Newt Gingrich: A history of the despicable 

click to enlarge Newt Gingrich image

Newt Gingrich is the Jimmy Swaggart of American politics, a confidence man so transparent as to test the faith even of True Believers. Paradoxically, that's precisely why the disgraced former Speaker looks a good bet to secure the GOP presidential nomination.

Not seeing through Gingrich's bare-faced mendacity requires an effort of the will so profound it can only be accomplished with the aid of strong countervailing emotions—essentially the envy, resentment and fear which right-wing media have fomented among the faithful ever since the election of President Clinton and the 1994 "Contract with America."

Metaphorically speaking, Gingrich's candidacy is the love child of Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter, with Fox News throwing the baby shower.

This only makes the horror of intellectually-inclined conservatives at the prospect of Newt's ascendancy more remarkable. Where have they been all this time? Back in 1994, Gingrich and Frank Luntz circulated a list of hurtful words conservatives should always call liberals. "Traitors" was at the top, also some that sound particularly ironic today: "waste," "corruption," "self-serving," "greed," "cynicism," "cheat," "steal," and "patronage."

To the Washington Post's resident Tory George Will, Gingrich "embodies the vanity and rapacity that make modern Washington repulsive." To his colleague Charles Krauthammer, it's Newt's faculty lounge-lizard side—his half-baked intellectual pretentiousness—that's most disturbing.

Not himself a particularly modest fellow, Krauthammer writes that "Gingrich has a self-regard so immense that it rivals Obama's—but, unlike Obama's, is untamed by self-discipline." He finds Newt's "[t]hinking of himself as a grand world-historical figure, attuned to the latest intellectual trend" downright comical.

Will too lampoons Gingrich's "intellectual hubris" and "enthusiasm for intellectual fads." He levels the ultimate insult, correctly asserting that Newt "would have made a marvelous Marxist, [believing] everything is related to everything else and only he understands how."

To his credit, Will focuses upon what's perhaps Gingrich's single most despicable moment, a 1994 election eve attempt to blame a South Carolina mother's drowning of her children on Democrats. Never mind that Susan Smith allegedly turned out to have been abused by her Republican stepfather. Politics had nothing to do with the tragedy.

What Will calls Gingrich's "grotesque opportunism—tarted up as sociology," has been his entire stock in trade for years. He made similarly absurd observations about the 1999 Columbine High School tragedy. To him, two teenagers who massacred 13 of their classmates with automatic weapons became somehow the fault of liberal Democrats.

And so it goes. In 2010, Gingrich wrote a book arguing that the Obama administration "represents as great a threat to America as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union once did." Earlier this year, he told a Texas church gathering that he feared his grandchildren would grow up "in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists and with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American."

Because the President of the United States, of course, is secretly a radical Muslim whose "Kenyan, anti-colonial" views lead him to seek revenge on behalf of the African father he hardly knew. Newt said that too.

Two thoughts: First, it's a straight line from this kind of intellectual promiscuity to the other kind Newt's also famous for—serving divorce papers on Wife 1 while she was hospitalized for cancer in favor of Wife 2, whom he subsequently abandoned for the bejeweled Callista, his mistress of the Clinton years, who, as Wife 3, hovers over him relentless as a bird of prey. A 68 year-old Catholic convert, Gingrich once blamed his misbehavior on too much hard work motivated by patriotism. They practically dare you to laugh, those two.

Second, the Chicago Tribune's estimable Steve Chapman captured the essence of Gingrich's appeal to the GOP's propagandized base: "Demonizing adversaries is what he does best. Some on the right don't want a conservative so much as they want a hater. Gingrich is their dream come true. Romney shows no flair for irresponsible hysteria and crude smears—and many count that as a serious flaw."

All three columnists agree that Newt would prove a fatally-flawed candidate in the general election. "Even if Gingrich can win over most Republicans," Chapman writes "he is bound to repel everyone else."

Indeed, faced with him as the nominee, many conservatives would privately hold their noses and vote for Obama. "Bigfoot dressed as a circus clown would have a better chance of beating President Obama than Newt Gingrich, a similarly farcical character," one anonymous Republican told Washington Post blogger Jonathan Bernstein.

Certainly welcome, this principled scorn comes a bit late. Few on the right have been willing to confront the reality that conservatism in the classical sense scarcely exists anymore in the United States. It's long been replaced by the Yahoo dogmatism of a huckster like Gingrich, and it looks increasingly as if we're all going to have to live with the consequences.


Speaking of Newt Gingrich

  • In Praise of Newt Gingrich open line

    August 14, 2013
    The line is open. Final words: * NEWT GINGRICH GETS IT RIGHT: How about this? /more/
  • Mike Huckabee said something stupid again

    February 22, 2013
    On his radio show today on this George Washington's birthday, Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich spent some time comparing President Obama and our first president. /more/
  • Guns for everyone

    April 25, 2012
    When he wasn't at the St. Louis zoo getting bit by a penguin last week, Newt Gingrich was across town berating the National Rifle Association for being too timid in its advocacy of gun ownership and gun use. /more/
  • No Gingrich, no scorched earth

    February 8, 2012
    It is beginning to look like we will not have in 2012 one of those rare presidential races where the icons of the great tectonic movements in politics face off at Armageddon. /more/
  • Newt Gingrich's blow for adulter.., er, polyamory

    February 5, 2012
    I tend to think this is one of those bogus New York Times trend stories, but the feature writer still did dig up some people that revelations about Newt Gingrich's desire for an "open marriage" back in the days when he was boinking Callista while married to another has done wonders for those who think "polyamory" is hunkydory. /more/
  • Beau geste

    February 1, 2012
    the person who slew a Democratic activist's cat in Russellville a staunch Republican? Is he an actual or potential serial killer of humans as well as house pets? (Most serial killers seem to start out on animals.) Or is he both Republican and serial killer, like Ted Bundy, who was Mr. Young Republican by day while strangling coeds at night? At this point, we don't know for sure. The investigation is ongoing. /more/
  • Obamacare (Romneycare) off the table

    February 1, 2012
    Poor Rick Santorum could only shrug in frustration when he complained in the Florida debate about the supreme irony of the 2012 presidential race: Republicans made President Obama vulnerable two years ago by demonizing his health-insurance reforms and now they are about to nominate one of two men who cannot effectively use the issue against him. /more/
  • Republicans' choice: champions of 'Obamacare'

    January 31, 2012
    Rick Santorum is right, for once, Ernie Dumas writes this week. He says the race for the Republican nomination is boiling down to two candidates — Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich — who can't very well use "Obamacare" against the president, since they are solidly on record in support of the same — even more draconian, if you are inclined that way on the issue — health care solutions. /more/
  • Anger propels conservative Republicans

    January 30, 2012
    Interesting thesis by Thomas Edsall in the New York Times that blames Newt Gingrich's fall in the polls in Florida on his decision to step away from the far-right politics of anger — such as against mainstream media — that worked so well for him in South Carolina. /more/
  • Florida won't finish Gingrich

    January 29, 2012
    Polling indicates a broad consensus that Mitt Romney will finish comfortably ahead of Newt Gingrich in Florida primary voting (though not with 50 percent of the vote). /more/
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