December 16, 2011 The magic of Newt
Last week, after Newt Gingrich described the Palestinians as an ‘invented people’, two Jewish friends and/or relatives announced (either to me or on Facebook) that they were thinking of voting for him or would vote for him.
What made this remark so appealing? (I leave aside the question of what Gingrich meant by it, or in what sense, if any, it is true). After all, this remark doesn’t seem to suggest any particular policy change.
It seems to me that for strongly pro-Israel Jewish voters, it sends a message: you can ignore the Palestinians because they are worthless. In other words, it is feel-good politics, but feel-good politics of a rather harsh sort: politician A makes group A feel good by saying “your enemies are scum.”
Gingrich has a penchant for these kind of remarks.
On the President: “What if [Obama] is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together [his actions]?” Message: my opponents belong in Kenya.
On the so-called Ground Zero mosque: “Nazis don’t have the right to put up a sign next to the holocaust museum in Washington,” Message: all Muslims are as responsible for 9/11 as Nazis are responsible for the Holocaust.
I guess one question for Republican primary voters is: do you want a leader who personalizes everything, who has no limits on how rancorously he sets “us” [whoever “us” happens to be] against “them”? Or do you want someone more diplomatic, someone who at least in his rhetoric, if not his policies, seeks to be (in the words of a recent former President) a little more of a “uniter” and less of a “divider’?