Can Newt Gingrich Win... Even if He's "Mean"?

Does the leader of the free world have to be nice?

Newt Gingrich is now the Republican front-runner. He could be the Republican presidential candidate. And one of the biggest things people are saying is “Newt Gingrich? But he is SO MEAN.”

But what do we want in our president? When I think of characteristics needed to be president I think fair, bi-partisan, a good leader, charismatic, but the word nice never crosses my mind. Turns out, most of the country doesn’t agree with me.

Ronald Reagan, even though he did “mean” things, had that Hollywood “Grandfather of America” way about him. The last word anybody could use to describe Bill Clinton was mean. Down home was more like it. The first Bush was nondescript and the second Bush was the president everybody wanted to have a beer with. And Obama? He’s intellectual and scholarly and the man every Democrat in the country is clamoring to play basketball with. Nixon wasn’t nice, but he isn’t exactly revered in this country as the president to emulate.

The words most often used to describe former Congressman Newt Gingrich are malicious, biting and nasty. Last year, he derided President Obama for being “fundamentally out of touch with how the world works” and asked, “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]? That is the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior.”

Just recently, Gingrich opened a Republican debate by angrily attacking his ex-wife and the news media for publishing “open marriage” accusations. And then he let loose on the moderator, John King:

"I am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate with a topic like that," Gingrich said, earning wild applause from the audience. "To take an ex-wife and make it two days before the primary a significant question in a presidential campaign is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine."

There was also his decidedly not nice opinion that poor children would be best served working as janitors, or maybe in a library, because their other choice would be to be a prostitute or a pimp. “It grows out of a lot of thinking over many years of trying to figure out how do we break out people trapped in poverty who have no work habits." 

Really? Poor people have no work habits? That’s not nice. (Or true, really.)

Political recourse is never nice, and truth be told I’m a Democrat and wouldn’t vote for Gingrich even if he was the nicest candidate ever. But the old adage is that voters vote for the president they most want to have a drink with, and that was why George W. Bush beat Senator John Kerry in 2004. Kerry was seen as old and stuffy and Bush was seen as a good old boy who could have a good time.

In this political climate when no one can get along and bi-partisanship doesn’t seem to work, maybe what this country wants is a president who is mean. Who calls things as they see it. Who isn’t afraid to lay down the gauntlet, as it is.

Jodifur blogs at Jodifur about life, motherhood, working, and shoes. Mostly shoes.

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