Whether courting the Religious Right, converting to Catholicism, clamoring to “drill here now,” threatening North Korea, or lighting up the Fox News Channel with a steady stream of blather, the more things change for the former House Speaker, the more they remain the same.
In your heart of hearts, you know that only you can save the rapidly declining fortunes of the Republican Party; not John McCain, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, Joe the Plumber, or even Rush Limbaugh. To save the Party, you will do and say whatever it takes. If you need to go on bended-knee to Dr. James Dobson, and publicly acknowledge on his radio program that you have not always walked the straight and narrow, you’ll do that. If you have to align yourself with the likes of the American Family Association’s Donald Wildmon, you’ll do that. If you need to call out gays, you’ll do that.
The Internet is chock full of stories about your comings and goings. Here’s a piece about you jumping on the Tax Day Tea Party bandwagon. There’s a host of stories about your conversion to Catholicism.
You’re a 24/7 op-ed machine, a news cycle unto yourself as you breathlessly pass out opinions on Sunday morning network news shows or as a regular contributor to the Fox News Channel.
No one would accuse you of being a clothes hound or being coifed stylishly. You aren’t cut; no poster child for physical fitness. You tend to be on the rather schlubby side of the species. You’ve been a sore winner and a sore loser.
And, to cap it off, the public has never really liked you.
You’re Newt Gingrich and you’re thinking that it is now your time.
These days, Gingrich is all about building infrastructure. Not in the sense of advocating the building of roads and bridges; he’s more about building connections to as many sectors of the Republican Party as he can. In addition to multiple television appearances, in late March, “President Obama, and the Future of American Freedom” was the title of his lecture at Colgate University. He also recently spoke with college Republicans at the College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, Missouri.
In one of his essential and always illuminating “A Thousand words About Our Culture” columns for Esquire, Stephen Marche wrote that “the departure of W” signals that “the era of the douchebag is over.” Marche, surveying the landscape for the type of “tough guy” that can lead us out of the financial wasteland and into a dare-we-say-it brighter future, pointed out that “in a recent op-ed for The New York Times, Ron Chernow offered Ferdinard Pecora, the cigar-chomping son of a Sicilian cobbler who investigated corrupt financial titans after the 1929 crash, as a model for what Wall Street needs now. Pecora belonged to an even grander American tradition, though, a tradition older than the 20th century even, dating from George Washington kicking the British out of the colonies: Find the toughest son of a bitch you can to get rid of all the douchebags. This time, hopefully, it will be once and for all.”
In matters of character, family values, and affairs of the heart, Gingrich has always been more douchebag than tough guy. As Max Blumenthal recently reported, in the late 1990s, after Gingrich political strategies failed dismally, he “promptly … dump[ed] his second wife, Marianne Ginther. He announced his intention to divorce her just as he had done with his first wife, Jackie Battley — while she was lying in a hospital bed, immobilized after a major medical procedure. (Battley was recovering from cancer surgery; Ginther’s appendix had ruptured). He never bothered to tell his wife in person that he was leaving her for another woman. He called her on the phone, delivered the news and hung up.”
Oddly enough, for someone known for shooting from the lip on just about everything, Gingrich has been noticeably silent about his conversion to Catholicism, although that did not stop him from criticizing the University of Notre Dame for inviting President Barack Obama to speak at its commencement, saying that Obama’s “policies are so anti-Catholic values.”
Gingrich who previously had identified as a Baptist, has evidently decided to wait a while before talking openly about his personal conversion. In an interview with OneNewsNow, a news service affiliated with Donald Wildmon’s American Family Association, Gingrich said that he hasn’t “talked about this much in public, and I’m not going to for at least six months or a year, but I will say that I found myself deeply comforted, and a deep sense of belonging and of finding a peace in my soul in a way that I just found very, very powerful.”
Gingrich of course is open-mouthed about just about everything else. Before North Korea’s failed rocket launch, he told Fox News Channel’s Greta Van Susteren that he “would use whatever methods that were necessary for the missile never to be launched.”
After the launch, on “Fox News Sunday,” he said: “We do not appreciate the scale of threat that is evolving on the planet, and North Korea is a totally irresponsible dictatorship run by a person who is clearly out of touch with reality. One morning, just like 9/11, there’s going to be a disaster, and people are going to look around and say, ‘Gosh, why didn’t anyone think of that?’ Well, I’m telling you the time to think about it’s before the disaster, not afterwards.”
Those words were eerily reminiscent of comments he made during the summer of 2006 when he said that the Israeli/Hezbollah conflict was an indicator that we were involved in “World War III.” His tough guy solution: “Israel wouldn’t leave southern Lebanon as long as there was a single missile there. I would go in and clean them all out and I would announce that any Iranian airplane trying to bring missiles to re-supply them would be shot down. This idea that we have this one-sided war where the other team gets to plan how to kill us and we get to talk, is nuts.”
Gingrich also pointed out that the use of the term “World War III” could galvanize public support for Republican Party candidates by re-energizing the base of the Party. The message, he said, is “okay, if we’re in the third world war, which side do you think should win?”
As Atlanta Journal Constitution columnist Jay Bookman recently pointed out, Gingrich “is a fan of ‘counterfactual history,’ the what-if stories that try to imagine what might have happened had events taken a slightly different course or leaders made a slightly different decision.” Amongst his books are those that ask “what if the Confederates had won at Gettysburg? [and] what if the Japanese had followed up the attack on Pearl Harbor more aggressively?”
So, Bookman asks, what if Gingrich had been elected president last November? “Well,” Bookman wrote, “hundreds of thousands of South Koreans and thousands of U.S. soldiers would probably be dead, much of Seoul would be a smoldering ruin, and an already overstretched U.S. military would be scrambling trying to respond to a desperate situation on the Korean Peninsula, with a million-man North Korean military on the move.”
Gingrich mimics Cheney: CNN reported that in an online Q&A session with Politico, Gingrich was asked: “Do you agree with Dick Cheney’s assessment that we are less safe under the Obama administration?” Gingrich: “Dick Cheney is clearly right in saying that between the Court decisions about terrorists and the administration’s [sic] actions the United States is running greater risks of getting attacked than we were under President Bush.”