Mr. Smith Goes to Washington?
Newt Gingrich certainly lacks the naiveté and innocence of the idealistic Jefferson Smith portrayed by James Stewart in the Frank Capra 1939 classic Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. However, today’s Presidential Republican Primary seems to take a page from this Hollywood classic.
Just as in Capra’s Washington today more than ever Politics is about money. This week’s contest of course is centered in Florida and the money is pouring in. The biggest decision for Florida voters when they go to the polls Tuesday is to decide the following. “Is the election for sale?”
The Republican Elite have decided that their choice to lead the party this fall against President Obama is Mitt Romney. This was decided long ago not in an election or any public forum with a grass roots focus but in the political back rooms where those with power, political influence and of course money make the decisions that affect us all. Somewhere along the line Mitt figuratively kissed the ring and did what was ever necessary to convince the leadership that he wouldn’t deviate from whatever path they put him on.
Sure we are lead to believe that we have some sort of say in the outcome and of course we do if we just exercise some common sense and independent thought both of which are pretty difficult to come by when you are bombarded 24/7 with television commercials and a constant onslaught from the press to sway your opinion. Any student of politics would have to conclude that this election “Is for Sale”.
When Newt Gingrich with his populist message swept the South Carolina Race the top of the party went ballistic. The unthinkable happened. The people actually went in and voted for someone other than their flag bearer. The Republican Elite declared DEFCON 1 and called in their Generals to put together a counter attack to put down this insurrection.
Just like party boss Jim Taylor in the Capra classic the Republican Machine went into action determined to bring down Newt. Like clockwork the calls went out to the right wing press to knock Mr. Gingrich off his perch. The following day was a journalistic Jihad attacking Mr. Gingrich as a near psychotic capable of doing irreparable harm to the party and the republic. Of course what they really meant is Newt just might shake up the establishment. They know that in the end Newt is his own man and won’t necessarily follow the carefully laid out path crafted by those who pull the strings. Even the popular conservative TV host Bill O’Reilly said; “I’m ‘Surprised’ by the right wing, I’ve known the speaker for about 10 years and to me, he’s a bona fide conservative.”
Former Senator Fred Thompson said on Sunday’s “Meet the Press” “You know there is some old score settling going on. Newt had some run-ins with some of the people in his own party. But you know a lot of them were holding Newt’s coat when he conceived of a way for the Republicans to take over and have a first Republican House Speaker in 50 years.”
I found it laughable that former Senator John McCain said; “On both sides we have these incredible amounts of money and I guarantee you there will be a scandal.” His support of Mitt Romney is at odds with this statement given Mitt and his Super Pacs have out spent Newt in South Carolina by 2 to 1 losing the state and is now out spending by 5 to 1 in Florida. If the public isn’t buying your message just spend more money and jam it down their throats.
What we should support even more than any one candidate is an honest political process where candidates debate the issues rather than sling mud at each other. Early in the campaigns we were looking at debates and focusing on issues and solutions.
Then came Iowa. After a sudden surge in the polls by Newt Gingrich, Romney and the SUPER PACs unleashed a financial blitzkrieg to drown out ideas and take the public’s eye off the ball. The other candidates were forced to join in. Realizing there would be no unilateral disarmament Gingrich launched his own Super Pac and the battle raged on. However as in most of these battles the bigger check book usually prevails.
As a result we aren’t focusing on the issues important to the American People but watching a tit for tat name calling contest that has all of the characteristics of a reality show rather than a political campaign. It appears that the focus of the TV Blitz is on personal transgressions and a personality that seems to have rubbed those in power the wrong way.
Do You Want a Priest or a President?
Voters need to ask themselves, “Do you want a Priest or a President?” I don’t know about you but I want a President with the intellectual capacity and skill set to get the job done. The assumption seems to be that people don’t have the capacity to change or grow in their personal lives. Who among us can say they are the same person they were 20 years ago.
The alternative to Mr. Gingrich for Republicans is of course Mitt Romney who has been running for president for 7 years and still isn't very good at it. This is the guy who lost to the guy who lost to Obama. If Romney is left to confront President Obama on a national stage ultimately he will lose. I believe nothing short of an economic collapse which isn’t likely to happen will put him in the White House.
Do Not Underestimate Our President
The Republican establishment underestimates President Obama and his ability to craft a very strong message and rally his supporters. He is a very talented charismatic speaker and will stand up powerfully against any Republican challenger.
I'll take the guy who comes with political baggage but has the talent and experience to get the job done. The alternative is similar to the band who hires a guitar player because he has enough money to buy a new sound system. Again, I'll take the guy with the broken guitar, cheap amp and yes checkered past but can play his ass off.
Outsider or Insider
Mitt Romney has leveled charges that Newt is not an outsider like himself. Of course Mr. Gingrich isn't a political outsider. You don't get to the national arena without being a Washington Insider and that includes President Obama. Mitt has been trying desperately to become a Washington Insider for years but keeps on losing. Knowing how the system works is an asset not a liability. I am a Wall Street Insider and work hard to change what I see wrong in my industry.
The reason the Republican power brokers are pushing so hard against Newt is because they know he can’t be manipulated. I think a lot of Americans are ready to shake up the establishment and are looking for real change. This is a big part of Newt’s popularity and the reason thousands show up at his rallies.
During the last CNN debate in Jacksonville Florida Rick Santorum probably had the best lines of the evening. “Can we set aside that Newt was a member of Congress and used the skills that he developed as a member of Congress to go out and advise companies — and that Mitt Romney is a wealthy guy because he worked hard and he’s going out and working hard? And you guys should leave that alone and focus on the issues.”
Mr. Gingrich turned to Mr. Santorum and said; “I am with him.”
CNN host Wolfe Blitzer and Mitt Romney wouldn’t have it and the debate soon found its way back to the low road.
“We get the government we deserve”
Money and Madison Avenue runs elections the same way they control what you buy in the super market. It is up to us the consumer to do our homework before we make a decision. Casting your vote is as serious as it gets in a democracy. It is an enormous responsibility too many of us take lightly or don’t exercise at all.
When you step into the booth during a state primary and more importantly the polls in November you owe it to yourself, your family and your nation to do more than just vote for a sound bite.
David Nelson, CFA
Belpointe Asset Management