Gingrich, lies, damn lies, and the Palestinian people.

I am a child of the Watergate hearings.

By which I mean: I’m no fool.

I don’t believe that politics and running a country can be anything but an (at least) occasionally dirty business, I don’t believe politicians choose politics for purely altruistic reasons, and I certainly don’t believe that any of them don’t lie, or at least fudge the truth. I say this as a person who campaigned for the current President with the greatest sense of urgency, wept when he was elected, and continue to find him to be an inspiring figure. Has he lied to me yet? Probably. Or at least fudged the truth.

Having said that: There’s lying, and then there’s lying. There’s “not purely altruistic,” and then there’s “utterly and cravenly opportunistic.” When I look at the front runners in the GOP field, that’s what I see.

Mitt Romney is famous for his “flip-flopping,” which is a terribly cute little way of saying “lying through his teeth.” The man chose positions that would carry him to power, and now that he wants a different kind of power, in a different venue, he’s chosen different positions. The position is not what matters – the power is what matters. He was for gay people before he was against them, he was for health care before he was against it, and let the chips and the human lives fall where they may.

And then we have Newt Gingrich.

A man so arrogant and full of his desperate, palpable need for power, that he will slice and dice the truth with a vicious gleam in his eye and nary a by-your-leave, anything to get his hands on what he believes is rightfully his. Maybe that’s the difference between the two: Romney really wants power — but Gingrich clearly believes power is what the world owes him. And he will violently dismember any truth that might happen to get in his way.

Hence black people have no work ethic and he cheated on his wife because of his love of America. Hence the Palestinians are “an invented people… that had a chance to go many places.”

In a sense, Gingrich was right — all peoples are invented. Anyone who likes to call himself a “history professor” would know that nationalism is a modern construct, and any American should understand that sometimes peoplehood is created out of ideas and a prime location. This doesn’t make nationhood false — it just makes it human, rather than Divine.

But that wasn’t what Gingrich meant.

No, he meant that the Palestinian people don’t really exist. He meant that their claims are illegitimate, because they serve only as a foil to Israel, and thus can be disregarded, because if they’re suffering in any way, it’s their own fault. They shouldn’t have invented themselves. They should have gone away.

But the jagged edges of this lie — the semantic erasure of centuries of history and the millions of people who lived and are living it — are made that sharper by the fact that Gingrich once said something very different.

In 2005, Gingrich wrote that the Palestinian people “were in some ways among the most international and most advanced people in the Arab world,” when war broke out in 1948.

While Israelis have the right of self defense, Washington should impose three limitations on Israel: first, the White House should insist that a free hand in building a security fence does not mean a free hand to expand the Israeli settlements in a land grab. The US government should become the protector of the Palestinian people’s right to have a decent amount of land and to have continuous communications and travel between their areas. The desire of some Israelis to use security as an excuse to grab more Palestinian land should be blocked by Washington even if that requires employing financial or other leverage to compel the Israeli government to behave reasonably on the issue of settlements. It is vital to our credibility in the entire Middle East that we insist on an end to Israeli expansionism. It is vital to our humanitarian duty to the Palestinian people that we protect the weaker party from the stronger power. It is vital that the world sees that our total support for Israeli security is not matched by a one-sided support for more extreme Israeli territorial goals. (emphasis mine)

So how did the Palestinians go from “the most international and most advanced people in the Arab world” to “invented”?

Money.

Newt Gingrich wants power — believes that power to be what he deserves and the world needs — and the only way to get that power, if you’re not as rich as Croesus or Mitt Romney, is to use other people’s money.

Along comes American casino owner/billionaire Sheldon Adelson — a fiercely xenophobic American Jew who uses Israeli politics as his personal sandbox — and gives Gingrich $5 million. Boom.

Now the candidate proudly pronounces opinions that are to the right of Netanyahu (a man also propped up by Adelson’s money), in opposition to the foreign policy of his elected government, and contrary to the position of every Republican administration going back to that of the sainted Ronald Reagan.

I don’t expect politicians to be exemplary people, nor do I expect politics to be free of the influence of money. Politics is humanity, and humanity is messy.

But sometimes the scope of the ignominy is truly breathtaking — and damn the consequences, for US security, the people living with war these six and a half decades, or the world at large.

Because Newt Gingrich wants to be President.

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13 Comments

  1. Nice work Emily. You know that Newt started out as a Rockefeller Republican, right? Weird to think about.

    I often find myself wondering if I dislike Romney or Gingrich more. I usually find myself choosing Romney, as he used to have some admirable traits and beliefs that he sold out for power. I’m not sure that’s the right choice, though, it’s an emotional reaction to betrayal. Gingrich has always been a snake and has never really done anything good for anyone beside himself–if he ever did, it’s because it helped him more. My guess is that Romney is just greedy, tragically so, and that Newt is a full-on sociopath. Maybe that’s why I’m easier on Newt, because I can relate to cravenness enough to hate it, and I can’t relate to sociopathy enough to understand it, but it’s something I have to remind myself of. I guess that’s why I make fun of Newt on Twitter as much as I do.

  2. corkingiron

     /  January 24, 2012

    He’s just ponied up another 5 million apparently.

    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/2012/01/show_him_the_money.php?ref=fpblg

  3. wearyvoter

     /  January 24, 2012

    Why a certain segment of voters see Gingrich as the adult in the room, I will never, ever understand. I will never forget how much he whined (whinged?) about having to ride in the back of Air Force One and about the indignity of it all.

    Gingrich is the live-action Eric Cartman, without even a hint of redeeming social value. He wears his ambition on his shoulder, like a chip that he dares anyone who comes up against him to knock off.

    I don’t want him anywhere near the nuclear codes.

    Meanwhile, in reference to Mitt. I remember his dad with great fondness. George Romney was the governor of Michigan when I was a kid, and he was the kind of small-c conservative that I would love to see return to the forefront of the Republican party. The only platform that Mitt stands on revolves.

    • I think Cartman is an excellent analogue for Gingrich. He’s a caricature, someone whose opinions seem so outlandish that it’s hard to picture any kind of intelligent conversation with him … and if you hear him say something that even remotely makes sense, you’re suspicious, because your first thought isn’t “Oh good, he’s rational about something” but “What angle is he playing here?”

      Even in his most rational moments, like … um … well, imagine that he had a rational moment like Cartman saving the cats. He’d have no idea why people were so surprised that he’d say or do something perfectly reasonable.

      • The Cartman comparison is excellent, I think (good call, wearyvoter!) and you’re absolutely right — he is someone who does, occasionally, sound like he’s making sense, and I do immediately think “what’s he up to?”

  4. To paraphrase a line from one of my favorite movies, Twelve O’Clock High, the only difference between Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney is that Mitt is a little bit taller.

    Newt helped forge the tax code that allowed Mitt Romney to continue to accumulate wealth; that was part of the Republican agenda when Newt was Speaker of the House. And, while Newt can point to paying higher taxes than Romney, that’s only because more of his income is earned directly and not through investment. They are both wealthy; Newt just has to work harder at it.

    Like any true Christian or Catholic, Mitt and Newt only care about Israel and Palestine for the money, the votes, and for the Bible. Yes, even the Mormons are hung up on the “End of Days,” that supposedly starts in Jerusalem, or Meggiddo, or wherever. They, and their counterparts, have only one thing in their hearts: the lust for power. They will stop at nothing and use any group to obtain it.

    • (Side note: We went to Meggido last June, and as we sat through a video explaining the site, the boy suddenly turned to me and said: “We’re at Armageddon?!” Well, you know. Not really).

  5. dmf

     /  January 25, 2012

    it may be a mistake to get too caught up in the particular lies of the GOP candidates as it is exhausting/demoralizing work without end and really can only add to the conclusion we already have come to that we must defeat them in the coming election.

    http://bloggingheads.tv/videos/8768?in=10:56&out=14:45

  6. Why did Gingrich support the Palestinians in the first place?

    • Answer: votes. There were votes to be had. Or money. Or money and votes. He certainly didn’t do it out of the kindness of his heart, or because, well, you know, it was actually just or fair. Newt Gingrich is the textbook definition of politician.

  7. Nabil

     /  January 26, 2012

    Excellent article

  8. Reminds me of why I hate politics in the first place. I’m not sure if you play games, but there was one I loved, Deus Ex: Human Revolution.(It has a really great story/debate so it’s worth a run if you can find the time!) There was a great point the game made, the idea of deciding the ‘correct’ fate of a nation because you believe you can account for all of the millions of people. Any person who claims such almost instantly makes me wary. And right you are, there is a big disconnect b/w the speeches and the intentions. I wish there would be more humility.

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