Thingish Things

Newt’s Notes

Written By: William F. B. O'Reilly - Oct• 29•11

The socialist magazine Mother Jones is definitely getting its mojo together (Mojo also happens to be its nickname.) I couldn’t disagree more with its premise, but it is impossible not to acknowledge that it has put together a crisp group of Lefty writers who are drawing eyes from both sides of the political spectrum. Mojo was virtually extinct a dozen years ago.

A Mother Jones piece on Newt Gingrich this week jumped out at me, because I found myself having the exact same thought as the story title Thursday night after watching the former Georgia congressman speak at a panel in New York on the future of education.   

Mr. Gingrich was brilliant. He was the final speaker, following Herman Cain, Rick Santorum, and Michele Bachmann. The crowd, a group of mostly liberal college administrators, was titillated by Gingrich, as was I.  He was smart and blunt, and he demonstrated time and again the rapier wit that made him famous.  And at the same time, he was dislikable – arrogant, dismissive, smug.   

Which brings me to the Mother Jones headline: “Can Newt Be the First Openly Mean President?”

It’s a legitimate question, because there does seem to be an opening for The Newt. There is an anybody-but-Romney crowd among the GOP electorate; Herman Cain will in all likelihood fade from inexperience, and Rick Perry may or may not be able to seize the moment.  Which effectively leaves Mr. Gingrich. Can he seize the moment?

When Mr. Gingrich began his campaign, I couldn’t help noticing him trying, with great effort, to smile in television appearances. It was painful to watch.  It was like seeing an Apache in a Morning Suit. The smiles, or at least upward cornering of his lips, clearly came at the prodding of his former handlers who ended up leaving the campaign in a huff and en masse.

Soon thereafter, Mr. Gingrich’s campaign went into a tailspin.  It was without staff, without money, and without direction.  Indeed, Mr. and Mrs. Gingrich were vacationing in Greece while the other GOP candidates were gobbling corndogs in Iowa.  It was game over.

But now, sans the handlers, Mr. Gingrich seems to have landed his footing again.  He is a million dollars in debt, but he’s cocksure again, and that’s more important. The money, theoretically, could show up.

Mr. Gingrich’s strength is that he has nothing to lose.  He can be himself again; he can be twice himself with no downside.  He had been written off, and now the fates have opened up a path to electoral redemption.  But, as Mojo asks, “Can Newt Be the First Openly Mean President?”

I think the answer to that theoretically is “yes.” The country, at this point in time, would be willing to follow anyone with a clear and palatable vision for getting us back on our feet.

But Gingrich has another problem that hobbles him more.  He is unfocused. He has a grand idea a minute, and that is his greater curse.

There is a great scene in the movie Amadeus where Emperor Joseph II approaches the stage after of one of Mozart’s operas.  “It was delightful,” the Musical King says. “There were just, well, how does one say it? Too many notes. Yes, too many notes. Just cut a few and it will be perfect.” (An annoyed Mozart replies,” exactly which ones would you suggest I remove, sire?”)

Newt Gingrich is no Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, but he has too many notes to be president.  If only he could cut a few — and genuinely smile once in a while — he would be perfect.

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One Comment

  1. […] Mr. Gingrich is smart, too smart perhaps. And he is brash at a time when Americans thirst it. But he is not electable on a national scale. […]

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