Thursday, December 8, 2011

Assessing Newt Against The Yardstick of Churchill

At NRO, Steven Hayward has a fascinating column, Is Newt Like Churchill?.  In it, Hayward acknowledges all of the criticism of Gingrich and notes the distinct parallels to similar criticism of Churchill in the days before he was elevated to Prime Minister. With that in mind, Hayward first asks whether the situation we face requires us to give positive consideration to Newt. Is Newt the man "who will both argue for and attempt to implement the large changes necessary to right our listing ship of state?" This leads to the second question, has Newt, like Churchill did before him, learned the necessary discipline from his "time in the wilderness" to lead effectively once in office? Do click on Hayward's essay to see his analysis. Hayward concludes his essay by noting:

The next couple of months may well prove out the unplanned logic of our long campaign process. The debates, Newt’s strong suit so far, are about to give way to real voting, and to the week-by-week ground game that requires focus and consistency. Newt has a chance to prove conservative skeptics wrong about his constancy — the chance to win over skeptics in the face of so much evidence against him.

The course of John Colville’s evolving assessment of Churchill in the 1940s is suggestive. Colville wrote in his diary the night Churchill became prime minister on May 10, 1940: “He may, of course, be the man of drive and energy the country believes him to be and he may be able to speed up our creaking military and industrial machinery; but it is a terrible risk, it involves the danger of rash and spectacular exploits, and I cannot help fearing that this country may be maneuvered into the most dangerous position it has ever been in.”

Over the next decade, the skeptical Colville was completely won over. He left one other judgment of Churchill that is worth recalling in connection with Newt: “Finally, in politics and indeed all his life, he was as strange a mixture of radical and traditionalist as could anywhere be found. He was certainly not a conservative by temperament, nor indeed by conviction a supporter of the Conservative Party.” . . .

Republicans, and indeed, the entire U.S. electorate benefits from intellectually honest analysis of our candidates. This is how it should be done.

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