Steve Chapman

Throughout his career, Gingrich has done his best to ingratiate himself with the most rabid ideologues in the GOP. In 1990, he advised fellow House Republicans to refer to Democrats with such words as "sick," "pathetic," "destructive," "anti-family" and "traitors."

He has never lost his penchant for bombast, vitriol and shameless invention. He says Obama "doesn't even have the courage to tell truth about who wants to kill us" and accuses him of "pandering to radical Islam." He claimed that in December, because Congress and Obama agreed to extend the tax cuts, "the economy improved overnight" -- "literally."

There is no claim so reckless or implausible that Gingrich will not make it, with an air of complete certitude. That's the true mark of the demagogue. He is incapable of measured judgments.

With Gingrich, the excess goes beyond adjectives to adverbs. Obama's national security policy is not just mistaken, not just risky, but "enormously dangerous." The administration is guilty not of hypocrisy or utter hypocrisy but "utter total hypocrisy."

The rhetorical volume is always turned up to high -- and then turned up another notch. Incendiary words are to Gingrich what whiskey is to an alcoholic. He can never get enough.

But the people who get elected president know how to convey calm rationality. They come across as grounded and sane. The Obama of 2008 succeeded because he inspired without inflaming. Bush was elected in 2000 as a "compassionate conservative." Bill Clinton won in 1992 by pulling his party back to the center, offering himself as "the man from Hope."

Man from Hope? Gingrich is the man from Fear. When they see someone of that type, most voters think to themselves: Now, that's scary._

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Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.

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