I was going to wait until next week to write about the Newt Gingrich boomlet, but given the speed with which the keys to the Republican presidential clown car are being passed on that might be too late.
As predictably as Gingrich then Donald Trump then Michele Bachmann then Rick Perry and now Herman Cain went and are going down, Gingrich is now neck and neck or slightly ahead of Mitt Romney in most polls despite being badly damaged goods. By this . . . er, logic, Trump should be primping for his second boomlet.
The reason for Newt Redux is simple: The Tea Partiers who have hijacked the Grand Old Party are in desperation mode as it becomes increasingly apparent that the former Massachusetts governor, whom they view as a moderate in conservative drag and a member of a religious cult, to boot, has an increasingly better shot at the nomination. This is because the more uncommitted voters who might not want to see Barack Obama re-elected are starting to pay attention to what the nuttier and dumber candidates are saying and they don’t like what they’re hearing.
Predictably, only milliseconds after Gingrich’s surge was adjudged as real by the punditocracy, the latest of a long line of scandals broke:
Gingrich, for whom the truth always has been a malleable commodity, had said last week during one of the never-ending presidential debates that he had made a mere $300,000 in consulting fees from two contracts with Freddie Mac, the federal mortgage company that played a starring role in the housing industry collapse. The real figure, according to two people familiar with the arrangement, was between $1.6 million and $1.8 million, or roughly three to four times larger than the $500,000 line of credit that third wife Callista has at Tiffany’s as the result of her influential position as a congressional committee staffer.
Some months ago former Gingrich press secretary Rich Galen likened Gingrich’s candidacy to “an airliner with no wings, no engines, and no landing gear” because the candidate was more interested in vacationing with his love muffin on a Greek isle than stumping in Iowa. Now Gingrich has gotten his second wind. This is not because he is preferable to others in the field but simply by default, and it is taking an amazing case of willful amnesia for that to happen.
Back in May — which seems like light years ago given the peregrinations of the Republican field — Tea Partiers suffered a collective nervous breakdown when Gingrich assailed Tea Party darling Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan as “right-wing social engineering” and then committed double heresy by adding that “all of us have a responsibility to pay for health care.” As a matter of fact, in the mid-1990s, Gingrich argued in favor of requiring Americans to buy health coverage, which is the centerpiece of ObamaCare.
Then there is the matter of Gingrich’s serial infidelities, which suddenly seem to matter less than Cain’s alleged serial sexual harassing. Gingrich has another problem as well: He has little money, his campaign organization is a Potemkin village, and it is difficult to imagine him running a real let alone credible campaign if he were to steal the nomination.
Perhaps the most actute analysis of who Gingrich really is comes from think tanker John McWhorter:
“Gingrich may be a master of academic exercises — his ability to make bookish references and formulate long sentences demonstrate as much — but that does not mean he knows what he is talking about.
“Gingrich’s patterns of speech are largely analytically acute, and sometimes aesthetically interesting, but substantively, they are very often lacking. Language is supposed to be a package that carries substance, but Gingrich is sometimes so pleased with his uninterrupted stream of words, that he mistakes it for an actual flow of ideas.”
And so the ultimate insider, who is even more ideologically compromised than Romney, has become the new darling of the ultimate outsiders. At least for now.