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December 2, 2011

Once and Future Political Subject

Roy Meachum

Georgia’s Newt Gingrich made column fodder with his 1994 Contract with America, which helped him achieve the Speaker of the House of Representatives and spotted him high up on the list of presidential possible successors, next to the vice president. Ohio’s John Boehner holds the job now.


Now Newt is going for broke: the White House or nothing.


Herman Cain’s fading brought ex-Speaker Gingrich to the top of the polls, dominated by anybody-but-Mitt Romney sentiments. An Atlanta business woman, at last, “done in” the Godfather Pizza’s former CEO. Why the once leader of the surveys is waiting to throw in the apron tinged with herbed tomato sauce, I have no idea. She became at least the fourth female to suggest the African American candidate strayed too far from voters’ acceptable paths.


Of course, Mr. Gingrich had exactly the same problem: Noodling with a congressional staffer while his legal wife was wracked up with cancer — to the point that more than several conservative TV talking heads took him to task. (There’s still time for anyone to file, legally if not pragmatically.)


Some people are plain-out tired of the seemingly endless race to push Barack Obama and his photogenic family out into barricaded Pennsylvania Avenue, particularly we — and I count me among their numbers — are wearied of what ex-candidate Sarah Palin described as “flavor of the week.” The former vice presidential wannabe said that about Mr. Cain, but the label may be attached to Michele Bachmann and Mr. Romney himself.


When the ex-speaker from Georgia announced that he was interested in the 2012 elections, many people did not consider him serious. As The New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd mused Wednesday: “What does it say about the cuckoo G.O.P. primary that Gingrich is the hot new thing?”


On his way out of Congress, Barney Frank told the New York paper’s Abby Goodnough that the ex-speaker was “the greatest single factor” that pointed the way to present-day’s acrimonious political bickering. In his turn, former Massachusetts Governor Romney accused the new frontrunner of being a “lifelong politician.” The Mormon candidate points out his business experience as a desirable political attribute.


On the record, Newt Gingrich robbed U.S. taxpayers of $800 million in government salaries and pensions when he employed his majority strength to shut down the federal establishment. The man from Georgia bragged that the 1995 and 1996 closures were because President Bill Clinton assigned him and Republican Sen. Bob Dole back seats; Air Force One made a 25-hour flight to commemorate assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Yes, the ex-speaker’s ego is bloated.


It has been reported in various media that Mr. Gingrich accepted more than $1.5 million from Freddie Mac in the form of cash, yachting trips and eye-catching baubles; yet now he blames the agency along with Sister Fannie Mae for bringing on the longest recession since World War II.


Constantly reinventing himself to a higher intellectual level, Newt Gingrich stands among the husks of his former lives to reach for the GOP’s golden ring and he looks, at this point, probably sure to snag it, as one-by-one his competitors fade away – all except Mitt Romney who in later surges has outpolled Barack Obama.


Ms. Dowd compared the Republican candidates: “Romney is a mundane opportunist who reverses himself on core issues. Gingrich is a megalomaniacal opportunist who brazenly indulges in the same sins that he rails about to tear down political rivals.”


The New York Times columnist sums up my position exactly. On the other hand, the current president presides over the Oval Office as a froth-mouthed dog, according to many people.


Altogether, a fascinating tumult to observe for the next 11 months.


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