Steve Chapman

Aside from style, there is the problem of substance. Some Republicans are turning to him out of aversion to Romney's notorious flip-flopping, forgetting Gingrich's own amazing flexibility.

He says he is not convinced that global warming is taking place. But he once urged action to combat it -- in a TV spot with Nancy Pelosi. He rejects the individual mandate in Obama's health care plan, even though he previously endorsed the idea. He denounces overspending after supporting Medicare prescription drug coverage, a huge new entitlement.

Most stunning was his reversal on Libya. In March, he faulted Obama for not intervening against Moammar Gadhafi. A couple of weeks later, after Obama did just that, Gingrich announced, "I would not have intervened."

If he has not done enough to antagonize conservatives, he has done plenty to scare off everyone else, with a stream of inflammatory statements that suggest demagoguery or lunacy.

He called Obama, who disappoints liberals on a daily basis, "the most radical president in American history." He accused him of "Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior."

It's not just this administration that causes him to shoot blood out of his eyes. He said Muslims should not be allowed to build a mosque near Ground Zero "so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia." He said that "our elites are trying to create amnesia so that we literally have generations who have no idea what it means to be an American." Newt loves to conjure up terrifying monsters that only he can vanquish.

At moments like these it's hard to know whether he suffers intermittent derangement or simply will stop at nothing to demonize political opponents. Either way, he bears no resemblance to anyone Americans have ever entrusted with the presidency. Gingrich is, as he says, unique. That's just the problem.

Steve Chapman

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

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