And so the torch passes from one schlock historian to the next. But the winner, at least in this case, might be the facts. In brief, Newt Gingrich went on that which remains of Beck’s show last night, to pitch his candidacy to Beck’s pre-primed, radicalized base. But Beck led off in typical fashion by accusing Gingrich of being a supporter of modern-day socialism, or at least of being in agreement with historical “socialists” like (ahem) Teddy Roosevelt. To my chagrin, in reply, Gingrich responded by simply demolishing him. While reading, remember that Beck uses the words “socialism” and “progressivism” interchangeably, based on a sloppy historical equivalence.
GLENN: Let’s start with ‑‑ let’s start with a piece of audio here where you were talking about healthcare and you went down the progressive road with Theodore Roosevelt.
GINGRICH (RECORDING): And for government to not leave guarantees that you don’t have the ability to change, no private corporation has the purchasing power or the ability to reshape the health system, and in this sense I guess I’m a Theodore Roosevelt Republican. In fact, if I were going to characterize my ‑‑ on health where I come from, I’m a Theodore Roosevelt Republican and I believe government can lean in the regulatory leaning is okay.
GLENN: Regulation and the government scares the crap out of me and I think most Tea Party kind of leaning conservatives, and Theodore Roosevelt was the guy who started the Progressive Party. How would you characterize your relationship with the progressive ideals of Theodore Roosevelt?
GINGRICH: Well, that depends on which phase of Roosevelt you’re talking about. The 1912, he’s become a big government, centralized power advocate running an a third party candidate which, for example, Roosevelt advocated the Food and Drug Act after he was eating ‑‑ and this supposedly the story, after he was eating sausage and eggs while reading up to Sinclair’s The Jungle, which has a scene in which a man falls into a vat at the sausage factory and becomes part of the sausage. And if you go back to that era where people had ‑‑ dealing with the Chinese where the people had doctored food, they had put all sorts of junk in food, they ‑‑ you know, I as a child who lived in Europe and I always marveled at the fact that American water is drinkable virtually anywhere.
So there are minimum regulatory standards of public health and safety that are I think really important.
GLENN: Okay. So you’re a minimum regulation guy on making sure the people don’t fall into the vats of sausage?
GINGRICH: Yeah. What I’m against is the government trying to implement things because bureaucracy’s such a bad implementer, and I’m against government trying to pick winners and losers.
It’s not clear what Gingrich views as the proper place of regulation — what exactly is “pick[ing] winners and losers,” and what, aside from abolishing the Republican–initiated practice of federal bailouts, does its avoidance entail? — but here we have the most conservative of the plausible Republican nominees explaining to Glenn Beck that regulation is not a per se evil, and that the “Progressives” weren’t so bad after all. That might contribute to losing Gingrich some of his far-right backers, but this is a guy that should be able to trade on his legacy to avoid any such fears.
If the Republican Party ever decides to walk back from its apocalyptic, hyper-deregulatory mania of the past two years, this is what its start would look like. How odd to hear it from Newt Gingrich, though.
Another thing we should take from the interview is just how bad an interviewer Glenn Beck truly is. He’s fine when pouring his soul, with all of its collected absurdities, into an empty vessel (YouTube), but not with someone willing to challenge his principles on his own turf. I love it.