Paul Greenberg

A bright spot in Newt Gingrich's run for the presidency -- yes, there is one -- has been the revelation that he was paid $1.6 million by Freddie Mac. That's the broke, bailed-out, scandal-ridden, public-private, political-financial hybrid of a monster that the American taxpayer has just been asked to bail out still again.

What possibly can be good news about this fiscal-disaster-waiting-to-happen having funneled $1.6 million into Newt Gingrich's ever capacious pocket?

This: Mr. Gingrich wants it known that he didn't collect that million-plus for his services as a lobbyist. Oh, no. He was paid for his services as . . . an historian!

Oh, good. That's a relief. This news flash should serve as a useful corrective to the widespread assumption on college campuses that a history degree, or one in any of the liberal arts for that matter, is a financial dead end. The Newt now has demonstrated that it's really the path to fame and especially fortune. And, heaven help us, maybe to the White House, too.

Maybe the happily former speaker's next book could be titled: "How to Succeed in History Without Really Trying." It would make a great Broadway musical, too. Something on the order of "Fiorello!" The show could take Newt's politics with the seriousness it deserves, that is, not much. Working title: "Eye of Newt," which would give it a nice Shakespearean ring.

Doubtless the American taxpayer will be much relieved to hear Newt the Great's explanation for this latest exploit of his. He's always got a cogent explanation for any and all scandals he's involved in. And this alibi has got to be one of his all-time best.

The man is nothing if not inventive. It's so brazen a story, with its cover of academic propriety, that it's almost charming, as new heights of chutzpah can be. Almost. But on closer examination, like so many of Newt's throwaway lines, one realizes this one really does deserve to be thrown away.

The Newt is by trade and inclination one of those people the Brits call a chancer, so ardent a competitor for power and pelf that he may not be overly scrupulous about the methods he employs to gain either. And whenever his little games are exposed, though he may lay low for a while, even years, you can be confident this superannuated Comeback Kid will, yes, come back. Again. Indeed, bounce back. Just look at his poll numbers. He's the Silly Putty candidate -- malleable beyond belief. Literally, since this latest story of his really is beyond belief.

One reason some of us can hardly wait for his next scrape with the truth, and in light of his record there's bound to be one, is to hear him talk his way out of it. Audacity could be his middle name.


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.