Newt Gingrich's hypocrisy and moral and intellectual bankruptcy are by now so transparent it might seem gratuitous to cite fresh examples. But the man Paul Krugman describes as "a stupid man's idea of what a smart person sounds like" is having his brief turn atop the Republican polls, so it's necessary once again to contrast Newt's self-serving fantasies with actual facts from the real world.
Take Gingrich's tour de farce at last weekend's Thanksgiving Family Forum roundtable debate in Iowa. While I was indulging in the admittedly masochistic act of listening to Gingrich's nasty anti-OWS diatribe, a New York Times piece with news that there are now 51 million Americans with incomes less than 50 percent above the poverty line flashed across my computer screen.
Gingrich's methane-fueled (or, considering the event's location, perhaps ethanol-fueled) litany of insults was, of course, a gross mischaracterization of the Occupy protesters, most of whom are ordinary hard-working citizens moving heaven and earth to steer clear of the unemployment numbers.
Newt's three-pronged attack packed a lot of wrong into less than one minute. He began with the Big Lie: "All the Occupy movement starts with the premise that we owe them everything" (ital mine). Never mind that the movement has nothing to do with asking for handouts -- if anything, it's Wall Street, including the companies that paid Gingrich tens of millions for "strategic advice," that has raked in the handouts. Gingrich derides critics of his corruption as "People with a socialist bias that you shouldn't earn money."
Next came a series of stupid accusations -- e.g., that protesters were convening "at public parks they didn't pay for... to use bathrooms they didn't pay for." Newt closed with uncharacteristic laziness, defaulting to the far-right's time-honored mechanism for dismissing peaceful protesters: "Go get a job right after you take a bath."
Gingrich, whom conservative pundit George Will calls "the classic rental politician," revealed the depths of his shamelessness a few minutes later, when the debaters were asked to describe a failing. Volunteering to go first, he said nothing about his failure to own up to the nearly $2 million in fees he took (as an "historian"!) from Freddie Mac, an institution he's long blamed for the housing collapse.
Instead, Newt chose the narcissist's path, sharing that at one time, "There was a part of me that was truly hollow. The harder I worked and the more things I did, the hollower I got inside," (That's one "me" and three "I of Newt" in two short sentences.) There's no acknowledgement of shortcoming here, just self-puffery about how really, really hard Newt worked even though he felt really, really bad. This hearkens back to Newt's patriotism rationale for his marital infidelities.
Can you guess how our hero overcame his troubles to emerge as the potential savior of the Free World? Newt, who says the idea of an atheist president "terrifies me," sought God's forgiveness, and then everything was hunky-dory. The heartwarming moral: You can continue being a raving hypocrite and flat-out liar consumed with your own ego as long as you keep God in the loop.
For a lesson in failure, Newt and his fellow self-aggrandizers might consider the advice of Don Keough, former Coca-Cola exec and now chairman of the banking firm Allen & Company whose book The Ten Commandments for Business Failure gives the fourth slot to "Assume Infallibility."
Will Gingrich's inevitable collapse mean we've run out of anti-Romney buffoons? It may not matter. If the breathtaking dishonesty in Romney's first TV spot is any indication, the former Massachusetts governor has slipped the surly bonds of integrity to fully embrace his own Big Lie. Besides, Donald Trump's wife Melania told an interviewer late last week, The Donald himself is "still thinking about" running for president and will likely "make the decision in a few weeks."
When the Newt boomlet fades, there may yet be a role for Gingrich in public life. Given his obsession with such words as "fundamentally," "profoundly," "desperately" and "dramatically," how about Ambassador of Adverb Abuse? Or better yet, Minister of Fundamentally, Dramatically, Profoundly, Desperately Dumb Observations. Remember, this is the guy who could not keep to himself his insight that, "A mere 40 years ago, beach volleyball was just beginning... no bureaucrat would have invented it, and that's what freedom is all about."