Adam Graham
Letters to conservatives #7: it depends on what the meaning of grandiose is
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By Adam Graham
January 31, 2012

Dear Fellow Conservatives,

In our previous letter, we discussed the general character of Newt Gingrich. In this final piece, I want to focus on one particular aspect of Gingrich's character, and that is pride and what Senator Santorum has called "grandiosity." Gingrich's grandiosity can be divided into two areas: 1) grandiosity about himself, and 2) grandiose ideas.

Gingrich defends his grandiosity. "I accept the charge that I am an American and Americans are instinctively grandiose." It's a great line, but somewhat off-base.

The Washington Post's leadership columnist Jena McGregor wrote that Santorum's use of grandiosity was in its most common meaning: "characterized by affectation of grandeur or splendor or by absurd exaggeration." Gingrich seems to have re-interpreted grandiosity in the less common meaning of "impressive because of uncommon largeness, scope, effect, or grandeur."

To be clear, America has grand ideas, but it is not grandiose in the most commonly understood meaning, while Newt Gingrich is.

Gingrich's exalted view of himself is reminiscent of President Obama. Over the years, Obama and the media have made grand comparison of Obama to great past leaders. At some point, you begin to wonder why Obama has to be FDR, Lincoln, or Reagan. Why can't Obama be Obama? And why can't Gingrich be Gingrich? It suggests an ego that far outstrips ability, and an insecurity to command adulation that has not been earned.

Perhaps the most dangerous type of people in political life are those who view themselves as not only great leaders, but figures of historic magnitude. Politics has never been a magnet for humble people, but when someone thinks so much of themselves, they can't help but share the magnitude of their greatness with the human race. Such leaders think they are not ordinary mortals, are not bound by rules which others must follow.

According to Marianne Gingrich, after she found out about Gingrich's affair, he came home to talk about it after delivering a speech in Erie, Pennsylvania, that dealt with the survival of civilization and values. She confronted him with the contradiction between the speech and how he was living, to which (according to Mrs. Gingrich), the Speaker replied:
    "It doesn't matter what I do. People need to hear what I have to say. There's no one else who can say what I can say. It doesn't matter what I live."
This is not the type of leader we need. We need leaders who are comfortable with themselves, not full of themselves. We need leaders who don't try to make themselves into Lincoln or Reagan, but rather are comfortable in their own skin. They don't compare themselves to great men of years past, they are willing and able to be themselves.

When it comes to such epic historic comparisons, candidates would do well to heed the advice of Proverbs: "Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips."

When it comes to ideas, Gingrich has many good ideas and many bad ones, and he flits from idea to idea. In one debate, Senator Santorum described working with Gingrich this way: "An idea a minute, no discipline."

This is an apt comparison. It is true that America has serious problems that require big ideas to fix, but we need a president whose ideas are on-point to the problems the country faces, and who will have the discipline to push the right ideas and deliver a consistent message to the American people.

Perhaps the most glaring example of Speaker Gingrich's tendency to stray off the beaten path with his big ideas is his push for a lunar colony — an idea that failed to blast off with Florida voters. Voters saw expensive boondoggle. The colonization of space is not necessarily a waste of money for a disciplined country with fiscal house in order, but at a time when Americans are concerned here on earth with the economy, jobs, and an annual deficit well in excess of $1 trillion a year, the big idea was a big distraction.

The problem with big ideas is that they're not all good. Certainly having the federal government mandate everyone purchase health insurance is a big idea that gives the federal government an unprecedented amount of control in people's lives. Support for this mandate from the federal government was part of Speaker Gingrich's menu of big ideas for nearly twenty years, and he urged that it be included in the federal healthcare legislation that became Obamacare.

The problem with "big idea" men like Gingrich is that they forget that American liberty and opportunity is the biggest and most successful political idea the world has ever known. Our ancestors lived lives where their paths were more or less dictated to them from birth, where books and learning were rare, and where diseases that are virtually unheard of today or can be cured with a simple shot were widespread. Throughout our history, we've attracted the best and brightest from around the world in search of opportunity, and by doing so we've built America.

This idea is imperiled due to out-of-control spending and cultural decline. It is threatened by politicians and "big idea" men who have sought to establish new and exciting government programs to build their own legacy. These political leaders have been little different from the kings of old who built their monuments to ensure their long-term legacy.

What America needs is not a grandiose idea man, but a focused, dedicated, and disciplined leader who will push for common-sense solutions to our nation's most pressing problems. I believe that leader is Senator Rick Santorum, and I strongly encourage conservatives to give him their vote.

© Adam Graham

 

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Adam Graham

Adam Graham was Montana State Coordinator for the Alan Keyes campaign in 2000, and in 2004 was a candidate for the Republican nomination for the Idaho State House... (more)

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