Headline-hungry Newt babbles incoherently!

Gingrich says he backs Rand Paul and Ted Cruz over Chris Christie -- for reasons that make no sense

By Joan Walsh

Published August 1, 2013 6:32PM (EDT)

Ted Cruz, Newt Gingrich, Rand Paul                                         (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst/Tami Chappell/AP/Ed Reinke)
Ted Cruz, Newt Gingrich, Rand Paul (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst/Tami Chappell/AP/Ed Reinke)

Oh, Newt.

The conscience-free former House speaker best known for shutting down the government in 1995 and then leading his party to humiliating national losses in 1996 and 1998 thinks the GOP should go that route again.

Or maybe he thinks that. All we know for sure is that he hates Chris Christie, and so he’s backing Sen. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz in their war of words with the GOP establishment, including the New Jersey governor. Paul and Cruz say Congress should be prepared to shut down the government in order to win big cuts in spending and in particular to defund Obamacare, and on Thursday Gingrich praised their stance in an interview with Laura Ingraham.

“I consistently have been on the side of having the courage that Rand Paul and Ted Cruz have, and I think it’s sad to watch the establishment grow hysterical, but frankly they’re hysterical because they have no answers,” he told the conservative radio host, according to Politico.

OK, of course Newt’s consistently on the side of courage. But having the courage to do what, exactly? He doesn’t say.

He even flirts with endorsing Paul’s foreign policy skepticism, though Gingrich has always been a neocon hawk, supporting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and crowing in 2012 that Iran “should expect to get hit” if he became president and “they continued to do what they’re doing.” Like his 2012 patron Sheldon Adelson, Gingrich slavishly endorsed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s most hawkish policies.

But now he says that “the way that [the wars] were executed failed, and maybe we should have known better, those of us that supported them. … Republicans have a real obligation to ask themselves the question: Aren’t there some pretty painful lessons to learn from the last 10 or 12 years? Don’t we have to confront the reality that this didn’t work as a strategy?”

What does that even mean?

All we know for sure is that he hates Chris Christie, possibly because as a Mitt Romney surrogate, Christie attacked Gingrich as “an embarrassment to the party” after the former speaker won the South Carolina primary. “Newt Gingrich has embarrassed the party over time. Whether he'll do it again in the future I don't know, but Gov. Romney never has,” Christie said on NBC's “Meet the Press.”

"I mean he was run out of the speakership by his own party, he was fined $300,000 for ethics violations. This is a guy that has had a very difficult political career at times, and has been an embarrassment to the party," Christie added.

Now that Christie has declared war on Paul, in particular, attacking his stance on NSA surveillance, Gingrich is solidly on Team Paul. “Trust me, Chris Christie is only the first sign, the establishment will grow more and more hysterical the more powerful Rand Paul and Ted Cruz become,” he told Ingraham. “They will gain strength as it’s obvious that they are among the few people willing to raise the right questions,” he said.

As a Democrat, I’m entertained by the circular firing squad on the right, over all of these issues. Just this morning MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, never on Team Gingrich, not even back in their congressional days, denounced Ted Cruz for his commitment to shut down the government over Obamacare – as well as his trashing Sen. Tom Coburn as a member of “the surrender caucus” – as “insane,” “completely ignorant” and a “train wreck.”

Who knows what the shape-shifting Gingrich really believes, on any of these issues. Remember when he denounced the Paul Ryan budget as radical and then backed down when criticized by the right? All we know is that he’s anxious to stay close to the party’s far-right base and to stay in the headlines – so that makes him Team Paul/Cruz!

Maybe Team Paul/Cruz will look at Newt’s track record of political failure and rethink their strategy. Probably not. The nihilism caucus is open to everyone, and the party base loves it. In a Pew Research Center poll released Wednesday, 54 percent of Republicans said their party needs to get more conservative. This tracks with the finding last week that the share of Republican voters who thought their party leaders compromised too much with President Obama had doubled since January of 2011. Newt is playing to the crowd.

Interestingly, Sheldon Adelson is checking out Team Christie. He’s throwing a Las Vegas fundraiser for the New Jersey governor that’s supposedly to support his 2013 reelection campaign. But it’s also being billed as a getting to know you session between the wealthy neocon and the possible 2016 contender who’s standing up to Rand Paul, another 2016 hopeful. If Gingrich ever needs Adelson’s money again, look for him to ditch Team Paul just like he ditched his first two wives, his support for the individual mandate and his opposition to the Ryan budget.

Joan Walsh

Joan Walsh is the author of "What's the Matter With White People: Finding Our Way in the Next America."

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Chris Christie Government Shudown Newt Gingrich Obamacare Rand Paul Tea Party Ted Cruz