Last night's Former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, prematurely threw down the gauntlet challenging President Obama to seven, three-hour Lincoln-Douglas style debates. Gingrich, who seems obsessed with endurance polemic, proposes that each moderator free debate would be three hours in length. The first man would speak for one hour, his opponent would follow with ninety minutes of uninterrupted speechifying, after which speaker number one would have thirty minutes of rebuttal time.
Newt, his arms open, palms up in the gesture of a man about to deliver the Beatitutes for the first time, magnanimously added that he would allow the President to use a teleprompter.
A smiling Callista, nodded and did the royal demi-clap. The crowd of red meat eaters roared.
The Speaker declared that if the President refuses to engage him in debates that he would follow him around the country, like a political stalker, refuting his speeches.
Gingrich's core strategy, that his 'to the death' debating skills will carry him on to the
White House discounts his ability to terrify all the democrats as well as most moderate and conservative republicans. For a man with 100% name recognition and 60% disapproval ratings Speaker Gingrich, who projects a disturbing admixture of arrogance and contempt, seems oblivious to how he is perceived outside his very specific constituency.
Gingrich attempted to humiliate moderators Juan Williams and John King at recent debates in South Carolina, simultaniously deflecting an uncomfortable question about his checkered past while at the same time offering to his base a taste what President Obama can expect if Gingrich becomes the Republican candidate.
Newt Gingrich has managed to change the state of play. He has positioned himself as the smartest guy in the room. He repeats it, the sycophants who surround him repeat it, and the press repeats it. The media needs to challenge that notion.