For reasons I cannot begin to comprehend, disgraced former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich continues to be treated like an honest participant in the public debate. I don’t know what this man does for a living, or what contribution he has made to the body politic since being drummed out of his job over ethical complaints in 1999.
However, his appearance on this week’s Meet the Press contained, among all of his typical bloviation, a really telling moment. Check it out. Sorry I couldn’t get the video properly embedded, something not working between MSNBC.com, vodpod, and WordPress…
And there you have it. Newt Gingrich, of all people, has finally laid bare the Republican strategy to succeed by inspiring fear in the American populace.
It’s quite a remarkable admission, all things considered – most political junkies tend to at least make noises towards the idea of maintaining an inspirational front. Of all people, I would think that someone who, like Gingrich, worships at the altar of the almighty Saint Reagan, would understand that leadership does not consist of trying to invoke terror all across the land.
Look, Newt, it’s very simple: we are not afraid. We should not be afraid. If we were to rank our fears on the basis of which thing was most likely to result in us dying, then we should be significantly more terrorized of our cars than of Arab men shouting ‘allahu akhbar‘, because our cars are much more likely to kill us than any terrorists are. The sight of a Krispy Kreme donut should reduce grown men to tears. But they don’t, because we understand that life is full of risks, and we respect them, but don’t live in fear of them. We buckle our seat belts, we work out, and we skip the donuts on occasion, although some of us (*cough* “Lard-ass Gingrich” *cough*) appear to have more difficulty with this last one than others.
Similarly, I am in favor of taking reasonable measures to make sure that the Pakistani military doesn’t fall under the sway of Taliban extremists, since the idea of them having nuclear weapons, even if they lack ICBM’s, isn’t something that fills me with happy thoughts. Similarly, I’m in favor of increased border patrols and security measures on immigration to make sure that we’re not letting in known terrorists by the boatload.
But I don’t think that this threat is so big, so existential, that we have to throw away everything else we hold dear in order to maintain the false sense that, if we just bomb enough brown people in other countries, that will mean nothing bad will ever happen to me. That is, frankly, foolish and juvenile. I believe in the Rule of Law, I believe in civil rights, and I believe that, although this is a really great country, and I would rather live here than anyplace else, that we have made plenty of mistakes, and will continue to make more, and, furthermore, this is okay. Good people make bad decisions sometimes; what makes them good is their willingness to realize their mistakes, confess to them, and really try to do a better job the next time.
But people who live in fear do a bad job of this. They learn to justify anything if they think it keeps them safe. Their rational thought gets shortcircuited, and they fall victim to rhetoric like ‘well, what we’ve been doing has kept us safe for seven years, so it would be nigh-suicide to change it now!’
Go away, Newt Gingrich. Don’t let the door hit you on your well-padded ass on the way out. But thank you, incidentally, for being either man enough (or, maybe, fool enough) to admit your ridiculous, depressing strategy before you left.