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Newt Gingrich: The most dangerous man in DC

There won’t be a real difference between another Obama term and a possible Romney presidency. But Gingrich – with his ties to the Israeli right, destructive track record from the 1990s and very personal connection to Netanyahu – could turn out to be a real nightmare

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. More electable than Romney (photo: Gage Skidmore / CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Watching the American primaries makes for a mix of fun and moments of deep anxiety. Most of the time it’s like a good sports match, but every now and then you are reminded that the identity of the winner might have a real and clear impact on your life. After all, Israel has stopped being a foreign affairs issue in Washington a long time ago. Our very local politics are part of the strange and unpredictable American culture war; and – to quote Dimi Reider – our policies are often shaped by the myths, values and fears of people living far-far away.

After signaling Israel as a topic through which they can score easy points against the administration, the Republicans are engaged in an all-out competition over who is more Zionist. Some of the ideas they are promoting would put them in the hard right in Israel, somewhere between the radical settlers and the heirs of Kahane. Often, they simply betray a very misinformed and shallow view of the political reality. For example, even a right-wing Israeli government would hesitate before following Rick Santorum’s advice to annex the West Bank, since it would constitute a formal adoption of apartheid.

The two remaining viable candidates, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, are more knowledgeable and less prone to statements whose meaning they don’t fully understand.

Romney is a careful man. Seeing himself as the “inevitable” candidate, he is careful not to box himself in positions that could make his life as president harder. The former governor hasn’t committed to moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem; he has refrained making degrading remarks like the one Gingrich made about the Palestinians, or from advocating ethnic cleansing like Mike Huckabee.

I would even go so far as to say that I don’t see a great difference between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Except for a brief moment in the first year of his presidency, Obama has continued with the approach of previous administrations, providing a diplomatic umbrella for the Israeli occupation while trying – with varying degrees of success – to somewhat slow settlement construction.

President Romney is likely to continue this path, while advocating the renewal of the “peace process” on Israel’s terms. One could even argue that a “moderate” Republican president would actually help progressives by forcing the Democrats to attack the administration’s Middle East policy from the left – something they are reluctant to do now. But even if you don’t buy this, given the last three years, there is little reason to believe that Romney would be that different from Obama or George W. Bush on the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

Newt Gingrich as the American Ariel Sharon

Newt Gingrich is a different story. Gingrich – a personal friend of Benjamin Netanyahu and a protégé of right-wing gambling billionaire Sheldon Adelson – is a real supporter of the settlements and the occupation; his views of the Palestinians are as distorted as they come; and he has shown his inclination to be more “pro-Israel” than Israelis themselves, when he helped Netanyahu in the 1990s in his efforts against the Rabin government and the peace process.

America’s current policies are bad enough, but Gingrich is smart enough, well-connected to the Israeli right and ruthless enough to cause way more damage than any other president we have seen. Other candidates – especially those on the evangelical right – seem to be just saying anything that sounds conservative on the Israeli issue. If elected, their inflammatory statements will have to meet the test of political reality. Newt, on the other hand, seems to mean what he is saying. His madness is all too real. By following one of his “out-of-the-box” ideas, he will set the region on fire.

The common wisdom is that Gingrich is unelectable. I find this to be only half true. Of the two leading Republican candidates, I think Gingrich is the more dangerous one. He is the one who could lose big time, but also pull a stunning upset against a sitting president. Romney, on the other hand, seems like the guy who would finish an honorable second.

I shared this thought with some American friends and they all dismissed it, saying that the Democrats would thank their lucky stars if Gingrich were to beat Romney. Perhaps. But to me, Gingrich seems like the American Ariel Sharon – an unelectable, unpopular politician, who came back from the political desert to lead his party due to unique circumstances, and during the time of national crisis was able to change the national conversation and win elections in a landslide.

Ariel Sharon was a corrupt outsider with a strange personal history and a reputation for dark backroom deals – but ironically, at a certain point all this played in his favor: Nothing his political rivals threw at him helped, because the public had already heard all the allegations – and more – against him. Israeli voters, made anxious by the second Intifada, were ready to give Sharon a shot. Wouldn’t the American public do the same during the worst economic crisis in almost a century?

The prospect of Newt Gingrich in the White House and Benjamin Netanyahu (or Lieberman?) in the Prime Minister’s Office, unlikely as it may seem now, is something that could keep me up at night.

Read Also:
2012: Netanyahu’s shadow war for the GOP begins?
The strategic use of the “anti-Israeli” label in US politics

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    COMMENTS

    1. aristeides

      The problem is the conspiracy of silence. When Sheldon Adelson gave $5 to the Gingrich campaign, it was a reward for his remark that the Palestinians are an “invented people.” Gingrich himself stated that Israel was Adelson’s motivation.

      .
      No nowhere in the MSM of the US is this connection being mentioned. Everyone is afraid to refer to it. Adelson is trying to buy the US presidency for Israel, but no one dares even hint at this.

      Reply to Comment
    2. David

      Newt Gingrich is indeed a candidate who would either lose big or win big, it’s heaven or hell with him. Either he totally dominates or he is on the brink of death, that’s how he rolls and how his entire career looked like. He lead the Republican party to a majority in the house for the first time in 40 years and balanced the budget 4 years in a row, then his own party ousted him.

      As you noted, Adelson is crazy about him, both men have known each other for 20 years, slightly more so than Netanyahu and Gingrich.

      If he would win against Romney, which is very possible from now on, and then trump Obama, with a Netanyahu in Israel ruling for the next 4 years together I think that would essentially end the 2SS once and for all and we would see enormous amounts of conflict in the Middle East, and Israel would be under danger too, which would awaken the hawkish instincts of the American Jewish establishment and thus give him cover to finalize his project with Netanyahu.

      Reply to Comment
    3. John Pilger, in an excellent article some days ago wrote: “Israel, the exemplar of US violence and lawlessness by proxy, has just received its annual pocket money of $3bn together with Obama’s permission to steal more Palestinian land.”
      If the first black, noble-peace-prize-winning president of the US is not exactly what we expected from a new vision on world order, what do we care about any of the republican candidates? Are we just kidding ourselves to sleep while the fascists take over? Will it be worse with any of the republicans? No, it will be the same. ” The circumscribed task of journalism on both sides of the Atlantic is to create the pretence of political choice where there is none.”

      http://www.johnpilger.com/articles/the-world-war-on-democracy

      Reply to Comment
    4. aristeides

      The Grinch certainly favors a US attack on Iran. He might even be able to get a Republican US Congress to declare war on Iran.

      .
      But US presidents quickly learn the limitations on their power. It always looks easier from the outside.

      Reply to Comment
    5. AYLA

      there will be a difference between Romney and Obama for AMERICANS…

      Reply to Comment
    6. Danny

      Gingrich is utterly unelectable. He has alienated himself from African American and Latino voters, homosexuals as well as liberals and moderates. He has a closet full of skeletons in the form of “open marriages” and corruption scandals. If he got the nomination, Obama and Axelrod wouldn’t even have to make an effort.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Philos

      I think the very idea of Gingrich winning is ludicrous. That’s like suggesting Bob Dole had a chance against Bill Clinton in 1996. Even Lefties who swore they’d never vote for Obama again will turn up at the polls to vote for Obama. Is our collective memory so short that we can’t remember how one of the most unpopular men in French politics, Jaques Chirac, won a second-term as President? Gingrich is the Le Pen of American politics.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Piotr Berman

      Philos is correct, I think.

      We forget that if there is 1-2 millions of liberal or liberal-leaning Americans who contributed to the previous Obama campaign. Obama does not draw enthusiastic support anymore but few people are as hated by former/current Obama supporters as much as Gingrich. This will translate into 300-500 million dollars of political money and volunteers.

      In the fight for the political center, often clueless “independents”, marketing and positioning will be key, but given equal resources Obama can do it. And billionaires may hesitate betting on Gingrich.

      Soon it will be time to go out and hunt giraffes.

      Reply to Comment
    9. dickerson3870

      RE: “Israeli voters, made anxious by the second Intifada, were ready to give Sharon a shot.” ~ Noam Sheizaf

      NOTE: “The Dogs of War: The Next Intifada”, By Uri Avnery, Counterpunch, 9/03/11
      (excerpt)…The second (“al-Aqsa”) intifada started after the breakdown of the 2000 Camp David conference and Ariel Sharon’s deliberately provocative “visit” to the Temple Mount. The Palestinians held non-violent mass demonstrations. The army responded with selective killings. A sharpshooter accompanied by an officer would take position in the path of the protest, and the officer would point out selected targets – protesters who looked like “ringleaders”. They were killed.
      This was highly effective. Soon the non-violent demonstrations ceased and were replaced by very violent (“terrorist”) actions. With those the army was back on familiar ground…

      Reply to Comment
    10. Seth Morrison

      While I share the strong dislike of Gingrich I strongly disagree that Obama and Romney would be the same.

      Romney would be another George W Bush giving Israel carte blance to do what it wants. Obama knows that settlements are bad and will make more of an effort to bring both sides together. He has not been as aggressive as I would hope but in a second term I believe that he will put more pressure on Israel to do the right thing.

      Reply to Comment
    11. Could somebody give me a source on the personal friendship between Netanyahu and Gingrich? The link within the above article is just to another 972 piece that comments on the nature of the support that both men get from Sheldon Adelson, but it doesn’t say anything about them being friends.

      Thanks ahead of time.

      Reply to Comment
    12. tom-104

      The Israeli government has made it very clear that over the next ten months it will intervene on the world stage to manipulate the November election in the U.S. A unilateral attack on Iran is one of these options. The economic crisis in the oil markets that such an attack would unleash make the a political prognosis very unpredictable. Just look at history!

      The role of the Religious Right and Christian Zionism in the return of Gingrich is something that must be understood in this volatile situation. Rachel Tabachnick of Talk to Action has been reporting on the Religious Right for years. Her column “Eight Reasons Newt Gingrich is Emerging as the Religious Right’s Anybody-but-Mitt Candidate” is important background information for understanding what is happening to U.S. politics. It is at:

      http://tinyurl.com/7ss8mnw

      Reply to Comment
    13. ya3cov

      @Seth LOL yeah Obama has really put it to Netanyahu haha. okay buddy.

      Reply to Comment