Some recent political unrest in the Republican Party this week brought back memories of a novel a read quite a few years ago called "Darkness at Noon", a book that about political torture and show trails that was an inspiration to other writers, including George Orwell when he came to write "1984" . There seems connection between that political tome and the former House Speaker and multi-term Congressman from Georgia--and old conservative--Newt Gingrich.
Let me offer a brief summary of the book, courtesy of Wikipedia:
Darkness at Noon (German: Sonnenfinsternis) is a novel by the Hungarian-born British novelist Arthur Koestler, first published in 1940. His best-known work tells the tale of Rubashov, an Old Bolshevik and October Revolutionary who is cast out, imprisoned, and tried for treason against the very Soviet Union he once helped to create.
I wonder if Gingrich ever read the book while an undergraduate? If he did, he's likely feeling a bit like Rubashov, the Old Bolshevik. Not that's he going to get literally tortured, make a false confession at a show trail and then face execution--well, not physically. But he did just have a near-death experience or two recently thanks to the fanatical wing of the "tea party" Republicans, the same Republican Party he once led his "Contract With America" to impressive victories over the Democrats in 1994.
Now "Old Bolshevik" Gingrich wants to be the GOP nominee for President. The only problem is that he spoke honestly about the radical agenda of severe cuts in Medicare and Medicade brought forth by "New Bolsheviks" under Paul Ryan.
Gingrich called the plan to end Medicare as a functioning entity for those who will be eligible for the program in roughly the next decade "too radical a jump" and "right-wing social engineering". The program gut-tings are indeed too radical a jump and would leave millions of seniors more prone to economic distress, bankruptcy and penury if it's replaced with a voucher system, as Ryan and almost all other GOP Congresspeople want, that will not come near to covering medical costs that doctors, hospitals and private insurers would demand.
The very reason Medicare and later Medicade (a federal and state aid program for the poor of all ages ) was created was to give seniors and the poor medical security through a payroll tax program similar to Social Security. The Ryan plan undermines programs that have boosted millions out of poverty and given them the treatment that would otherwise have been denied to them.
Gingrich, unaware apparently that his party is now in the thrall of social Darwinist and Ayn Rand objectivist cranks like Ryan made his statements on "Meet the Press" and later to the "Wall Street Journal".
And, you guessed it, the new guard under the likes of Paul Ryan and Eric Cantor and company didn't take those "radical" statements all that well.
Here's a summary of the fallout, from today "The Note" put out by ABC's Michael Falcone and Amy Walter:
“In an attempt to conduct damage control in the opening days of his campaign, Newt Gingrich called Rep. Paul Ryan to apologize for comments he made criticizing the Medicare plan widely supported by GOP members of the House,” ABC’s Arlette Saenz notes. “‘I made a mistake and I called Paul Ryan today. He’s a very close personal friend, and I said to him, the fact is that I have supported what Ryan’s trying to do on the budget.’ Gingrich said on Fox News’ “On the Record” with Greta Van Susteren. ‘The budget vote is one that I am happy to say I would have voted for, I will defend, and I’d be glad to answer any Democrat who attempts to distort what I said.’ Gingrich said the two men ‘had a very good private conversation,’ and believes they will be able to ‘work together both to make sure Democrats can’t misuse information and can’t lie about where we are and also to make sure we work together.’” http://abcn.ws/lqXCFb
And what about calling Ryan’s plan “right-wing social engineering”?
“I was trying to say something that is really important. We are at the beginning of a process of solving the entitlement problems of the United States,” Gingrich said last night. “These are enormous challenges. I believe deeply that the American people have to be an integral part of it. I think that what Paul Ryan has done is he has started that process. He has begun the opportunity, something which President Obama failed to do, to have an honest conversation, to go to the American people, to share with them his current ideas.”
That's what I call some fast backtracking folks. Almost like they had the guy in a vise.
Gingrich is not a literal prisoner in an authoritarian gulag of course. But if he wants to be President, he'd better learn from Koestler's book and recall Orwell's process of political "double think"--the art of holding two opposing views in your head at the same time--quickly if he wants to stay relevant in the party he helped boost the fortunes of not so long ago.