As I have written before on these pages (“Say it isn’t so Newt”), I am disappointed with the former Speaker. First it was his embrace of ethanol subsidies – probably in his mind a requirement for doing well in Iowa. Second, it was his commercial with Nancy Pelosi (how could anyone much less a conservative even stand that woman is beyond me). Now comes his trashing of Paul Ryan and his medicare plan. Of course he recanted but the job is done providing fodder for the democratic scare machine. You would think that someone of Newt’s political experience and intellect would know better. I find it hard to imagine that he doesn’t. What is particularly disappointing is that I greatly admire Newt’s intellect. His wide ranging discussions on virtually any topic are sprinkled with insights and show serious thought. His alternative Civil War novels with the esteemed Bill Fortschen are wonderful. A friend of mine who is also a Civil War buff said that the depictions of Gettysburg were so vivid that he swore he could spell gunpowder. I did not like the World War II Pacific theater ones as much – which is interesting since like the Civil War there is so written that it his hard to produce something fresh. My favorites are William Manchester’s Goodbye Darkest and Herman Wouk’s Winds of War and War and Rememberance. However, although I did like the way Gingrich and Fortschen handled Valley Forge straight up with few if any flights of fancy, it was not the prose that stirs one’s soul. Maybe its because Fortschen’s expertise is the Civil War. So given my admiration for Newt, I have found it curious that he would be so maddenly inconsistent in his public pronouncements. Surely, he should know that calling Ryan’s plan “right wing social engineering” would mortally wound him among most Republicans. Moreover, he should also know that the Republicans who voted for the Ryan budget would have to fend off Newt’s words in the coming election. All in all he has created a distraction that should have been avoided. The cynics have said that he was not a serious candidate for the presidency and his comments were intended to land him a cush position at some think tank. Say it isn’t so Newt.
Harold A. Black is professor emeritus in the Department of Finance, University of Tennessee, Knoxville having retired after 24 years of service. He has served on the faculties of American University, Howard University, the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill and the University of Florida. His government service includes the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and as a Board Member of the National Credit Union Administration. He also has served on the boards of directors Home Savings of America and its parent company, H. F. Ahmanson & Co., Irwindale, California prior to its merger with Washington Mutual Savings Bank, on the board of New Century Financial Corporation, Irvine, California, then the nation’s largest real estate investment trust and as director and later chairman of the Nashville Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. He writes an occasional article for the Knoxville News-Sentinel at http://www.knoxnews.com/staff/dr-harold-black/. His web page is haroldablackphd.com