David Frum

01.23.12

Newt Gingrich: Trivial Issues Warrior

In my column for CNN, I discuss the problems with Newt Gingrich's leadership style:

A classic display of the Gingrich method was the memo he circulated to elite Republicans in the fall of 2004. (Gingrich is about as much a Washington "outsider" as the maitre d' at Cafe Milano.)

"There is a temporary narrow partisan division among Americans, but there is no narrow values division. On a wide number of issues Americans average about four to one in favor of Center-Right values. In one set of 34 issues the American people averaged 77% on one side and 17% on the other side.

"Only the continued overwhelming bias of the news media (amounting to a culture of the left which simply cannot imagine any other value set being legitimate) and the deliberate deception and denial of the Democratic ticket combined with a Republican failure to focus the campaign on the big choices has allowed the myth of a narrowly divided country to survive."

To drive home the supposed values separation between the Kerry ticket and the nation, Gingrich urged the Bush ticket to focus attacks on a series of issues that highlighted that supposed 4:1 values divide, including:

"1. A work requirement for welfare: 87% of Americans say yes, 5% no. John Kerry and the Senate Democrats have blocked the bill for three years.

2. Government should help faith-based initiatives help the poor: 72% of Americans agree, 26% disagree; Kerry is with the 26%.

3. U.S. interests are more important than international organizations: 73-24; Kerry's positions favor the 24%.

4. Violent attackers of pregnant women who kill the baby should be prosecuted for killing the baby: 84% of Americans say yes, 9% no. Kerry voted no.

5. Children should be allowed to pray at school: 78% of Americans agree; Kerry is against it."

Looking back on that Gingrich platform from the perspective of eight years later, it's striking how utterly irrelevant those five highlighted points were to the largest problems of the time.

Click here to read the full column.