Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Newt Gingrich: America's Netanyahu

Conventional wisdom about the presidential elections looks like it may be wrong again, just like it was wrong in 2008. Newt Gingrich just might end up being the Republican nominee, rather than Mitt Romney. Even scarier, the guy might get himself elected president.

If this happens, my two countries, Israel and the United States, will have chief executives who are each other's clones. Politically, they're both on the extremely conservative side (though in Netanyahu's case, that's mainly true about economics and hawkishness, and less about social issues). That's probably why both of them are backed by Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson: Adelson has given millions to a pro-Gingrich SuperPAC and owns a free Israeli daily, "Yisrael Hayom", which many consider Netanyahu's unofficial spokesman.

The differences don't stop there. Netanyahu and Gingrich are both married to their third wives. Gingrich cheated on Wife No. 1 with Wife No. 2, and then on Wife No. 2 with Wife No. 3. As far as I know, Netanyahu was already divorced when he met Wife No. 3, Sarah, but in the early 90's he admitted to cheating on her when he thought a sex tape was about to be made public (in an interview with Sarah, which everybody compared to Bill and Hillary Clinton's famous interview).

In today's New York Times, Frank Bruni writes about many of Gingrich's negative character traits. When I read the article, all I could think of was the fact that it almost sounded like Bruni was talking about Netanyahu. Gingrich and Netanyahu like to falsely insert themselves into important events of the late 20th century (for example, Netanyahu once reminisced about Rehavam Ze'evi's time in his cabinet, even though Ze'evi never joined Bibi's government; other times, he claimed his first government proposed all kinds of initiatives that were actually started under other prime ministers). Also, Netanyahu and Gingrich regularly attack the elites, and just as Bruni can't find a definition of "elite" where Gingrich isn't part of it, I can't find a definition of the word that doesn't include Netanyahu.

As Bruni notes, Gingrich trumpets his Roman Catholicism and attacks secularists, despite having had a six-year affair with his current wife. Netanyahu, too, has whispered in the ears of rabbis that the left has "forgotten how to be Jewish", although he himself is far from being a righteous religious Jew.

I could go on: their animosity toward the media, except when it helps them; their love of deregulation; their de-facto opposition to the two-state solution, and much much more.

Oh, and there's one more similarity: I really would like neither one to be in government.

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