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Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014

Gingrich's unique qualities

Posted Tuesday, February 14, 2012, at 7:16 PM

There seems to be little, positive or negative, that you can say about Newt Gingrich and not be right. He is the classic politician, personifying the joke about a couple who put a shot glass of whiskey, a $5 bill and a Bible on the kitchen table and hid to wait for their son to come home, thinking that by his choice they would know if he'd be a drunkard, a businessman or a preacher. When he drank the whiskey, put the money in his pocket and walked off with the Bible under his arm, the father exclaimed, "Oh no, he's going to be a politician!"

Gingrich rose from being the adopted son of an Army officer to earn a doctoral degree, teach university history, win a seat in Congress and become U.S. speaker of the House. He led the Republicans' bid to control the House for the first time in 40 years, reforming welfare and balancing the budget, but within four years was rejected by his party for ethical and leadership deficiencies.

I had thought when he announced his candidacy that he was just an old racehorse who wanted one more lap around the track. But he has proved more formidable, pressing Romney for frontrunner's status and vowing to fight through the GOP National Convention Aug. 27-30. Gingrich is the only one of the Republicans you could call brilliant, yet as English poet John Dryden (1631-1700) wrote, "Great wits are sure to madness near allied and thin partitions do their bounds divide."

That's not to say Gingrich is crazy, just that his intellect can overpower his reason. The bigger problem is his wife Callista. I have seen this on less highfalutin scenes where middleaged and older candidates' appearances with young wives cost them votes everywhere they went. If people don't like a man's wife, he has trouble commanding the necessary moral authority.

Notwithstanding all that, Gingrich's unique qualities must be conceded. He has a place in history as one of the co-founders with President Reagan of the new Republican Party and he might be the only man who could break the logjam and address energy, immigration, Social Security and deficit spending. It could be like President Nixon's singular ability, as a lifelong communist-fighter, to effect the rapprochement with Red China in 1972.



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