I’ve never liked Newt Gingrich. At all.
It’s not that I couldn’t see he’s a pretty bright guy. He is, about some things.
And it’s not just that my initial exposure to him was back when I was a liberal Democrat and predisposed to disagree with him. Nor was it his singularly distasteful name, a cross between a small amphibian and a Dr. Seuss villain.
No, my dislike was about something more basic and more lasting than ideology: character. And I’m not talking about Gingrich’s habit of cheating on his wives, although that hardly endeared him to me (and by the way, the story about him asking wife number one for a divorce when she was recovering from cancer surgery is apparently untrue).
The personality trait that has especially repulsed me about Gingrich is a self-serving ruthlessness that he exudes, a smallness and a lack of sincerity coupled with extreme personal arrogance.
You might say the same about our current president, minus the marital infidelities. In Obama’s case it is coupled with a certain superficial ease and charm that Gingrich lacks. But just as the more we see of Obama the more he demonstrates his flaws, the more we see of Gingrich (and by now we’ve seen way too much of him) the more he demonstrates his.
The most recent example, of course, is Gingrich’s ill-considered attack on Rep. Ryan’s budget proposal regarding Medicare. Gingrich is probably stunned by the strength of the backlash from almost all Republican quarters, but that only demonstrates his tone-deafness. Right now the Republican Party does not need a has-been politician with high negatives gratuitously trashing an intelligent and courageous proposal from a likable up-and-coming young congressman who is already one of the few Republican hopes on the horizon. It is seen as a betrayal, and rightly so.
The WSJ has been merciless to Gingrich:
Yet now [Gingrich] is trashing Mr. Ryan for thinking far more deeply about health care, and in a far more principled fashion, than Mr. Gingrich ever has. The episode reveals the Georgian’s weakness as a candidate, and especially as a potential President—to wit, his odd combination of partisan, divisive rhetoric and poll-driven policy timidity.
Gingrich was already a weak candidate before his ill-fated statement. Now he’s almost certainly a finished one: “Newt of the Four Days,” which is the length of time before his candidacy self-imploded.