For there are only two options for conservatives in the liberal media: evil or stupid. The brilliance of Nixon and Gingrich has never been questioned, even by their worst enemies; they have been assumed from their earliest days to be evil. (Only George W. Bush managed to be portrayed as both.)
Mr. Meacham is correct that Nixon clashed with the media, (“you don't have Nixon to kick around any more…”), but, as with Gingrich, it was no mere tactic. Rather, it was the result of a genuine disconnect between the average American and the journalist class. Is there no less a silent majority today? Am I the only one who thinks that the Occupy Wall Street crowd is getting a disproportionate amount of airtime?
Both men were genuinely self-made, wild success stories of what can happen in this country. Their ambition was unrivaled, and ultimately too much for them. Nixon broke the law to get a second term, even when it was completely unnecessary to do so; he likely would have won the election even without having broken into the Watergate, but such was his desire to remain in office that he gave in to the temptation to abuse his power.
Gingrich, too, having climbed vertiginous heights, found himself unable to resist his lower impulses and compromised on the very values that got him into politics. Once elected Speaker, his main concern became not, “defining civilization,” as his grandiose doodling (for even his doodling is grandiose) make his top mission, but a permanent majority for the Republican Party. And as we all know, there is a vast difference between the Republican Party and the conservative movement.
Gingrich and his supporters keep telling us that his real value as a nominee is that he could beat President Obama in a debate. Something tells me that, like in 1960, if you were to watch it on television, you might pick Obama, and if you were to listen on the radio, you would pick Gingrich. We all know how that turned out before.
Must everyone put on a Ronald Reagan smile now? Or is there any room left for the eccentric geniuses, for darker heroes? Gingrich’s resurrection, much like Nixon’s in 1968, shows us that there are people whom they represent. They’re only silent sometimes.