Gingrich's Real Problem

Opposition researchers love someone like Newt Gingrich. His long career is filled with outrageous statements and deeds. But, people are less inclined to judge someone based on events from long ago when there is no contemporary evidence of similar misdeeds. Yes, Gingrich was the first Speaker to have to shell out $300,000 in fines on account of an ethics violation that was rendered by a large bipartisan majority. But, that was a long time ago.

Gingrich real problem is different. The ethics charge matters, as does the bizarre fact that he received so much money - $1.6 million - from Freddie Mac while subsequently blaming Freddie and Fannie for the meltdown and ranting against the culture of Washington that protected them. (By the way, as an historian, I would have been happy to consult with Freddie Mac for, say, $1 million.) What both incidents demonstrate is a sense that the normal rules of politics don't apply to him because he is a genius, or uniquely informed about the need for transofrmational leadership, or a font of ideas or, whatever. And, when he tries to explain or justify the contradictions in hiw own life, he only digs himself deeper, as in suggesting that the $1.6 million was no big deal because he was earning $60,000 per speech at the time.

You may recall the movie "Frost/Nixon." The key moment comes when Nixon says to Frost, "What I am saying is that if the President does it, it is not illegal." That is Gingrich's flaw, the belief that if he does something, it must be okay because he is the one doing it. It is a fatal flaw.

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