Obama and Gingrich: The Cool and the Hot

South Carolina is over and Newt Gingrich is the winner – the big winner.  Some are predicting that Mitt Romney can’t come back from this self-inflicted near death experience, that he doesn’t have the personal or political skills to fix the way he has handled the non-release of his tax returns.  (Note to Mitt:  So your 2011 returns aren’t ready yet.  Just release the last 5 or 6 years.)  Romney’s saving grace may be Florida where there has been early voting and a lot of Republicans (this is a closed primary) and many have voted before all this drama.  Since Romney has been working to get his folks out, maybe that will save him, but if it is Newt who ends up the nominee, is it bad for the President’s reelection?

My husband thinks that Newt is dangerous and could get enough people to buy into what he is saying to prevail.  I think it will be a hard election no matter who the Republican nominee is but one thing is for certain – if it is Obama and Gingrich the contract in styles will be stark.  Gingrich is a bomb-thrower while the President is calm and methodical.  Roger Simon writing in Politico this morning says “Anger, umbrage and bitterness are so much a part of Gingrich’s public persona that he likes to attack the very concept of happiness.”  In contrast you have the President playing what Andrew Sullivan calls “the long game.”    (Sullivan’s long article for Newsweek is well worth reading no matter which side you are on.)

Simon goes on to say

Gingrich, like other candidates for the Republican nomination, has a fondness for quoting the Founding Fathers, but he now says that when they wrote “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” in the Declaration of Independence, it did not mean what we think it means.

“Happiness in the 18th century meant wisdom and virtue, not hedonism,” Gingrich says without a scintilla of embarrassment, even though he, himself, has pursued a fair amount of hedonism in his lifetime.

And they promised us the right to pursue,” Gingrich continues. “There is no provision for a Department of Happiness. They issued no happiness stamps. And if you said that you were going to take happiness from some and distribute it to others, the Founding Fathers would have asked by what right?”

So if we don’t have happiness to look forward to, what does Gingrich offer?

Work. Effort. Struggle.

“Work is something you need,” Gingrich says. “I don’t think it’s inappropriate for a 12- or 13-year-old to push a mop.

Americans don’t want sunshine, lollipops and rainbows. They want blood, toil, tears and sweat. They want a dependably gloomy man in the Oval Office. They want Newt!
Newt Gingrich gives his victory speech in S.C. | Reuters
This is a man with big ideas.  Remember the Contract with America?  Gingrich is not a patient man and I understand that his campaign is not well organized.  Look at his failure to get on the ballot in his new home state of Virginia.  He has also said he wants to be able to haul judges before Congress to testify if they make rulings he doesn’t like.  This doesn’t bode well for District Judge John A. Gibney if Gingrich gets elected.  Gibney issued the ruling denying Perry, Gingrich, Santorum and Huntsman access to the Virginia Republican Primary ballot. 
Will Gingrich’s anger continue to play well?  Will the American voters in November, assuming he is the nominee, want a President who is angry? 
On the other hand, the President has a style that may be difficult to sell for another term.  He plays what Andrew Sullivan calls the long game.   
it remains simply a fact that Obama has delivered in a way that the unhinged right and purist left have yet to understand or absorb. Their short-term outbursts have missed Obama’s long game—and why his reelection remains, in my view, as essential for this country’s future as his original election in 2008.
Sullivan goes on to talk about why it seems to take the President so long to do things.

What liberals have never understood about Obama is that he practices a show-don’t-tell, long-game form of domestic politics. What matters to him is what he can get done, not what he can immediately take credit for. And so I railed against him for the better part of two years for dragging his feet on gay issues. But what he was doing was getting his Republican defense secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs to move before he did. The man who made the case for repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” was, in the end, Adm. Mike Mullen. This took time—as did his painstaking change in the rule barring HIV-positive immigrants and tourists—but the slow and deliberate and unprovocative manner in which it was accomplished made the changes more durable. Not for the first time, I realized that to understand Obama, you have to take the long view. Because he does.

And last week we got another example of the President’s style in the proposed reorganization of the six agencies that deal with business.  Joe Davidson had an interesting piece in his Federal Diary column in the Washington Post.

When President Obama detailed proposals to reorganize and streamline certain government functions last week, some folks wanted to know why it took nearly a year to develop the plan.

One reason is the involvement of federal employees.

No, they didn’t gum up the bureaucracy or sit on their hands or hinder progress, as is too often the unfair and inaccurate caricature of government workers.

Instead, they were a valuable part of a long process leading to Obama’s announcement that six agencies dealing with business and trade would be consolidated into what is now the Commerce Department. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which takes the largest part of Commerce’s budget and includes the National Weather Service, would move to the Interior Department.

The reorganization proposal, which must be approved by Congress, took time, Jeffrey D. Zients, the administration’s chief performance officer, told reporters last week. “We talked to hundreds of businesses, reached out to federal employees,” he said. “This is very rigorous work, and we wanted to make sure we got it right.”

So now, the employees of the agencies concerned have a stake in what happens.  It is all about buy in. 

If November is Gingrich v. Obama we will have a clear contrast in styles.  I wonder if Gingrich sings.


President Barack Obama at the Apollo Theater on Thursday The President at the Apollo Theater

Photo: Shahar Azran/WireImage

Obama sings. Maybe that is the President’s secret weapon.