You may have seen this already—it’s been the wallpaper at MSNBC for days—but le mot juste is juste that:
Ron Paul is right, of course: Newt Gingrich is a serial hypocrite and a vicious one at that. (What I like best about the ad is how each phrase flashed on screen fades at the end, suggesting that Newt, like Cain, Perry et al. will, too.) But he’s here now, his numbers are busting out just as the holidays eclipse politics until the January 3 Iowa caucuses, and that leaves a lot of us—Dems and moderates, naturally, but also most of Newt’s former colleagues in movement conservatism—absolutely dumbstruck.
Gingrich, if you remember,was not only fired as Speaker of the House by his own party, but became the face of an intransigent and bullying faction so full of its own sense of self-importance that he was depicted on the cover of the New York Daily News as a wailing, red-faced baby. And among Republican leaders, if not the base, that’s still how Newt registers. Former New Hampshire governor John Sununu, a Romney surrogate, said this morning, “I don’t think Newt Gingrich cares about conservative principles. He cares about Newt Gingrich.”
And while Gingrich now says, “I’m much more mature than I was as Speaker” (being third in line under the Constitution for the presidency being a mere break-in cruise for Newt’s personal development), there’s really very little to show of a “New Newt.” For every moment of restraint he’s displayed during a debate, like saying the party of family values shouldn’t break up immigrant families who’ve been here for a quarter-century, there’s been an equally outlandish comment on the trail, like suggesting that poor children work as school janitors or that poor kids have never known anyone who works for a living (!?!).
But maybe we shouldn’t be completely shocked at Gingrich’s rise. After all, today’s tantrum-throwing, hostage-taking Republican Party was fostered by behavior like Newt’s—acting like a scheming pro wrestler, screaming as he puts weight on one leg or dripping ketchup from a nonexistent wound, is now second nature to the GOP. They’re like people raised on a diet of green bell peppers who, over the course of the last two decades, have slowly been adding jalapeños to the sauce until nothing short of pepper spray even merits a red-hot warning. By now, they’re so used to Newt’s exaggerated howling they can’t hear anything else—especially not poor Mitt’s marble-mouthed me-tooism.