Paul Greenberg

At press time, the leading non-Romney in the Republican presidential race was Newt Gingrich. It's not easy keeping up with who holds that distinction, it changes so rapidly. Is it Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry or Herman Cain today? Ring around the rosie, they all tend to fall down once they're closely examined. For the moment it's Newt. (It's hard to resist calling so familiar a figure on the American celebrity/scandal scene by his first name.)

The former speaker and just about everything else is a master of the snappy comeback. Also the political kind. Call him this year's Comeback Kid. You just can't keep some pols down; they're like one of those roly-poly dolls with a weighted base you can't knock over; they spring right back up. Sort of like Johnson grass in the summer.

All this talk about The New Gingrich, coupled with his rise in the ever-fickle polls, brings to mind the recurrent New Nixon who was always appearing in the 1950s and '60s. Despite the regular makeovers, he remained the Old Nixon, as the nation discovered in the 1970s. He would resign as president in 1974 -- just in time to avoid being impeached. Even now he reappears from time to time; his lawyer-answers before the grand jury investigating Watergate can be read in the transcript just released as part of the historical record. You have to imagine the gravelly voice. It's all enough to bring back an era nobody should want brought back.

It'll be interesting to see if Newt will come back after the latest revelation about his collecting a million or two from Freddie Mac, one of the twin government-backed housing agencies that began the chain of events that led to the Great Financial Panic of '08-'09 and the great recession that inevitably followed -- and is still hanging on, like a bad cold.

On the campaign trail, Newt has been his usual eloquent self, denouncing both these twin terrors as examples of the federal government's wayward, wasteful -- and fiscally catastrophic -- ways.

In his current book/manifesto, he points out that both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac "are so thoroughly politicized and preside over such irresponsible lending policies that they need to be replaced with smaller, private companies operating without government guarantees, whose leaders focus on making a profit, not manipulating politicians."

Hear, hear. Newt has always talked a great game. But no one should be surprised by now to find out that he's been on the payroll of one of these subsidized disasters to the tune of a couple of million as a lobbyist/adviser/parasite. Whatever term you prefer.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.