The Vision Thing

I'm a little bit surprised at the vehement reaction to the Abrams piece linked in the post below: as if he'd accused Newt of being soft on Communism, just like all the Lefties who opposed Reagan at every turn and now say "we" won the Cold War. I didn't read Abrams' piece that way at all. He went out of his way repeatedly to acknowledge that Newt always voted with Reagan.

The very limited point of the piece, I thought, was that Newt in debate claims to be a visionary, as if he foresaw with Reagan the end of the Soviet Union. Abrams called BS on that by recalling that Newt was part of the wing of the GOP that thought Reagan didn't know what we was doing at the end of his 2nd term when, trusting Gorbachev, he entered into a series of arms control negotiations and a certain approach to Latin America. Newt was hardly alone in thinking Reagan had gone soft, many Conservatives did.

Though the specific speech in question is about Latin America (RTWT and see who's right), Steve Hayward, the Reagan biographer, provides context for the fight that was going on at the time, and shows how many people in his own party Reagan was bucking --or better, leading. He even reports asking George Will, another Reagan critic, about it, and Will's admission:
I was wrong; Reagan knew a lot more than I thought he did.
Elliot's point --or anyway mine in citing him-- was not that Newt is a schmuck, but that in that respect he was not a visionary.

In his g-file newsletter this week, Jonah Goldberg says he doesn't like people citing Newt's promise of a moon station as evidence of his craziness. I completely agree with this:
I'm a cathedrals-in-space guy. In a previous life, I made a breathtakingly mediocre documentary about Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. I learned a lot in the process. One of the enduring takeaways for me was that there are some things society invests in to inspire everyone. The rich can always afford art and inspiration; cathedrals provided art and inspiration for rich and poor alike. In the Middle Ages, cathedral-building represented a space race of a sort. They were built on the highest land around and city-states competed to build the tallest spires in order to get closer to God.

We are a pioneering people, and I see the effort to, as Reagan said, "slip the surly bonds of Earth to touch the face of God" as a worthwhile endeavor for a great nation. I bet the Founders would be more comfortable with the idea of American expansion to the moon than with, say, Medicare.
Yes. Great people need great projects. My point below was not that the idea is in itself bad (I hated Romney's flat-souled response that the private sector isn't interested in the moon), but that it is utterly imprudent to be talking that way when we are on the verge of economic armageddon. It will be very difficult to persuade Conservative voters you are serious about reining in spending and Liberal voters that it's urgent we do so when you go about dreaming up new visionary programs.

As Hayward puts it, we can give Gingrich his due for what he got right during his time in Congress, but 
The real question concerning Newt is not whether he has changed his mind or conveniently forgotten about his occasional distemper with Reagan, but whether he perceives or has acquired the same kind of prudence we now recognize Reagan to have had much more clearly than many of us did at the time.  Elliott, Pete, John, and everyone else are right to raise the question of whether Newt’s peripatetic speculations and outbursts give us ample cause to doubt an affirmative answer; certainly his opportunistic attack on Bain Capital a couple weeks back was deeply imprudent. 
As is his call for the invasion of Cuba (why? The Castros are near their end) and the transfer "on day one" of our embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem (which would sucker punch every moderate Arab in the region and make things worse for Israel).  We don't have to reach back to the Reagan years to find that Gingrich tends to confuse vision with bombast. I love when he's on defense for our side. On offense? Not so much.