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John Lundberg

John Lundberg

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The Republican Primary Gets Poetic

Posted: 05/20/11 03:47 PM ET

Fox News called it "epic" and "blindingly colorful," and exulted that it brought to mind the writing of Hunter S. Thompson and the thunderous tones of voiceover artist Don LaFontaine. No, they weren't referring to the coming blockbuster big screen adaptation of Milton's Paradise Lost, they were talking up a Newt Gingrich press release.

The 2012 Republican primary has produced its first work of art, in the form of a wacky, testosterone-laced missive from the Gingrich campaign. Gingrich had to do some backpedalling, you see, after skewering Rep. Paul Ryan's Medicare plan as "right-wing social engineering" on Meet the Press. Campaign spokesman Rick Tyler, realizing that standard spin tactics wouldn't be enough, re-imagined Newt's muted exchange with interviewer David Gregory from the point of view of a high school senior who'd just downed four Dr Peppers while watching Thor.

"The literati sent out their minions to do their bidding. Washington cannot tolerate threats from outsiders who might disrupt their comfortable world. The firefight started when the cowardly sensed weakness. They fired timidly at first, then the sheep not wanting to be dropped from the establishment's cocktail party invite list unloaded their entire clip, firing without taking aim their distortions and falsehoods. Now they are left exposed by their bylines and handles. But surely they had killed him off. This is the way it always worked. A lesser person could not have survived the first few minutes of the onslaught. But out of the billowing smoke and dust of tweets and trivia emerged Gingrich, once again ready to lead those who won't be intimated by the political elite and are ready to take on the challenges America faces."

The Internet went to work. Word spread, and over the next few days, D.C.-based designer Jon White turned the press release into a brilliantly illustrated found poem, and the Colbert Report brought in John Lithgow to perform a dramatic reading. A star was born.

Perhaps Fox News was on the right track with its epic praise, as the release's tone, at least, is reminiscent of Milton's greatest work. Book VI of Paradise Lost describes the Son of God's arrival on the battlefield of heaven. It could well be Gingrich's next press release, as our hero emerges to take back America from the heavily armed mercenary sheep.

Among them [Gingrich!] arriv'd; in his right hand
Grasping ten thousand Thunders, which he sent
Before him, such as in thir Soules infix'd
Plagues; they astonisht all resistance lost,
All courage; down thir idle weapons drop'd;
O're Shields and Helmes, and helmed heads he rode
Of Thrones and mighty [sheep] prostrate,
That wish'd the Mountains now might be again
Thrown on them as a shelter from his ire.

Get your popcorn. It is shaping up to be an "epic" and "blindingly colorful" Republican primary. And Sarah Palin hasn't even committed yet.