My latest Al Jazeera op-ed is here. It begins like this:
Newt Gingrich’s ‘Heart of Darkness’
Behind the smokescreen, Gingrich’s true accomplishment is being a master of propaganda.
I last wrote about Newt Gingrich in May – “Newt Gingrich, Eternal Victim”- as his presidential campaign exploded onto the scene and imploded on arrival. Now, amazingly, Newt is back – not just back, but back on top. Whether or not Newt ends up as the GOP nominee, his resurgence makes him once again a key figure for understanding today’s GOP, American conservatism, and American politics in general.
The picture that emerges is not a pretty one – even for those nominally on the same side as him. He was a disastrous leader as Speaker of the House – deposed by his own allies just shy of serving two terms – and the GOP establishment can’t put their faith in him. In fact, GOP pundits are “freaking out” as Gawker put it in their quote roundup, which featured David Brooks saying, “As nearly everyone who has ever worked with him knows, he would severely damage conservatism and the Republican Party if nominated”. Peggy Noonan also chimed in: “He is a human hand grenade who walks around with his hand on the pin, saying, ‘Watch this!’”
Of course, these are voices of the GOP establishment, whom Tea Partiers tend to hate. But Newt’s lucrative Washington insider career doesn’t jive at all with the Tea Party’s official anti-Washington narrative. By all rights, they ought to despise him as well. If he winds up being their man, nothing they claim to stand for can be taken seriously.
But deep as those failings may be, Newt has been far, far worse for the United States as a whole. He has played a key role in making American politics much more nasty, polarised and dysfunctional. If you want to know why the American political system can’t solve even most routine problems anymore, the reasons are larger than any one person. But the Washington Post‘s straw man argument that Newt didn’t do it alone hides much more than it reveals. Newt understood, as well as any other figure on the right, that conservatives had to make America dysfunctional in order to take it over, and Newt lead the way in doing so in the House, as I’ll explain in a moment.
To read the whole op-ed, click here.