01/22/2012 09:30 pm ET Updated Mar 22, 2012

What Are They Thinking?

Co-authored by Bill Russell

With fulsome media support, Newt Gingrich has made a career pawning off glibness as intelligence, bombast as insight.

One of the most vicious politicians of our era seems blissfully unaware of the irony of his attacks on the "vicious" media... a lack of awareness that the media seems willingly to share.

As an ersatz Southerner, Gingrich has taken a page from America's real religion -- football (greed is a close second). He's mastered "the best defense is a strong offense" followed by "it's my story and I'm sticking too it." People, especially in the media, actually let him get away with it! That's how bullies bully. Fundamentalists of all stripes are just that. Bullies. They know no shame. They stop only when stopped. They desperately need adult supervision. Have all of the adults deserted the Republican Party?

Gingrich really is as awful as he appears. I've experienced it first hand, planted as I was smack dab in the middle of a bunch of (mostly) Republican business people -- many of whom actually lived in Gingrich's Cobb County (Georgia) district and probably voted for him. They knew him, and they could hardly stand to be in the same room with him, only grudgingly could they bring themselves to be polite to his face. The remarkable thing to me is that this was long ago, when we had yet to learn how thoroughly flawed Gingrich's character is, how authentically gargantuan his egomania. Back then, Gingrich was "only" speaker of the United States House of Representatives, a position even his Republican colleagues would not permit him for long.

The dementia evident in South Carolina's Republican Presidential Primary outcome is awful, of course, just as it is awful to hear the poison disgorged during this truly bizarre Republican primary season. The only person who seems to fully grasp the full extent of this wretched joke is South Carolina's native son, Stephen Colbert, who recognizes irony when he smells it.

Fortunately, the American people have already placed in the White House precisely the person to counter the crazies -- that remarkable Obama fellow who's still diligently working to be president of all the people... even the Republican crazies. There is a least one adult in the room.

Take heart. The Gingrich win is, after all, in Bible-belt South Carolina (the irony of Gingrich as Jesus' representative is beyond even bad fiction). South Carolina's cussedness goes way, way back. President Andrew Jackson had to call a halt to South Carolinian extremism when the Republic was still young. In the 1830s South Carolina insisted they could nullify any law -- any law -- the federal government passed that they did not like. Jackson stopped "nullification", but 30 years later South Carolina's white ruling class enthusiastically ignited the nation's Civil War in which more than 600,000 Americans died. That time, Lincoln (and half of those bodies) stopped them. When the Dixiecrats bolted, it was South Carolina's Strom Thurmond who led their charge. Truman stopped them. Now, it's our turn.

Some fine people live in South Carolina. I know some of them. I doubt that any of them voted for Mr. Gingrich.

The irony of an Ohio native wrapping himself in a Confederate flag in hopes of becoming president of the union is too weird for even this strange political season. Reality TV was never very real. None is less plausible than the current Republican irony on parade. This is not politics; this is parody.

Where are the Clowns?

Quick, send in the Clowns.
Don't bother, they're here.

-- Stephen Sondheim