Disclaimer: The author of this column is in NO WAY advocating for the Presidency of Newt Gingrich. He is a delusional narcissist of epic proportions, whose previous House “leadership” provided ample 1990s evidence that he shouldn’t be trusted to make decisions about where to order takeout (Tiffany to-go boxes anyone?) let alone guide the nation. And yet….
“But for those tempted to once again predict the speedy collapse of his campaign, consider yourselves forewarned. I’ve known this guy long enough to realize that the only three species destined to survive a nuclear holocaust will be cockroaches, Cher and Newton Leroy Gingrich.”
– Joe Scarborough, Politico, 1/27/2012
In a 2012 Republican Presidential campaign that will be forever remembered for its absurdity, it is still easy to pinpoint the most amusing candidate. This year’s election is deadly serious, with so many elements of our social, political and economic fabric at stake. The nation’s middle class has been besieged from all sides for the better part of 35 years. Whichever party assumes control of the legislative and executive branches of government this fall will determine whether America backslides toward the one percent-friendly policies of George W. Bush, or continues the incremental change momentum the POTUS has painstakingly secured.
In a different field of Republican contenders, I might feel considerable anxiety. Obama is vulnerable on a number of fronts: some real (health care reform), some imagined (see accusations of “European-style socialism”). There is a long way to go, and many national mood shifts to expect, before the polls open in November. And yet, given the uncanny ability of GOP hopefuls to stick their feet in sewage or exhibit double-take ignorance, this appears to be the President’s contest to lose.
This state of affairs affords me the latitude to sit back and admire the utter chutzpah of Newt Gingrich. It is clear by now that even amongst members of his own party, few believed Mr. Gingrich to be a viable contender when he announced his candidacy in May of last year. However Newt has demonstrated for over 25 years that he is Washington’s answer to the Playskool Weeble, and here were are in 2012 waiting with bated breath. The suspense has been heightened by Mitt Romney’s failure to create a personality or a cognitive weigh station that might prevent him from blurting out his indifference toward the poor. Still let’s not take anything away from Gingrich.
Because really in another context, Newt Gingrich’s immunity to poll numbers, conventional wisdom and the agenda of his own party would be quite admirable. Newt possesses the kind of single-minded determination Democrats could only dream of last summer. While enduring the tragic debt ceiling debate and the added caveat of “Yes, we can…but only if John Boehner says so,” many liberals may have yearned for a little of that Gingrich magic, the ability to barrel through roadblocks like so many pieces of balsa wood.
I have lost count of how many times Newty has come back from the dead, and though his smug delusions of grandeur are often tough to swallow, I would argue that it is his complete indifference to popular support that has gotten him this far. With an overflowing reservoir of self-regard, he simply doesn’t need anyone’s love.
Whatever one’s opinion of Gingrich, I wouldn’t have minded a little more indifference toward Gallup from the Obama team subsequent to the 2008 inauguration. A eye toward the play in Poughkeepsie has, on occasion, led to much dithering and inertia. Like him or not (most of us not), you don’t run that risk with Newt.
Late-January’s State of the Union address signaled the possibility of a messaging pivot from the White House. But the President’s inner circle needs to do a lot more than just issue confident statements. After a bruising three years, and an achingly slow vindication of policy, they need to display some real swagger. At the risk of inviting mountains of hate mail, may I suggest an internal mantra for the re-election team? WWND. What Would Newt Do?