George Will Rips Gingrich, Huckabee and Malzberg

As NewsBusters reported Tuesday, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee was lambasted by numerous liberal media outlets for comments he made to conservative radio host Steve Malzberg regarding President Obama's past.

Surprisingly joining in the harsh criticism was George Will whose column to be published in Sunday's Washington Post also excoriated former House Speaker Newt Gingrich as well as Malzberg:

If pessimism is not creeping on little cat's feet into Republicans' thinking about their 2012 presidential prospects, that is another reason for pessimism. This is because it indicates they do not understand that sensible Americans, who pay scant attention to presidential politics at this point in the electoral cycle, must nevertheless be detecting vibrations of weirdness emanating from people associated with the party.

Will then quoted one of Malzberg's many questions to Huckabee during his Febuary 28 interview, and actually said the former governor's answer should have been, "I've seen paranoia, goodbye."

After noting some of Huckabee's actual answer, Will continued:

Republicans should understand that when self-described conservatives such as Malzberg voice question-rants like the one above and Republicans do not recoil from them, the conservative party is indirectly injured. As it is directly when Newt Gingrich, who seems to be theatrically tiptoeing toward a presidential candidacy, speculates about Obama having a "Kenyan, anti-colonial" mentality.

After indirectly referring to Dinesh D'Souza's Forbes piece from last year involving Obama's Kenyan anti-colonial worldview, and how Gingrich spoke of it to National Review's Robert Costa, Will concluded:

To the notion that Obama has a "Kenyan, anti-colonial" worldview, the sensible response is: If only. Obama's natural habitat is as American as the nearest faculty club; he is a distillation of America's academic mentality; he is as American as the other professor-president, Woodrow Wilson. A question for former history professor Gingrich: Why implicate Kenya?

Let us not mince words. There are at most five plausible Republican presidents on the horizon - Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, former Utah governor and departing ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, former Massachusetts governor Romney and former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty.

So the Republican winnowing process is far advanced. But the nominee may emerge much diminished by involvement in a process cluttered with careless, delusional, egomaniacal, spotlight-chasing candidates to whom the sensible American majority would never entrust a lemonade stand, much less nuclear weapons.

What is one to make of Will going after two prominent Republicans this way, especially as Huckabee is currently leading the possible GOP candidate field according to a just-released NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll?

After a snippet of Will's piece was published by Politico early Friday morning, it was all the rage at MSNBC getting covered by Chris Matthews and Rachel Maddow on their respective programs.

One can only imagine how much play this will get in the next 48 hours, as liberal media members love quoting conservative commentators when they go after folks on the right.

Will, of  course, is no stranger to leaving the reservation. His September 2009 comments concerning our involvement in Afghanistan raised a lot of Republican eyebrows.

But Gingrich and Huckabee are highly-respected in most conservative circles making it a metaphysical certitude Will's comments will upset many of his readers. What will likely most worry conservatives is these opinions being published ten months before the first primaries and caucuses especially as Obama's reelection chances have greatly improved since November.

Numerous legislative victories in the lameduck session along with an exploding stock market and a firming economy have made the current White House resident a far more formidable opponent. The unemployment rate plummeting from 9.8 percent to 8.9 percent the past three months also complicates things for Republican challengers.

In addition, potential favorites such as Jeb Bush and Chris Christie continue to claim disinterest in running. Athough neither has said so, it's possible their decision is a result of Obama's suddenly strengthening position.

With this in mind, exactly how do Will's comments assist Republican efforts to oust the 44th president? Chris Matthews gave us a clue in his closing segment on Friday's "Hardball":

"Let Me Finish" tonight, and this week, with a challenge to the Republican Party.

Here’s how it goes: Don’t do what Huckabee did this week, skip the talk about the Mau Mau revolt in Kenya back in the 1950s, about the influence of his African father or grandfather, what influence they might have had on the president and make this campaign about how this president has performed as president. The policies he’s advanced and how they’ve performed.

Our country has a lot to talk about between now and November 2012. Don’t waste time talking about a country, Kenya, Barack Obama never lived in, a distant father he hardly even met, or a grandfather he never met.

Why?

For one reason, and I didn’t think of it, talk about something as far away and as exotic as the Mau Mau revolt in the 1950s seems a strange way to address the 2012 American presidential campaign, more important that you’re getting economic and other challenges facing the country right now.

Indeed.

This battle over Obama's background may have had its place in 2008 despite many on the right believing the fight never occurred because the junior senator from Illinois and his devotees in the media didn't let it happen.

Maybe that's so, but do most Americans, in particular independent voters, want to discuss the President's upbringing instead of issues that we're facing right here at home such as high unemployment, high gas prices, high food prices, low housing prices, and burgeoning revolutions in Africa and the Middle East that could quickly threaten our national security?

Don't we have far bigger fish to fry in 2011 than where the President was born and what influenced his worldview as a child? If he couldn't be beaten with such tactics in 2008 when he was just a totally unqualified junior senator, how can that possibly be a winning strategy now that he's got over two years presidential experience under his belt?

Malzberg in a telephone interview Saturday agreed that this potentially was Will's point, but felt questions about this president's background - birth certificate, college records, health records, etc. - would indeed be fair game if he was white. As he's African-American, such matters when raised always have the smell of racism even when it doesn't exist.

Although that is likely true, it doesn't necessarily validate the strategy.

Sitting presidents are difficult to beat. Despite the ongoing housing crisis and high unemployment, Obama's favorability rating has remained quite high, making defeating him even tougher.

Will like most conservatives desperately wants this to happen sending the current White House resident packing, and therefore most certainly wants what he believes is best for the Republican Party to accomplish this.

What he's saying is that some potential presidential candidates are focusing on extraneous issues that not only don't resonate with the majority of the public but also detract from the stronger message.

"[T]he nominee may emerge much diminished by involvement in a process cluttered with careless, delusional, egomaniacal, spotlight-chasing candidates to whom the sensible American majority would never entrust a lemonade stand, much less nuclear weapons."

In sum, the vast majority of Americans don't care where Obama was born, and care even less about his father and his grandfather. The more Republicans talk about such things rather than jobs, gas and housing prices, exploding deficits and debt, and a totally unstable Middle East and African continent, the less the public cares what such they have to say.

Bill Clinton's motto in 1992 was, "It's the economy, stupid!"

To a certain extent, Will is saying the same should be true for Republicans 20 years later.

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.