Newt Gingrich stumbles in another congressional endorsement

Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich has provided us with a lot of variety during his public career. Sometimes he’s a font of terrific information leading to success; at other times his judgment is so poor as to defy comprehension.

On the one hand, he helped engineer the take-over of Congress in the 1990s. On the other hand, he was forced to resign the Speakership in controversial circumstances after only four years. His hand-picked successor, Dennis Hastert, was thoroughly incapable of successfully leading the U.S. House of Representatives.

On the one hand, he regularly weighs in with good insight on complicated issues. On the other hand, he endorses people like Dede Scozzafava for Congress in New York’s 23rd district (read “What Newt Gingrich doesn’t understand about the GOP“).

Now Newt has done it again by saying yes to Dennis Hastert and endorsing Denny’s young son Ethan for Congress. While Scozzafava would have been a disaster, we already know what to expect from Team Hastert (read “Proposed dynasties or social promotion in the 14th c.d.“).

There are several potential theories as to why Newt would be so foolish once again with this endorsement. Some might ask – what’s Denny’s hold on Newt? Is it just friendship – or are there other reasons?

Many political observers aren’t surprised at all that yet another big name from out of state has failed to do his homework before intervening on the wrong side in Illinois. To cite one big example, a few months ago Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele was on a Chicago radio station and endorsed the liberal candidate in the U.S. Senate primary.

No matter how you’d like to spin it otherwise, a big part of Newt Gingrich’s legacy is Dennis Hastert. And Hastert’s failure to lead in Illinois helped put Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate as a first big step on the road to the White House. Hastert’s failure in Congress gave us Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

I am a fan of most of Newt’s work. I wish I could say the same about his judgment in this case. He was wrong about Dede Scozzafava in that New York race. She dropped out of the campaign and endorsed the Democrat who went on to win. If Newt would be successful with his endorsement in the Illinois’ 14th, reformers here will be dealt yet another setback to building a principle-based Grand Old Party.