a jail stint over a year ago on influence-peddling charges and has been promoting his recently-published book – about the strategic counseling fee of over $1 million that was paid to Newt Gingrich by housing giant Freddie Mac.
“What do you make of all that?” Gregory asked.
Abramoff replied, “This is exactly what I’m talking about. People who come to Washington who have public service and they cash in on it. And they use their public service and their access to make money, and unfortunatley Newt Gingrich is one of them who have done it. But far too many of them do it and one of the reforms I propose in my book is to close permanently the door, the revolving door, betweeen public service and cashing in as a lobbyist.”
He added after another question, “I don’t know if he’ll survive this, to be honest with you, this is a very big thing.”
“Why?” Gregory asked.
“Because he is doing, and engaging in the exact kind of corruption that America disdains. The very things that anger the Tea Party movement and the Occupy Wall Street movement and everybody who is not in a movement and watches washington and says why are these guys getting all this money, why do they all become so rich, why do they have these advantages? Unfortunately Newt seems to play right into it.”
It’s corrupt in the sense that almost every decision made in Washington made these days is corrupted by the nexus of money and power. As I said in an earlier post about this, though, from what we know the worst that can be said is that Gingrich fed at the federal trough. The same can be said about nearly every elected official in Washington.
That’s not to justify it. The fact is, Washington is a filthy place and a true conservative should get a pang of conscience for taking taxpayer dollars. But the other fact is, there are an awful lot of conservatives atop “Beltway bandit” companies that live off taxpayer dollars. This corruption is pretty much part of the system that existed long before Gingrich got elected to Congress.
Gingrich’s career can be roughly broken up into three phases: The early years, when he was the “guerrilla in the hills” leading the Republican minority in Congress; the middle period when he led the GOP revolution and became Speaker of the House; and the fall from grace to the present. The “guerrilla in the hills” Gingrich was brilliant, a staunch ally of Reagan in an era before we had Rush Limbaugh and Drudge and the rest of the right’s media to push back against liberal media and Democrat narratives. I grew up during this phase of Gingrich’s career and he was incredible, a fierce and articulate leader perfectly suited for his role and the times. He was indispensable. He was such an effective leader that he eventually led the way in taking control of Congress from the Democrats for the first time in a generation. That changed everything. It probably wouldn’t have happened without Gingrich’s fierce intellect, his ability to see beyond the horizon and his enormous drive to see his ideas carried out. As Speaker of the House Gingrich was at first effective, but as time went by the lobbyists wormed their way back in and Republicans became nearly as enamored of big government as the Democrats they overthrew had been. Gingrich’s undisciplined ways in life and politics started catching up with him. He fell from grace mostly as collateral damage from the Clinton scandals, hypocrisy dooming Gingrich more than Clinton’s own scandals ended up damaging him. The Gingrich phase from now to the present has been the source of most of his substantive problems. The couch ad with Pelosi, the Freddie Mac consultancy, the flirting with cap and trade, support for the individual mandate to purchase health insurance, all of that comes from the post-fall Gingrich.
That, to me, is the most substantive problem with the Freddie contract and everything else. It’s not the corruption, which is all too common and actually within the bounds of the law, it’s the exposure of what might be real changes in the way Gingrich thinks. Or, they’re tactical changes to repair his image. As he has gotten older, it’s fair to wonder whether he has actually gotten wiser or whether he has grown toward the left over the years in either a true ideological change or to reduce his popular unpopularity. Folks tend to forget that by the time he left the House, the mediaDemocrat machine had turned him into one of the most unpopular figures in America. The Clinton machine vilified him year after year without mercy or pity. He still had a following on the right, but nowhere else. His rehabilitation has taken the better part of a decade, during which time he had to make a living while he transformed himself into a less polarizing figure.
Now he atop some polls, which probably surprises him as much as it does anyone who has watched the arc of his career.
More: I meant to include this in the post but got distracted and forgot before publishing. We’ve seen several candidates rise and fall recently, always rising after joining the race or after a debate, then falling after a major hit in the media. The pattern suggests, to me, that Romney’s campaign is behind the attacks. Whether that’s the case or not, the pattern of Romney’s campaign press release is revealing of which candidate he actually fears the most. Romney sends out three basic kinds of releases — those that tout Romney, those that attack Obama, and those that attack Perry. That has been true for weeks, no matter who was rising or falling in the polls or where Perry happened to rank. Perry is fourth or fifth in some polls today while Gingrich is first or second, yet the only attack piece the Romney camp has sent out is an attack on…Perry.