Newt Gingrich is the most enigmatic politician of our time
When the political annals of these times are written, the name of Newt Gingrich will be filed under such words as “puzzling,” “bewildering,” “confounding” and “inexplicable.”
Gingrich has more gray matter between his ears than most of his political contemporaries. He’s authored more books than the typical Republican has even read. But for all his brilliance, he’s been his own worst enemy and has allowed himself to emulate his party’s cheapest right-wing tricks.
Worse yet, by hanging around past his prime — he’ll be 74 in June — Newt has become a parody of himself. Except for his fairly regular appearances on Fox News Channel, he’s rarely seen on television anymore. He’s yesterday’s news. He had been mentioned as a potential candidate for a Cabinet post in the Trump administration, but nobody with any political moxie actually believed that nonsense.
Gingrich became a Republican superstar in the 1990s when he wrote the so-called Contract With America and led his party to a stunning resurgence in Congress. But it all came to naught when he mishandled the impeachment of President Bill Clinton and then was hounded out of Congress amid ethical lapses of his own.
Still, Newt wasn’t allowed himself to be gone for good. He toyed with running for president in 2008, and actually ran in the Republican primaries of 2012, but came up empty in the end. Since then, he’s increasingly become mostly irrelevant, except for his weak efforts to attach himself to the Donald Trump phenomenon.
To me, the one misadventure on Gingrich’s part that said the most about his lack of character came during the holiday season of 2011. It was all the fashion among right-wingers in those days to question Barack Obama’s Americanism and even his Christianity. The message was that this exotic black president was not really one of us. Newt couldn’t resist the temptation to get in on the fun.
One day in December, Gingrich solemnly declared that he had learned, after days of research into the matter, that Obama had formally forbidden all employees of the federal government to use the greeting “Merry Christmas.”
The claim was easily disproved, and Obama went on to win a second term as president in the following year.
Today, Obama is a widely respected former president, and Gingrich is a second-rate nuisance on Fox News — not really a has-been so much as a never-really-was, as least in terms of presidential politics.
When Newt is finally dead and gone, they should make a movie of his remarkable life. He’s been a man of considerable intellectual power, but he’s wasted it all on egotistical pursuits and ill-considered imitation of the worst elements of his Republican Party. It’s a hell of a good story.