Newt Gingrich’s Last Grasp

If it happens that you wish to be President and that your name is Newt Gingrich, then it’s a pity for you that the common man has such a ready nose for the rank stench of human hypocrisy.

Just in time for the election cycle, Mr. Gingrich has embraced the graces of the Catholic God, chief among them forgiveness. One is reminded of the Latin derivation of the word “candidate” as he today presents himself shimmering white, washed clean of his past indiscretions:

There’s no question at times of my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate. And what I can tell you is that when I did things that were wrong, I wasn’t trapped in situation ethics. I was doing things that were wrong, and yet, I was doing them. I found that I felt compelled to seek God’s forgiveness. Not God’s understanding, but God’s forgiveness. I do believe in a forgiving God. And I think most people, deep down in their hearts, hope there’s a forgiving God.

How marvellously convenient. The “inappropriate things that happened” were of course his serial infidelities, and it was future wife number three, with whom he was having an affair while pursuing Bill Clinton over his tawdry indiscretions, who is the spur behind Gingrich’s recent entry into the Roman flock.

Almost from the very beginning of his present career, Newt Gingrich has exploited the demagoguery of the ethics witch hunt. In the 1980s, he hounded Gerry Studds, Dan Crane, and Jim Wright, and in the 1990s it was Clinton. It is a matter of public record that in each instance Gingrich was discovered guilty of precisely the ethical violations for which he pursued others: questionable book deals, sexual indiscretion, dubious financial transactions — he’s played the game from home plate to outfield.

His career’s zenith arrived in 1994 when, as Speaker of the House, he led the triumphant GOP of the 104th Congress. It has been a long decline since, and even many of his own admirers appear to believe his time has passed. The man who in 1994 cultivated the reputation of a public intellectual, mostly by citing and fawning over the third-rate writers and “futurists”Alvin and Heidi Toffler, was in 2010 doing much the same but over the increasingly eccentric Dinesh D’Souza. It was doubtless a low point on the Gingrich trajectory when this would-be president expanded upon D’Souza’s weird thesis, dissecting Barack Obama as a Kenyan tribalist with a congenital inability even to think like an American:

I think he worked very hard at being a person who is normal, reasonable, moderate, bipartisan, transparent, accommodating — none of which was true. In the Alinksy tradition, he was being the person he needed to be in order to achieve the position he needed to achieve . . . He was authentically dishonest.

How queer that this is about the best description of Newt Gingrich one could fashion. Even the reference to Saul Alinsky, which is of course meant to be an insult, reminds one of Gingrich’s preposterous affectation of being an agent of the grassroots. William F. Buckley had to concede Alinsky’s genius, and it’s hard to imagine him, or any other credible and intelligent Conservative, crediting Gingrich in a manner likewise.

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