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Newsweek's Fineman Disdains Branding Obama a 'Socialist'

Newsweek senior Washington correspondent Howard Fineman isn't hiding his disdain toward Newt Gingrich in his latest column for the magazine, headlined: "How lost are the Republicans? They're looking to Newt for answers."

Fineman wrote that Republicans have an affinity for "disgraded or discarded" leaders, and Gingrich and his "ruthless" caricaturing of liberals represent the "old-school insult" in stark contrast to the new, somehow nonpartisan cool of Obama:

At the dawn of the Obama era, Gingrich has remade himself as the anti-Obama. He is arguably the GOP's most influential strategist and cheerleader, and a provocative scold of the administration. Where Obama exudes the new Washington equanimity, Gingrich exalts in the old-school insult. He is ruthless in caricaturing anyone who gets in his way as a "pagan" or "statist" or "socialist" or "racist" - all words Newt has hurled in recent days.

This is pretty rich territory for a man who's a regular guest of Keith Olbermann's. It continued:

And so, wounded, rudderless and leaderless, GOP members of Congress and others on his voluminous e-mail list have returned to hear the gospel according to Newt. They speak of him with the awe of disciples. In a party without a frontrunner for 2012, admirers talk about him as a presidential candidate. "I do wish that he would run," says Joe McQuaid, publisher of the Union-Leader in Manchester, N.H., still a beacon for the right. "He has a lot to offer conservatives." Yet it is hard to shake the feeling that Gingrich's new prominence is more a sign of the GOP's desperation than faith in its future, and that his reemergence is more likely to hurt the party than help it.

Fineman here may be exaggerating the number and fervor of Gingrich followers. Many conservatives feel he's a welcome voice to protest the dramatic expansion of government under Obama and to sell the Republicans as a party of a ideas and government reform. But that's a far cry from a presidential boomlet, especially considering what Fineman diplomatically calls "stories of sordidness in his personal life," namely cheating on his second wife (during the Lewinsky scandal, no less) with the woman who became his third wife.

Fineman's kind enough to sugarcoat Newt's sexual foibles, but rude enough to suggest that when Gingrich did him the favor of offering a cover blurb for his book, he probably didn't read the thing:

What Newt brings now is what he's always brought: a savagely acute sense of how to attack The Powers That Be (as long as they are Democrats); a history professor's sweeping feel for societal trends; and a grifter's gift for claiming expertise about certain things he doesn't really know at all. (That would probably include my book, which he was kind enough to blurb; I admit to a sneaking suspicion that he never read a word of it.)

To Fineman, it's the talk of a swindler when you suggest that Obama's policies are advancing statism, or that government-dominated health care ends up rationing services that you thought you had a "right" to expect:

No one can match Newt's talent for advancing the conservative credo of individualism and faith in markets. At times his certitude takes on a cartoonish quality. Last week he unleashed a too-clever critique of the president's goal of a government-backed health plan, saying health care is a human right that cannot be rationed by Washington. He assailed Barack Obama's anodyne declaration that we are all global citizens as a dangerous threat to national security. It is impossible to take him seriously when he says things like this. That is unfortunate, because Gingrich is capable of seriousness.

You can read between the lines of columns like these and find journalists counseling Republicans to go along and get along, that the road to recovery is in being an echo of liberalism, not a conservative alternative. A few weeks ago, Fineman thought the tea parties were too "apocalyptic" to help. I always think of Fineman back in 1995 pining for Colin Powell for President: "a lot of my colleagues are trying to accept the fact that the Republican Party has the upper hand, and they want a Republican Party they can live with, and Powell is a guy they could live with."

-Tim Graham is Director of Media Analysis at the Media Research Center.