In the hours after Newt Gingrich emerged as the latest front runner in the Republican presidential race, he began to refer to himself as "Newt Gingrich" in an interview with Sean Hannity. He also began to employ the royal we, as in "We would have about two hours after the Inaugural Address, we would stop and sign between 100 and 200 Executive Orders and presidential findings." He also referred to Barack Obama as "the most destructive President since [James] Buchanan." You could sense the Newtonian Ego filling with helium, yet again. You could imagine him as an enormous hot-air balloon, straining at its ties, ready to lift off into the stratosphere. You could imagine, without much effort, the balloon expanding too quickly and then ... Pop!
Or maybe not. This may be Gingrich's year. He has sidled into prominence gradually and emerged at a most propitious moment. Most of his rivals for the nomination have had their day and been found wanting. Mitt Romney may be a spent force. There is time for other candidates--Ron Paul, Jon Huntsman, maybe--to make a major run, but they would be swimming upstream. Gingrich has experience, the conventional wisdom now says, intelligence and a string of excellent debate performances. But his greatest advantage is a style that embodies his party's current zeitgeist. The Republican Party has abandoned sobriety in favor of bombast. It has abandoned conservatism in favor of radicalism. And in this stunted field of contenders, Gingrich seems the most talented purveyor of latter-day Republican rhetoric as practiced by, say, Rush Limbaugh. Here, for example, is Gingrich in major derangement mode touting an utterly ridiculous article by Dinesh D'Souza, which posited Obama's allegedly inherited Kenyan "anticolonial" worldview: "What if [Obama] is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anticolonial behavior, can you begin to piece together [his actions]?" Gingrich calls this the "most profound insight I have read in the last six years about Barack Obama."
Let us leave aside some basic realities about President Obama--that he met his Kenyan father only once, when Obama was 10 years old; that he never even visited Kenya until he was an adult. Let us also leave aside a more recent, conflicting theory of Obama's worldview posited by, well, Gingrich: "He's a genuine Saul Alinsky radical," Gingrich told Hannity, referring to the late Chicago community organizer. The reality of Barack Obama's worldview is that its truest, most basic source may be ... Newt Gingrich and the creative brand of conservative activism that he espoused until a couple of months ago. Gingrich, after all, was among the first to favor the individual health-insurance mandate and health-insurance exchanges, excellent ideas both, that are at the heart of Obama's health-reform act. Gingrich was, and perhaps still is, a believer in man-made climate change (he's gotten kind of muggy on the subject) and an advocate of finding market-oriented solutions, like cap-and-trade programs, to solve it. These were not merely positions Gingrich took but ideas that defined him. Obama has also moved strongly in Gingrich's direction by making inner-city schools and programs like Head Start more accountable. He has touted an ethic of individual responsibility among the poor--and unlike Gingrich, he has walked the walk, as an exemplary father and husband.