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Newt Gingrich is on his game, to judge not only by his victory in South Carolina but the remarkable speech he delivered when the vote was in. It seemed as if he’d waited for months to get the whole country’s attention, and when he had it last night he laid out a full vision — signaling a contest between two Americas. One whose inspiration is the ideas of the left, epitomized by President Obama and one of his mentors, Saul Alinsky; the other an America of the Founders, of the Declaration, the Federalist Papers, the Constitution.
Our national parchments, it needs to be said, are not party documents. The left has won its share of victories by wielding them. Ira Stoll of the Futureofcapitalism.com promptly posted a piece pointing out that Alinsky himself, though a radical leftist, “like Mr. Gingrich, wrapped his own cause in the Declaration of Independence and the Founding Fathers.” He quotes Alinsky as calling the Declaration “a glorious document and an affirmation of human rights” and extolling the radicalism of Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, and Tho’ses. Paine and Jefferson.
What struck us as so shrewd in Mr. Gingrich’s display last night was not his ability to divide but to synthesize. He built his victory in Carolina by taking ownership of, say, Governor Perry’s great passion, which is the 10th Amendment’s reservation to the states and the people of powers not specifically granted the Federal government. He picked up the defense of religion that Mr. Perry had made so much a part of his campaign, and did so in a pointed and appropriate way.
After saying he wants to make sure there will never be another American president bowing to a Saudi king, he picked up Governor Palin’s priority of domestic energy production — and her trademark phrase of “commonsense conservatism.” Mr. Gingrich put his rhetorical arm around both Senator Santorum, whom we find an increasingly attractive leader, and Governor Romney, whose slide in the Palmetto State is excruciating to watch. And most satisfyingly, the former speaker claimed the issue that Congressman Ron Paul has been nursing for a generation — namely honest money.
This last item is something that we ourselves have been waiting for years for a national figure to do. Mr. Gingrich, while marking the obvious difference on foreign policy, acknowledged both the heroism of Dr. Paul’s 30-year-long critique of our monetary policy and the Federal Reserve but also Dr. Paul’s rightness on the substantive issues. To do it at a moment when Dr. Paul is sagging in the vote, that is a mark of leadership. It was some performance.
It certainly puts Mr. Gingrich in a good position going in to Florida. We say that not as an endorsement, rather as merely an observation. Mr. Romney’s air war in Florida will no doubt be something to behold and Florida is a very different state than South Carolina. The huge number of retirees living there present Mr. Gingrich with an opportunity to bring the issue of monetary reform into the campaign in a tangible way, as those on fixed incomes have a particularly acute sense of the destruction of the dollar. The synthesis of ideas Mr. Gingrich unfurled in the Palmetto State suggests we are in for one of the great nominating contests of our time.