Out of elective politics for over a decade, dithering on the sidelines like a moody Southern-fried Hamlet, Newt Gingrich jumped back into the ring announcing plans to run for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. And for every analyst and every pundit and every satirist everywhere, allow me to say: Hooray! Thank you, kind sir. May I have another?
His re-entrance onto center stage is welcome on many fronts. First off, the guy’s name is Newt. Never in the annals of political mockery have we had the chance to make herpetological jokes before or after. And rest assured we will avail ourselves of the opportunity. Expect the phrase “Lizard-Boy” to reassume a central role in the national lexicon soon.
Then there’s his penchant for routinely ratcheting the rhetoric up past eleven. Hundred. Our recent precipitous plunge into polarization can easily be traced to Gingrich’s “scorched-earth” ascension in the early ‘90s. There are no honorable opponents in Newt World, only despicable traitors. Each disagreement, a nuclear war. And anybody who isn’t a white male Christian poses a major threat to democracy as we know it and should be vaporized only after having his knees broken as an example.
Gingrich has said that President Obama may be “so outside our comprehension” that his policies can be fathomed “only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior.” Also: “I think there is a gay and secular fascism in this country that wants to impose its will on the rest of us, is prepared to use violence, to use harassment. I think it is prepared to use the government if it can get control of it. I think that it is a very dangerous threat to anybody who believes in traditional religion.” He’s a trash-talking intellectual poseur with the subtlety of a hippo in a tutu.
The good news for Gingrich is that he ranks very high in recognition polls. The bad news for Gingrich is that he ranks very high in recognition polls. The founder and spokesman of Renewing American Leadership comes equipped with more baggage than a Carnival Cruise liner taking on the contents of two stranded sister ships. Might be three people tops in the country whose opinions of the former Speaker of the House haven’t solidified like frozen chicken grease.
Love him or hate him, there’s no in-between; and that includes his own party. To some Republicans, he’s Moses who led them out of the desert to the promised land of taking back the House in ‘94, for the first time in 40 years. To others he’s Voldemort. Sparking an ill-fated government shutdown then resigning under a cloud of ethics violations; some still refer to him as “He Who Must Not Be Named.”
Dr. Newton Leroy Gingrich is generally considered an ideas man. Not good ideas necessarily, but big ideas. Sometimes even Fox News wonders if he’s “wildly over the top.” Also odd ideas, like claiming his adulterous behavior somehow stemmed from loving his country too darn much. So essentially, he did to two mistresses what he wanted to do to us. Thanks, ladies. And yet, he attracts evangelical followers with his traditional family values platform. And having three wives just proves he’s Extra Traditional.
Gingrich can’t win, and if he’s half as smart as he thinks he is, he has to know that. So, why is he running? To what end? Increased face-time to sell more of his twenty-plus books? Can’t get enough of the sound of his own voice? Or is his responsibility simply to throw bombs at all the major edifices and let Mitt Romney waltz through the detritus unscathed? The only problem is, like sweaty nitroglycerine, Mr. Gingrich is highly charged and unpredictable. A human IED. Run. Newt. Run.