Newt used to be the Speaker of the House, and he engineered the Republican Revolution in 1994 and by 1998 he'd resigned in disgrace because his brilliant plan to campaign entirely on LET'S IMPEACH BILL CLINTON was not actually very popular, especially after he cheated on his wife (not the wife he divorced while she was recovering from cancer surgery, that was his first wife).
Now 10 years and the Bush era have gone by, with Newt remaining quiet, but in this Republican leadership vacuum only he and Rush Limbaugh have any cred with anyone, because every elected Republican is more or less a joke.
Unlike the bomb-thrower Rush, Newt likes to build his reputation for smarts with impossibly boring and wonky (but nice-sounding) projects like a plan for "air-traffic modernization" involving space computers and the health care records computerization thing that is now an official Project Worth Caring About name-checked by the president. See, he is an ideas man! A wonk!
But those are the window dressing for what Newt is actually all about, which is Stunts. Stupid stunts instead of governing, or reform, or anything, really. This is the nihilism he pretends to decry in the "margins" of his party, but it is his bread-and-butter. The federal government shut-down. His proposal, in this piece, to suspend ALL TAXES for A YEAR instead of passing a stimulus bill. Remember "drill here, drill now, pay less"? That was him! It was also a bald-faced fucking lie! These are political ideas you put forth to get elected, not so actually solve problems once you are in charge. It is impossible for Newt to distance himself from the "base-rallying" shenanigans of the Bush years when they were just his own brilliant political ideas put into action in the grandest scale possible.
And, Matt Bai, we have always thought you covered Democrats in a particularly obnoxious and condescending way (and not only when they actually deserved it), so it is odd to see you accepting all of this completely 100% wrong nonsense at face value:
As Gingrich explained it to me back in November, just after the election, what he had been preaching to Cantor and other House Republicans was actually more radical than that. Gingrich, who likes to reduce the world to binary options, saw two basic paths for Obama: either he was going to cater to interest groups and his Congressional wing, or he was going to take a more centrist, more reformist approach to governing.
If he chose Door No. 1, then Republicans had to propose a thoughtful, alternate agenda of their own. "Screaming ‘No!' is just not a strategy," Gingrich told me. But he said he was betting that Obama would take the second approach - that he meant what he said about leaving the old doctrines behind and intended to govern in a way that might fundamentally realign American politics. And if that were the case, Gingrich reasoned, not only would it be politically unpalatable to stand in Obama's way, but chances were he would soon face serious fractures within his own party and would need to create a broader coalition of partners to get his initiatives through the Congress.
In other words, Gingrich wasn't suggesting to Cantor and the others that they should simply pretend to like Obama well enough. He was telling them that if Obama was going to move far enough in their direction, their best play - and maybe their only play - was actually to team up with him on legislation if they could.
Yes, and then Obama selected door number 2 and Newt led the charge to vote "no" on everything en masse and, in doing so, they didn't "find their voice" so much as enable the president to ignore them as obstructionists and proclaim that he gave it a shot but those dead-enders won't listen to reason.
So good luck saving the party, Newt.