Tuesday, August 16, 2005
by Wayne Besen
It is never easy being the second smartest person in the class. To be number two means that you get seductively close to the prize, before you inevitably plummet. This is what happened to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich who consistently got outfoxed by President Bill Clinton.
In 1995, for example, Gingrich forced an unpopular government shutdown, which played right into Clinton's hands. Frustrated by the cunning of his wily nemesis, a petulant Gingrich threw a defining temper tantrum on an airplane that earned him an infamous diapered caricature in The New York Daily News under the headline: "CRY BABY"
This was the beginning of the end for Gingrich. Although he clung to power for a time and unsuccessfully tried to bring down Clinton though impeachment, Gingrich's aura of invincibility had worn off and his public standing nose-dived. He ultimately left the House under a cloud of ethics violations and alienated his right wing base by divorcing his wife to marry a young woman on his staff.
It looked like the career of the hubristic Gingrich, a history professor, was history. But now, Gingrich is staging a comeback and laying the groundwork for a run at the presidency. Most democrats I speak to scoff at the notion of Gingrich rehabilitating his image and winning the GOP nomination. I think it is premature to write off Newt. With Bill Clinton out of the picture, Newt may now be the smartest one in the class.
People easily forget that Newt single handedly masterminded the "Republican Revolution" that toppled the entrenched Democratic congressional leadership in 1994. He is a brilliant strategist, a powerful public speaker, has the connections to raise early money and is a master at framing issues and conducting negative campaigns. This makes him too dangerous to ignore in 2008.
Another strength of Gingrich's is that he always comes to the table with ideas - albeit bad ones like abolishing the Department of Education. But he does often come across as a forward thinking visionary. For example, his Contract with America was a stroke of genius that helped the Republicans capture Congress. So what if Republicans have since made a mockery of the Contract by abandoning central tenets, such as ethical governing, balanced budgets and term limits. It is too late now - the GOP has consolidated and solidified power, which is all Gingrich ever really wanted.
Gingrich is in a rare echelon of politicians - that includes Howard Dean and Hillary Rodham Clinton - that are both inspirational and radioactive. Say his name and it brings forth as much love as it does loathing. Like Dean and Clinton, who also harbor presidential aspirations, Gingrich is working hard to give himself a makeover.
He has a new book, "Winning the Future" that outlines what the GOP must do to expand its current congressional majority. According to The Washington Post, Gingrich also gave a presentation on Capitol Hill that attacked the "left" and offered strategy tips.
Newt's resurrection is beginning to pay dividends. The Post reports that the American Research Group conducted a poll of likely New Hampshire Republican primary voters and Gingrich came in second, with 14 percent, after Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who got 39 percent. This is significant, because a second place finish in New Hampshire would put Gingrich in a strong enough position to possibly knock McCain out of contention in socially conservative South Carolina, just as Bush had in 2000.
Although Gingrich has made a career out of talking about morality and ethics, his biggest liability is family values. In April 1980, Gingrich served his wife Jackie with divorce papers while she was recovering from cancer. Newt is now married for a third time, leaving his second wife Marianne for a blond congressional aide 23 years his junior. Gingrich's trail of slime is so long that I would need an entire newspaper, not just a column, to detail his moral transgressions.
Despite the sleaze factor, I believe Gingrich - if he adequately repents - could still emerge as the candidate of social conservatives. No one will better articulate their agenda and Gingrich's conservative competitors, such as Sen. Majority Leader Bill Frist
or Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, have little of Newt's charisma or political acumen.
We also must remember that social conservatives have a history of embracing immoral dirt bags such as Watergate felon Chuck Colson and Iran Contra bad boy Oliver North. The right even forgave televangelist Jimmy Swaggart after he got caught with a prostitute. If Gingrich can learn to say, "I have sinned" with enough conviction, Focus on the Family's James Dobson will likely forgive him.
Interestingly, Gingrich has teamed up with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., to work on solutions to America's health care crisis. This is clearly a symbiotic relationship where both politicians need each other to show that they can cross party lines, thus appealing to crucial swing voters who may still view them as lightening rods. Clinton is already making major strides towards mainstreaming her image and appears on the precipice of becoming a viable presidential contender.
However, while everyone is focused on Hillary's deft move to the center, they better keep an eye to the right. In this possible Gingrich vs. Clinton match up, we don't yet know who is the valedictorian and who is vanquished.
Please say it ain't so !!!!
Hilary...please, don't !!
Stay away from that back-stabbing slime-bag. I know that politics makes fer strange bed-fellows, but I'm afeared he'll leave ye with more than bed-bugs, gal. But, I guess you'll do what you think you have to. Just be careful of resurrecting dead horses: corpses carry some incredibly deadly bacteria, and I'd hate to see you die a horrible death from simple contagion.
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Newt ishuman garbage. Look what he did with his poor cancered wife.
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