Twice in the last 647 Republican presidential debates, once when asked by Juan Williams if he didn't think his comments on food stamps were racist, again when asked to talk about his ex-wife's revelations about his request for an open marriage, Newt Gingrich replied with a slow contemptuous "Noooooo..." followed by a grudging explanation of that negative, as if to say, "Well if I have to explain to your stupid ass, then I guess I will." On both occasions, that slow contemptuous negation elicited fevered applause from the red-state pinheads attending the debate.
The explanation for Newt's response and the audience's reaction finally occurred to me: Newt Gingrich, like many of his right-wing admirers, is a surly teenage boy.
Oh, not physically. Physically, he's a superannuated Frosty the Snowman, except not the least bit a happy jolly soul. (Also, I don't think his eyes are made out of coal, but I could be wrong about that.) But emotionally and intellectually, Gingrich stopped evolving at a stage when some vast percentage of males think Ayn Rand and colonies on the moon make sense and can't understand why adults don't think so, wish desperately for girls to pay them the least bit of attention and -- mostly -- act like howler monkeys who have been trained not to throw their own feces. (This is why they are less interesting than howler monkeys -- well, that and the fascination with Ayn Rand.) Give one of these children the opportunity to have sex with someone who is not his right hand, and you'd best get out of the way if you don't want to be trampled. Considered this way, Newt's stunted personality explains his "big ideas," like replacing janitors with children, his propensity for ending his marriages at inconvenient times (for his wives, not him) like after cancer surgery -- and of course, his maddeningly churlish reactions to debate questions.
Teenage boys also demonstrate a remarkable degree of narcissism, the belief that one is, in one apt phrase, "the piece of shit around which the world revolves." Others act out of pure evil or stupidity, but you never do anything wrong. A narcissist will never understand why some people -- okay, most people -- okay, seriously, pretty much everybody sees his spending millions of tax dollars to ferret out Bill Clinton's adultery while carrying on his very own as profoundly hypocritical and possibly even a teensy bit sociopathic. Mooooom! Everyone hates me! Just 'cause I pooped in the pool and blamed it on Billy Clinton! God! For the narcissist, nothing is more important than his own desires; other people -- wives he's leaving, for example -- don't count, and should just shut up and let him do what he wants. You just don't understand me! Wait 'til I'm president! Then you'll see! [Door slams.]
The appeal of Gingrich to his followers is that he expresses for them that resentful sense of persecution that nerdy teenage boys harbor. All those libtards care about are the blacks and the gays and the women! What about rich white guys, huh? They have a chip on their shoulder the size of a redwood against the "liberal" news media who occasionally insist on reporting those tedious facts (as the media all too infrequently do these days) that refute everything they believe about the economy, global warming and race relations, so when Newt slangs one of those guys in that resentful way teenage boys have and that Newt and those followers never grew out of, he speaks for them, and they cheer. Take that, smartypants. Everybody likes me, and no one likes you.
Sadly for Newt and his followers, most of us did grow out of our teenage narcissism. (Well, not Charlie Sheen, but he's not running for the Republican nomination. Yet.) That surly teenage boy behavior does not play well with mature adults. Speaking as a parent who survived my kids' teenage years (the secret: stern discipline and heavy drinking), I look forward with great anticipation to Barack Obama, adult and parent, sending Newt to his room.