Eye of newt … tongue of dog
The quest for the Republican Presidential nomination is becoming like one of those circus cars—you just can’t believe how many clowns keep coming out. (You can’t say you weren’t warned, however.)
The latest guy with the floppy shoes and painted face is none other than Time’s 1995 Man of the Year. If sharing a prestigious award with the likes of Charles Lindbergh, Adolph Hitler, Josef Stalin and the Ayatullah Khomeini weren’t enough to get you noticed in this beauty contest, it probably can’t hurt that he was also the first Speaker of the House to be reprimanded for ethical violations.
It was not a moment too soon. With Donald Trump withdrawing from the race so that he could concentrate on the declining ratings of his “reality” comedy, there would have been a void among the ranks of the contenders for that coveted demographic, the three-time married two-timer. And Newton Leroy Gingrich filled this void like nature encountering a vacuum. In fact, the main parts of his biography that most people remember are:
- As a teenager he married his former geometry teacher (W1), 7 years his senior.
- While married to W1 he had an affair with W2.
- W1 said that while she was in the hospital for removal of a tumor, he brought divorce papers for her to sign.
- The marriage to W2 evidently was not made in heaven either, since he conducted an extramarital affair with W3, 23 years his junior.
- In fact, that affair took place during the lurid impeachment proceedings he championed. The proceedings, which as far as most Americans were concerned had more information than anyone needed to know about the uses of cigars, led to Gingrich’s rejection by the public.
- Nonetheless he divorced W2 and married W3.
Perhaps Gingrich believes that the modern Republican Party requires infidelity in its nominee, as anyone who remembers the last nominee might conclude. (Actually, “infidelity” is insufficient to describe the behavior of Gingrich and McCain. They punctuated their betrayals with the kind of brutishness that is usually reserved for the self-centered who are so callow that they have difficulty managing their own affairs.)
Of course, Donald Trump was not the one-time favorite of one in five self-described Republicans simply because he had multiple wives. If that were all, Rudy Giuliani could step in and pick up the banner. Giuliani after all has the virtue of being another loud-mouthed self-promoter with some of the other endearing traits of Mr. Trump.
You could argue that we can be more comfortable with Mr. Gingrich’s re-marriages because, presumably, as a recent convert to the Church of Rome, we have confidence that the Church examined the circumstances of his previous two marriages and found them to have been no lasting union in the eyes of God. Or perhaps, the God of Rome is not the God of Baptists. However that might be, we can be assured that in Heaven, Newt Gingrich won’t have three wives, like husbands in the Heaven of a couple of other Republican candidates we could name (but won’t because this is not the place to bash Mormons).
No, Gingrich brings to the table another essential feature of the Donald phenomenon: the glib lie. Just as Trump would blurt out whatever came into his head at the moment, Gingrich lets fly the most absurd insinuations with the purpose of appealing to his base’s fears and hatreds. It’s true that Trump was at least more spontaneous about his falsehoods. When he told Meredith Vieira that he had “people” in Hawaii looking into the President’s birth experience and “they cannot believe what they’re finding,” the thought had undoubtedly struck him for the first time as he was sitting there. To Mr. Trump it’s not a lie if it’s plausible or if it could happen some time in the future.
Gingrich on the other hand crafts his falsehoods in secret and attentively dresses them with the kind of silken smoothness that only a practiced liar (e.g., someone who believes he can conduct long-term affairs without his wife finding out) can devise. Thus, when he took time out from reviewing political thrillers for amazon.com to read the hack Dinesh D’Souza, he was able to conceive a way to clothe the deceit of the modern right-wing with the bigotry of its ignorant disciples and the polite language of the discourse that takes place in an exclusive gentlemen’s club. It gave him what he calls a “stunning insight.” So of course he laid it out in the organ of polite falsehoods, The National Review:
“What if [Obama] is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together [his actions]?” Gingrich asks. “That is the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior.”
“This is a person who is fundamentally out of touch with how the world works, who happened to have played a wonderful con, as a result of which he is now president,” Gingrich tells us.
Was this serious analysis? Of course not; it was not intended to be. Does he care that it is obvious to everyone that it was designed to convey a racist lie? No, Gingrich is auditioning. He is filling the void of a departed clown, so he has to show how grotesque he is willing to become. He wants to show that he is at least willing to dress up racist falsehoods in the clothing of a deep thinker. Anyway, the big lie is not a liability to the New Republican Party. Wasn’t this the party that told us of the WMDs and mushroom cloud that Iraq was preparing? And warned us against Death Panels? That once championed the Laffer Curves (which Gingrich nostalgically wants us to remember)?
His more recent remark that Obama is a “food stamp president,” is not quite as artfully crafted. Its hate-filled racism is palpable. But let’s not forget, he was talking to his fellow Georgia Republicans. It was a home-coming. He had to talk the language of his core constituents, if only for a moment.
So when George Will looks in horror at the puerile lies of this practiced liar, the response is: George, have you not been paying attention? This is an integral part of the New GOP. And it’s nothing more than the homespun version of the philosophy of its genial founder, who coined such phrases as “strapping young buck” and “welfare queens” and indulged in such theorizing as “fascism was really the basis for the New Deal” and “the minimum wage has caused more misery and unemployment than anything since the Great Depression.” That’s why every Republican now must answer to these people:
And really, George, are facts expendable among Republicans only when you want to make a point?