The PJ Tatler

Newt vs Newt: Did He Support Rockefeller or Goldwater?

Exhibit A: Newt Gingrich says during the ideological struggle between the moderate and conservative factions in the GOP, he was a Rockefeller chairman in the South. That would put him on the moderate side.

Exhibit B: In Monday night’s debate in Tampa, Gingrich said:

“I went to a Goldwater organizing session in 1964. I met with Ronald Reagan for the first time in 1974. I worked with Jack Kemp, and Art Laffer and others to develop supply side economics in the late ’70s. I helped Governor Reagan become President Reagan. I helped pass the Reagan economic program and worked with the National Security Council on issues including the collapse of the Soviet Empire,” Newt Gingrich said at tonight’s debate.

Though he never says he supported or worked for Goldwater, the intended implication is clear enough.

It’s no sin to have an ideological conversion, in fact it can be a sign of a healthy and inquisitive mind. This Goldwater vs Rockefeller debate many seem arcane and trivial but it isn’t. It speaks to Gingrich’s true ideology, to his reliability and to his character. The Rockefeller vs Goldwater battle was among the most pivotal moments in the GOP’s history, and it’s still being waged today despite temporary cessations of hostilities. Gingrich has tended to present himself as a conservative Reaganite, but if he was really a Rockefeller chairman, then he is a moderate who may have gone conservative out of either conscience or simple convenience. Or he told a whopper in the debate to make it look like he has been a conservative all along, when he hasn’t been. Some of his post-speakership choices, such as the couch potato ad with Pelosi, suggest quite a bit of ideological malleability in the pressure of a given political moment. One of Gingrich’s greatest selling points is that he fights, but is he fighting for ideas, or just for himself?

So which is it? Are we going to have to demand that Gingrich release a roster proving which club he was in?