Debra J. Saunders

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich believes he has invented a bold new way of running a political campaign. "I told somebody at one point, 'This is like watching (Sam) Walton or (Ray) Kroc develop Wal-Mart and McDonald's,'" Gingrich told the authors of "Playbook 2012: The Right Fights Back." The secret ingredient: Newt.

Before him, Herman Cain and Rep. Michele Bachmann also ran successful insurgent campaigns -- until their bubbles burst. But Gingrich added his own innovation to the model: He soared in the polls months after most of his campaign staff quit because the former speaker and his wife, Callista, insisted on taking a two-week cruise off Greece and Turkey when serious candidates were slogging through Iowa and New Hampshire.

It's true that in the GOP debates, Gingrich has been at the top of his game. On Saturday in Iowa, there was his quick rejoinder after former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney referred to Gingrich as a career politician. "The only reason you didn't become a career politician is you lost to Teddy Kennedy in 1994," the Newter shot back.

At another debate, when Rep. Ron Paul said he opposed the Patriot Act and scolded that existing law already allowed prosecutors to convict and punish Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, Gingrich countered, "Timothy McVeigh succeeded. That's the whole point."

And: "I don't want a law that says, 'After we lose a major American city, we're sure going to come and find you.' I want a law that says, 'You try to take out an American city, we're going to stop you.'"

It's such blunt talk that sets Gingrich apart from the painstakingly prepped Romney. Romney has been polished and presidential in all of the GOP debates, but Gingrich, at times, has been on fire.

Thus, Newtophiles relish the prospect of their happy warrior's taking on President Barack Obama. The base doesn't think about what the Democrats could do back to Gingrich -- especially offstage.

Obama, after all, is president. Yet he does not compare himself to Walton, Kroc, Ronald Reagan, Charles de Gaulle, the Duke of Wellington and the two Presidents Roosevelt. Only Gingrich does that.

During his moments in a 90-minute debate, the Newt Show can be entertaining. But when you pull back the curtain, you see a career capped with dazzling successes -- followed by easily avoidable disasters stoked by Gingrich's supersize ego.

In 1995, he became the first GOP speaker of the House in 40 years. In 1997, he became the first speaker ever to be reprimanded and fined a record $300,000. In 1999, he became a former House speaker.

By 1999, Republicans were worn-out; they replaced Gingrich with Denny Hastert. Former Rep. Jim Talent, now a Romney supporter, told Politico that when Gingrich was speaker, members would have to check the morning newspaper to see what he "had said that you have to clean up in your own district."

So far this year, Gingrich has had to answer for Newt Inc.'s $1 million-plus haul from mortgage giant Freddie Mac, his Greek cruise and his slam against Rep. Paul Ryan's Medicare reform as "right-wing social engineering."

And that list doesn't begin to touch his Napoleonic, Rooseveltian, Wal-Mart-ian, Gaullist and Reaganite McEgo.


Debra J. Saunders


 
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