In the past few months, since coming out in support of Newt Gingrich, I’ve seen hundreds of attacks against him…by conservatives. They’ve attacked Newt from a hundred different angles. And why not? It’s easy to find something in his forty plus year career that you won’t like. He’s voted more than 7200 times. He’s given more than 15000 speeches. He’s written hundreds of articles, papers and books on dozens of topics. His career has spanned ten presidents. He’s fought from a position of minority. He’s battled to bring the GOP back into power in Washington. Considering the sheer volume of information available about Newt and from Newt it would be nearly impossible to do an exhaustive and copious study of his position on any single issue, let alone all of them.
That being the case, I believe the single most telling incident in his personal history lay on a park bench with Nancy Pelosi. Newt has written it off as one of the dumbest things he’s done in recent history. Yet conservatives just won’t let it go. Why? The answer to that question may best be found in understanding what it was that Newt was trying to accomplish by sitting on the bench in the first place.
He has told us that his purpose in doing that public service ad was to show that conservatives have solutions to the issue of global climate change too. Think about the ramifications of that statement alone. In saying that, Newt public acknowledges there is such a thing as global climate change. Did he admit that man is the cause of that climate change? No. But does that stop some conservatives from still attacking him for admitting that there is such a thing as global climate change? Still, no. Why does that bother some conservatives?
That answer may be best found by first attempting to discover why Nancy Pelosi would choose to sit on a park bench with Newt Gingrich for a PSA about global climate change? Since she’s never really spoken out as to her reasons, it would be difficult to know for sure what her motives were. But I think we can make some educated guesses. First, it can be safely assumed that she…to some degree…actually believes there is global climate change occurring. To some conservatives it is reasonable and sane to take whatever stand a liberal has and merely take the opposite. She believes in global climate change. Therefore I should not believe in it.
But Newt takes a different approach. Is it so distasteful to accept that the temperature of the earth does fluctuate? It shouldn’t be distasteful. The temperature of the earth does, indeed, fluctuate. By admitting that, while sitting on that park bench, Newt accomplishes several things: 1) he disarms Nancy’s stage one attack against conservatives. You see, it’s like this. She knows that when she, as a liberal, says the sky is blue, that the knee-jerk reaction of many conservatives will be to argue that the sky ISN’T blue. It makes a certain segment of conservatives sound a bit insane. By accepting the premise that there is such a thing as global climate change, Newt takes that weapon away from Nancy. 2) Because Newt accepted that premise, he is afforded a stage whereby he can stand in opposition to Nancy’s second premise that mankind is a major contributor to climate change. Some conservatives would then take this opportunity to stand tall and argue with Nancy that this isn’t true at all. But again Newt takes a different approach in an attempt to, again, disarm her further. He doesn’t argue that man is NOT the cause of climate change. He argues that he doesn’t know. He argues that there are scientists who stand on either side of that debate. And he argues that there isn’t enough evidence either way. In doing this he places the onus upon Nancy to either accept the reasonableness of Newt’s claim that there is no conclusive evidence either way or risk sounding unreasonable and argumentative herself.
In a matter of a few seconds, Newt has completely turned the tables on Nancy regarding this issue. She must now either accept that there is no solid evidence either way regarding man-made climate change or risk giving the high ground to Newt and conservatives. However, at this point, it’s actually too late. Newt has won the battle to control the conversation. No one is asking Nancy what her position is on this issue. No one is asking her what her solutions are. Everyone knows. She believes in climate change. She believes man-made activities is a major cause of that climate change. And we know she believes that the solutions lay in giving the federal government more power of our lives so they can control our country’s ‘carbon footprint’ as a whole.
But instead of people asking Nancy or even giving her the time of day in that discussion, people are looking at Newt and asking him what HIS ideas are for this issue. HE gets to show his ideas. He gets the microphone and he gets to tell what he would do. He gets to tell people that he does believe the global climate is changing. He gets people to nod in agreement with him when he presents the saner idea that there IS no solid evidence either way regarding man’s involvement in causing that change. And then he gets to present his solutions: an ‘all of the above’ approach to energy and alternative energy sources, free market approaches, and ideas that not only can be labeled “green”, but also would stimulate free market enterprises and capitalism.
Unfortunately, many conservatives don’t see it that way still. They approach it in a manner that allows liberals to dictate our positions. They take position A, so we must take the opposite. Many people forget that Conservatism is not the most extreme right end of the political spectrum. To the far right of conservatism are the Reactionaries. Such a perfect word for what I’ve been describing about some conservatives. They approach political issues by reacting to what their opposition does. Liberals believe X, so they REACT and decide they must believe Y. Instead, Newt’s approach is one of initiation. Why should the left be the ones initiative intellectually engagement? Why should they get to make the first move?
Many in the political world call this “getting out in front of an issue”. Take control of the dialog. Show yourself to be the sane one…the logical one…the reasonable one. Place the onus upon your opponents to either agree with YOU or risk being labeled the insane one, the illogical one, the unreasonable one.
If you view Newt’s record, history and approach to virtually every issue, this is how he does it. He disarms his opponents by laying the groundwork regarding those aspects of an issue that they can both agree upon. Then he looks for the first opportunity to show himself and his views to be the sane, logical and reasonable ones…putting his opponents in the position of having to react to him. By doing that, he takes control of the dialog and he becomes the one people turn to for ‘solutions.’ I guarantee you that if you look at Newt’s historical views on any issue, this is how he has approached it. There is an old saying that if want to change the direction that a stubborn horse is going, you don’t yank on the reigns and try to fight the horse. Instead you climb on its back and start by riding it in the direction it’s already going and slowly begin to guide it back to where you want it to go. There is no better analogy of Newt’s approach to virtually every issue. He’s been doing it this whole campaign. He refuses to get into a battle of 30 second attack ads with his fellow Republicans. He’s stood his ground on that and merely taken every opportunity possible to share his message. Little by little people went from one clanging cymbal to another until finally there was Newt doing the same thing he’s always done…and looking better and better all the time. Slowly turning the horse.