The Myth of the Stature Gap: Could Newt Be the Next FDR?
No. I'm sorry for this, but if you don't catch columnists in the act, they never learn. The entirety of Meacham's brief argument is that a lot of people hate Newt Gingrich's guts, but a lot of people hated FDR too, so hey, maybe Newt would make a great president like FDR. No, really. Some of the more picturesque rubble amidst the resulting devastation:
It is a perennial lament, one we are hearing anew as the Republican nomination race closes in on the actual casting of votes, and every candidate appears small if not fatally flawed. The past always seems somehow more golden, more serious, than the present.
I am going to go out on a limb here and say that a presidential season that has seen the likes of Sarah Palin, Donald Trump, Rick Santorum, Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann all hailed as reasonable choices for President of the United States is, in fact, less serious than the norm. Note that I am not even including perennial crackpot Ron Paul in that mix, because compared to Sarah Palin, Donald Trump, and the guy who didn't know China already has nuclear weapons, crackpot Ron Paul is more serious.
Franklin Roosevelt was hated by a large number of Americans in real time; some people actually celebrated when word came of his death in April 1945.
Yes, we call those people Newt Gingrich's "base."
But by the September-October debates, Newt had grown impressive “by standing back and offering a Wise Man’s view of the political shenanigans onstage and in Washington generally.
I think that's a bit like saying "compared to all these coconuts, that is one smart monkey." When Newt Gingrich responding to every question with a snide comment about how stupid you are to ask him that question is considered "a Wise Man's view," perhaps our unseriousness is even more severe than we suspected.
If not quite F.D.R. — and who is? — George H.W. Bush proved a fine president, and he looks better and better as the years pass.
Negatives for George H.W. Bush: that whole Iran-Contra thing; a generally substanceless term; was quickly forgotten; raised an idiot son. Positives: did not attempt to destroy the economy, government or free world. If he looks "better and better" in comparison to modern standards, it perhaps only because a lukewarm Pop-Tart tends to look far more appetizing when compared to a bowl of used motor oil and syphilis.
Now, if the title of the piece was "Could Newt Be the Next George H.W. Bush?", sure, knock yourself out. I think invoking FDR in this context, however, is the sort of thing that makes the Baby Jesus cry.
As charitable act, I'm just going to chalk this one up to a momentary brain spasm on the part of Meacham. Maybe his dog is sick or his car is in the shop and he had to put something together in three minutes or his editor was going to reassign him to the Bachmann campaign bus. But if every despised ethics-scandalized confirmed-adulterer resigned-in-disgrace politician is potentially the next incarnation of FDR, then we'd be swimming in FDRs by now. It's much less of a stretch to suspect that a celebrated jackass might just be a celebrated jackass.