Paul Greenberg

Despite his pretensions to an honored place in the American pantheon, the Newt is a lot closer to P.T. Barnum than George Washington. But there's never a shortage of suckers who'll see in him a political messiah, this time one who represents the best hope of saving the American Dream, or even America itself, from Barack Obama's soft socialism.

And who can doubt that Newt is the very image of the self-made man, not to mention the self-promoting and self-absorbed one? Now he's got to be the best-paid historian around, too, even if his own history is a bit checkered.

Never mind. He can explain it all. And in the most entertaining fashion. As with any other carnival barker, it's not the truth of his pitch that mesmerizes, but his style, his pizzazz, his never-at-a-loss gift for repartee. Step right this way, folks, and lend an ear, take a gander, and fall under his spell. For one brief shining moment, like now in the polls, he's almost convincing. Almost.

Along with its twin, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac was able to destroy billions in book value in the blink of an eye. These improbable but all too real monsters were largely responsible for the housing bubble that, when it burst, led to the Panic of '08-09. Which in turn led to the Great Recession that's still hanging around.

No entries in a medieval bestiary could have been any more destructive than these modern-day monstrosities. The monsters of mythology might swallow up only an individual; these could engulf and devour a whole country's fiscal future. At this point it's not clear which was the evil twin, Freddie or Fannie, but the overwhelming evidence suggests that both were. And, unfortunately, still are.

It was only a matter of time before an irrepressible character like Newt Gingrich would find himself in the employ of one or the other, if not both. These types always find one another. And this was a match made in purgatory.

It'll be a great day when both these outfits are dismantled, and housing can go back to being a market instead of a plaything for hedge-fund operators, politicians, and lobbyists and spongers of every variety -- even if they prefer to call themselves historians.

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.