Mitt Romney said Newt Gingrich should give back the money he made as Freddie Mac’s “historian.” Gingrich returned the serve, saying that Romney should give back the money he made “bankrupting companies and laying people off” at Bain Capital. Charles Krauthammer is not amused.
Krauthammer is making a valid point here. Gingrich’s response does seem to come from somewhere other than traditional conservative thinking on how capitalism works. Capitalism necessarily entails layoffs and even bankruptcies. That’s part of the “destruction” that comes with capitalism’s “creative destruction.”
Gingrich may be sounding off a populist note to pick up on some of the angst that’s out there thanks to the rough Obama economy. Or he may just be showing his undisciplined side again, saying whatever brilliant thought comes to mind, never mind that it may not be all that brilliant, and could end up being un-conservative and counterproductive.
On substance, Romney does have the better argument here. Gingrich’s assertion that Freddie Mac hired him as a “historian” over the thousands of other, cheaper, historians available is laughable. Freddie Mac hired him to keep its Republican critics at bay. Gingrich peddled his influence as the former Speaker of the House into a high-paying Beltway gig. That’s not true “private sector” activity as Gingrich has tried to claim it was. Freddie Mac contributed mightily to the economic collapse. Gingrich bears some responsibility for the role he chose to play. But giving the money back would amount to an admission that he was wrong in taking that business. So like Romney’s decision to defend RomneyCare at all costs, keeping the Freddie money is simply something that Gingrich will have to do no matter how much it may end up costing him in the long run.
The double-speak and influence peddling angles may be Gingrich’s single greatest weakness. Rick Perry obliquely hits at Gingrich’s undisciplined nature in his latest ad.
At 10 seconds into the ad, Perry says that “you can’t say that Congressmen becoming lobbyists is a form of legal corruption.” That sentence fits Newt Gingrich better than any other candidate in the race.