I suppose 1994 is really history rather than a recent reference point but, regardless, we are talking about Newt Gingrich and who is Newt if divorced from 1994?
For those of you unfamiliar with Newt's political biography, he led the 1994 Republican Revolution in Congress and, in the process, became the Speaker of the House--a much coveted and influential position. From his gavel, he guided the Republicans' efforts to combat liberal advancements in policy and became the icon of anti-Democratic, anti-Liberal, and anti-Bill Clinton sentiment. Oh and he led the Congressional call against Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky incident--despite his own marital indiscretions and questionable morals on a host of private matters.
Despite being a prominent politician in Washington for two decades, today Gingrich's name is rarely associated with entrenched Washington politics. For the last decade, Gingrich has attempted to give himself a much needed make-over or face-lift; he has succeeded, despite it being a palpable effort at distortion.
There is an entire generation of young Americans--of voting age--who are largely unfamiliar with this rotund figure. Gingrich ceased to be a prominent politician around 1998 and, in the intervening thirteen years, has been enabled to present himself as an elder-statesman of sorts, commenting on the day's events from an intellectual and detached manner. These young Americans are probably blissfully unaware of Gingrich's "former life" as a career politician, dedicated to protecting special interests. Let us not forget his biography.
Newt is a trained academic, holding a Ph.D. in history, and he is unquestionably smart. He is articulate, clear, concise, and methodical in his policy proposals and analyses of troublesome areas in American political culture. He, too, has become increasingly more disciplined in his utterances. Gingrich had a habit of playing a little too loose with rhetoric; at times, his commentary bordered on bellicose. His performance during the last few debates has revealed a more disciplined technique. I wonder who should be credited for this?
As a WaPo article notes, the former Speaker of the House has enjoyed a surge in popularity, mounting a notable challenge to seemingly immovable Mitt Romney. Romney and his camp have conceded--initially implicitly and now explicitly--that Gingrich cannot be summarily dismissed or categorically ignored. One particular Romney adviser opined that "it's going to be a process" to dismantle Gingrich's mounting campaign.
I am surely curious to know what this "process" will involve. How does the Romney camp expect to stem the tide of "Gingrichmania"? I use "mania" because support for him is manic.
The same article notes that Romney, in a recent interview, "hinted that he now sees Gingrich as a threat." Well, of course. Interesting, too, that just a month ago Gingrich was being seen as largely a "non-issue."
Or, will Newt Gingrich eventually deal a blow to his own campaign, much like Perry has done to his? To my thinking, Newt continues to be his own worst enemy and his past is not easily dismissible.
If Newt continues to enjoy success ahead of the Iowa caucus on January 3, then maybe the nuggets from his past will be reexamined. In the meantime, we have our hands full, examining the Godfather.