One of the more interesting examples of the Washington establishment’s hypocrisy in today’s Republican presidential campaign is the bashing of Newt Gingrich over his consulting work for Freddie Mac.
The other campaigns all know Gingrich opposed the Bush-supported bailout of Freddie Mac, and its evil twin Fannie Mae, and that Gingrich even went before a meeting of House Republicans to rally opposition to the bailout saying, “…it's an absurd bill. If a Republican administration wasn't supporting it, it wouldn't get five Republican votes.”
In particular, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (who should have been at that 2008 meeting and has received political contributions herself from employees of Freddie Mac) seems to have conveniently forgotten Gingrich’s principled opposition to the bailout.
And what should we think about the Bush administration officials who are now supporting and advising Governor Romney who conceived of the bailout Gingrich opposed?
Those who are savaging Newt are cynically hoping voters can be convinced to forget that Gingrich opposed the bailout and they are doing everything they can to transfer voter anger about the bailout on to the former Speaker.
But in their cynical trashing of Newt Gingrich, they are all too willing to ignore the fact that there was a time -- not that long ago -- when many Republicans and conservatives thought that government should encourage citizenship and the development of strong families and a virtuous yeoman-like middle class.
The G.I. Bill, welfare reform, anti-pornography legislation, and yes, legislation to encourage home ownership through public/private partnerships as part of an “ownership society,” were all justified in pursuit of those goals, and they were very much in the Republican mainstream.
In fact, the concept of “public/private partnership” has routinely been invoked by Republicans -- such as Governor Romney -- as a way to hold-down the size and cost of government.
Yes, there was always free-market criticism of the government sponsored enterprise model, but the notion that home ownership would provide low-income families with a stable environment, an opportunity to build wealth, and an inclination to vote Republican once they had that stake in the future -- all of this was totally within the mainstream of Republican policy and political calculation.
As Newt Gingrich has risen to the top spot in the Republican presidential field, his long tenure at the center of conservative and Republican politics and policy has become one of his greatest selling points -- and as some of the policies he embraced in the past have fallen out of favor, one of his greatest liabilities. But Gingrich’s opposition to the bailout of Freddie Mac isn’t one of those cases.
Newt Gingrich was on the side of the taxpayers and conservative voters when he opposed the bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
And if Gingrich is wrong about the public/private partnership model for encouraging homeownership, then are Governor Romney and Representative Bachmann saying that other Republican elected officials (such as Iowa’s Governor Terry Branstad and South Carolina’s Nikki Haley, who have advocated public/private partnerships to fill various needs and provide services in their states) are also wrong?
It is a question I hope voters put to Congresswoman Bachmann, Governor Romney and other Gingrich critics, because the answer will reveal just how much of the criticism of Newt Gingrich is based on honest free market opposition to public/private partnerships and how much is pure political calculation.
Newt Gingrich courageously opposed the bailout of Freddie Mac, even when it was supported by a Republican President. If voters really want to target the guilty parties in the Freddie Mac/Fannie Mae debacle, they should be voting against Barack Obama and those Republicans and Democrats still in Congress who voted for the taxpayer-funded bailout of the failed mortgage giants -- not Newt Gingrich.
George Rasley writes for www.ConservativeHQ.com. Rasley served as Special Assistant for Domestic Policy to Vice President Dan Quayle, on the staff of three of the past four Chairmen of House Republican Conference and as Director of Communications for Congressman Mac Thornberry, a senior member of the House Armed Services and Intelligence Committees.