Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, and Herman Cain all enjoyed brief stints at the top of the GOP presidential heap before seeing their leads crumble. But Newt Gingrich's tenure at the top may wind up being the shortest yet. The newly crowned frontrunner said during the Nov. 9 Republican presidential debate that Freddie Mac paid him $300,000 in 2006 for the former House speaker's expertise as a "historian." Gingrich claimed that he told the federal mortgage giant that its lending practices were "insane" and unsustainable. Now, Bloomberg reports that Freddie Mac actually paid Gingrich $1.6 million to $1.8 million from 1999 to 2008 — largely to "build bridges" with antagonistic Capitol Hill Republicans — and that Gingrich broadly supported Freddie's push to expand home ownership to low-income Americans. Since many conservatives blame Freddie (rather than banks) for the housing crisis, will this "boondoggle" end Newt's brief stint as a frontrunner?
Bye bye, Newt: The Gingrich surge was already "puzzling," given what a disaster his campaign has been, says Charles Lane at The Washington Post. But now, thanks to Newt's years of lucrative "influence peddling" for a mortgage giant he's spent the past few years publicly trashing — and demanding Democratic heads over — Gingrich's rise to the top will likely end before "anyone manages to explain it." GOP voters forgive a lot, but "the dictionary doesn't include a printable adjective to describe the former House speaker's hypocrisy" in this case.
The press is blowing this out of proportion: I'm still trying to figure out why this is a big deal, says Matt Lewis at The Daily Caller. "Gingrich may well be guilty of rank hypocrisy," but no more than other politicians — like, say, President Obama, who has quietly accepted almost $1 million from the same "fat cat" bankers he's loudly denounced. Obama also took large contributions from Freddie, and I don't recall that being big news. This story is "hardly deserving of the level of outrage it has spawned."
"Why the story about Newt Gingrich’s payday from Freddie Mac is overblown"
If anyone can beat this, it's Newt: There might be a good explanation for Gingrich's behavior, says Ed Morrissey at Hot Air. Perhaps Newt sided with Freddie's subprime lending expansion from 1999 to 2002, then changed his mind between 2006 and 2008. Regardless, he obviously has to explain his "lengthy consulting relationship with such a toxic organization" to GOP voters, and convince Tea Partiers that this isn't a case of just getting rich off of Washington insider connections. That's a tough sell, but "if anyone could defend their connections to Freddie, it's Gingrich."
"Gingrich made $1.6-1.8 million in consulting for Freddie Mac"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Syrian women know how to defeat ISIS
- The U.S. Marines are developing laser weapons. Here's why.
- The one thing the New Atheists get right about religion
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- Will Kobani be ISIS's Waterloo?
- 3 horrific inaccuracies in Homeland's depiction of Islamabad
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- 5 baffling foreign-language versions of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song
- How to make corn dogs
Subscribe to the Week