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Haberman and Burns begin: "Bad Newt's coming back. The all-too-familiar character from the 1990s has only peeked out in public a handful of times so far. But already, - flush with pride over new polls showing his left-for-dead candidacy now leading the pack - is letting his healthy ego roam free again, littering the campaign trail with grand pronouncements about his celebrity, his significance in political history and his ability to transform America. 'I helped lead the effort to defeat communism in the Congress,' Gingrich said this week on Sean Hannity's show."

Newt Gingrich gestures while speaking at a campaign event. (photo: Reuters)
Newt Gingrich gestures while speaking at a campaign event. (photo: Reuters)

The Return of Bad Newt

By Maggie Haberman and Alexander Burns, Politico

04 December 11


he all-too-familiar character from the 1990s has only peeked out in public a handful of times so far. But already, Newt Gingrich flush with pride over new polls showing his left-for-dead candidacy now leading the pack - is letting his healthy ego roam free again, littering the campaign trail with grand pronouncements about his celebrity, his significance in political history and his ability to transform America.

"I helped lead the effort to defeat communism in the Congress," Gingrich said this week on Sean Hannity's show.

"I'm going to be the nominee," he informed ABC News while in Iowa.

"I was charging $60,000 a speech and the number of speeches was going up, not down," Gingrich said in South Carolina, explaining why he didn't actually need his consulting fee from Freddie Mac. "Normally, celebrities leave and they gradually sell fewer speeches every year. We were selling more."

"The degree to which I challenge the establishment and the degree to which I'm willing to follow ideas and solutions to their natural consequence without regard to Republican or Democratic political correctness makes me probably the most experienced outsider in modern times," he told Radio Iowa.

Even descriptions of his wife Callista fall prey to aggrandizement: "She actually describes herself as being a cross between Nancy Reagan and Laura Bush with just a slight bit of Jackie Kennedy tossed in and I think there is, somewhere swirling in there, the model Callista would like to live up to."

The economy? There's a vainglorious boast for that, too.

"Obama is now 34 months into his presidency, and the economy has lost 1.9 million total jobs since he took office. At the same point in the Gingrich speakership (November 1997), Americans had created 303,000 jobs in one month alone, and had created 7.7 million total new jobs since he became speaker. This is an ‘Obama-Gingrich jobs gap" of 9.5 million," the former congressman said in a statement.

Longtime Gingrich watchers see clear signs that "Good Newt" (disciplined, charming, expansive in personality and intellect) is engaging in an internal battle with "Bad Newt" (off-message, bombastic, self-wounding) as his political fortunes rise.

"Remember, this is the man of the combination of Churchill and de Gaulle to begin with," conservative columnist George Will told radio host Laura Ingraham. "He's the embodiment of a nation in deep peril. The stage has to be lit by the fires of crisis and grandeur to suit Newt Gingrich."

"Gingrich [is] always a fine a line between charming and brilliant on one hand, and eccentric and borderline dangerous on the other," said Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California. "He's been ‘Charming Newt' for the last several weeks. But the last couple of days have been a reminder of his other side."

Gingrich "only has two modes - attack and brag," explained one veteran GOP strategist.

Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond dismissed criticism about the speaker's self-regard, saying his boss is speaking the truth about the nation's problems.

"Newt Gingrich has been against the status quo in Washington since he first arrived from Georgia," Hammond said. "Many times he's the first to point out a dumb idea and say, ‘here's how to fix it.' And in many cases, he uses the words ‘dumb idea.'"

Gingrich's backers note there are various policy points that they say more than back up the former speaker's comment about communism, for example, saying he was referring to actions Congress took to thwart it while he was there.

There's no question Gingrich is working harder, and with more success, than he has in years to keep his flair for the grandiose in check - his talk is less fire-and-brimstone, and more positive, there's-another-way-forward.

At times, Gingrich sounds like he's consciously striking a different and humbler tone, telling audiences that he will need their help. He asks Republicans not to vote for him, but to "be with me."

"We have to have a team campaign," Gingrich told Iowa Republicans at a dinner event Thursday night. "I am totally committed to a team campaign."

During the same event, Gingrich delivered a notably moderate and nonpartisan riff - that is, for a politician long known for his sharp partisanship and rhetorical excess - telling the audience: "We need an American campaign, not a Republican campaign. And we need to be open to every person of every background."

But at the same event, Gingrich couldn't help himself, offering comparisons between his approach to politics to Thomas Jefferson's, and noting that he'd model parts of his campaign strategy on Abraham Lincoln's. Only a few hours before, Gingrich bragged of having overseen the creation of 11 million jobs as speaker of the House.

"The self-aggrandizing comments probably don't hurt him that much. They may strike his strongest supporters as a sign of confidence," said Schnur, adding that the policy pronouncements could be a bigger issue: "These ‘porridge for poor children' things probably don't do him much good."

That's the side of Gingrich that has some Republican insiders privately fretting that, for all their worries about Mitt Romney's failings, it is Gingrich who may be especially susceptible to damaging himself if he emerges as the party's nominee.

"He's going to blow up at some point, and I'm just hoping it comes before he gets the nomination," said one unaligned Republican insider, who has worked with presidential campaigns before.

"I'm waiting for him to say, ‘Literally, I'm the smartest guy to ever run for president,' " said the insider, adding that comparisons of Callista as Nancy Reagan fuel the notion that he thinks of himself as a new incarnation of The Gipper. "He's now kind of like the crazy scientist that's having his science proven correct….and you just don't know what the hell's gonna happen next."

Some Republicans are willing to say it on the record.

"He'd be a terrible nominee," said Long Island Rep. Pete King, who credited Gingrich with winning back the House for Republicans in the 1990s but also said Gingrich was driven out of the job because he "wears everybody else out."

"It's not like, with Newt, you end up dying for a noble cause," said King. "You end up dying for Newt Gingrich, because he puts himself in the center of everything."

Yet even if "Bad Newt" is back, given the fluidity of the race it might not be so damaging.

"Yes, ‘Bad Newt' is emerging again," said GOP strategist Alex Castellanos. "He refers to himself as a celebrity, when voters despise Washington's arrogance and he knows that was one of McCain's most effective assaults against Obama. He dismisses charges of corruption by telling us he's too successful to be tempted, when he's just seen what happened when Rick Perry declared he was "insulted" by charges that he could be bought for only $5,000."

But, he added, "So what? The rule in politics is that if you tell voters what they already know, they remain where they already are. You have to give voters new information to change how they react to candidates. We already know ‘Bad Newt' is undisciplined, even, reckless and has an inflated sense of self-worth. And Gingrich is leading in Iowa. A lot of ‘Bad Newt' is already built into the front-runner's stock price."

The options for conservatives, Castellanos added, are dwindling.

"Despite his best efforts, Newt may not be able to dispatch himself as easily as he did the first time," Castellanos said. "And the Christmas holiday is a great gift for Newt: he only has to hang around for a couple of weeks before Christmas freezes the race and mitigates his opportunity to damage himself."

Craig Shirley, another longtime Republican strategist, argued that Gingrich is giving people what they want right now.

"I think it's based on his instincts, but you know, other politicians have talked like this before and invoked great leaders and great writers - Ronald Reagan invoked Cicero and Thomas Paine and Winston Churchill, and quoted them and cited them," he said.

"I think what it says to a lot of voters is, this is a very self-confident man, and right now I think the country wants a self-confident man. That was the great contrast between Reagan and Carter. Carter was full of doubts and blaming the American people … He was lost in power. Obama was lost in power." your social media marketing partner


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+26 # RMDC 2011-12-04 20:00
You just have to laugh at Newt.

"I helped lead the effort to defeat communism in the Congress," Just like Al Gore invented the internet. I did not know there were any communists in congress. Newt must have been hallucinating again. Or he may never have stopped hallucinating.

The self-destructio n of Newt has begun. He's hoisting himself on his own petard.

Really it is hard to think that Newt is not insane -- a psychopathic liar, a kleptomaniac, a paranoid, a hate-monger, etc. But such psychopaths can also be very dangerous. If he ever had a job in which he had some power, he would undoubtedly use it violently. Just imagine Newt as president facing the Occupy Wall Street movement. It is likely he would gear up another COINTELPRO, complete with the command to “decapitate the radicals.”

I predict that in a week or two, Newt's poll numbers will begin to drop rapidly. No one can really take his bombast for very long -- not even the most right wing of the conservatives.
+16 # mwd870 2011-12-05 07:36
Newt is laughable. He thinks his rhetoric will hide all the mistakes he's made in his career as a politician, lobbyist, and full-time money generating self-agrandizer.

"Really it is hard to think that Newt is not insane -- a psychopathic liar, a kleptomaniac, a paranoid, a hate-monger." I think this opinon is shared, even by a large number of Republicans.
+13 # feloneouscat 2011-12-05 08:03
Newtbyte: ""The degree to which I challenge the establishment.. ." would be nil.

What he HAS done is create a toxic atmosphere in Washington. Recall, this is the man who in the 95-96 (from Wikipedia): "Gingrich and the incoming Republican majority's promise to slow the rate of government spending conflicted with the president's agenda for Medicare, education, the environment and public health, leading to a temporary shutdown of the U.S. federal government."

The result? Clinton's approval fell during the shutdown, but after it skyrocketed. Gingrich's attack on health, education, the environment is one of the scorched Earth policies he still advocates. These will do NOTHING to help the United States and will do everything to hurt it.

The fact that he still remains in politics shows just how corrupt the GOP has become. The don't want to run a government, they want to take it down.

Fortunately, Gingrich is his own worst enemy. The more eyes that are on him, the less people will like him.
+10 # AndreM5 2011-12-05 10:56
Please. A very BIG difference is that Al Gore never ACTUALLY SAID he "invented the internet" but The Newt does actually say these bombastic things.
Furthernmore, Al Gore DID spearhead the funding though DARPA to develop DARPAnet and the internet with a legitimate far-reaching plan.
Whereas The Newt is always just about The Newt.
+10 # ericlipps 2011-12-05 12:57
Right on target!

Except . . . you know, Al Gore never actually said he invented the Internet. All he ever claimed was that he had led the effort in Congress to craft legislation which would make expansion of the early Web easier--and acording to Vinton Cerf, who actually did invent the technical underpinnings of the Internet, that happens to be correct.

No one was ever moere beaten up for saying things he never said than Al Gore.
+1 # X Dane 2011-12-06 17:48
RMDC, Reading all the comments about Newt, here and in another RSN article I realize that Newt has now taken on the mantle, previously claimed by The half tem governor, who shall be nameless and the little creep, Glen Beck.

We all despise Newt fervently.
+21 # LessSaid 2011-12-04 20:30
This just tells us how far down hill the TeaPublicans has fallen and is trying to take this down with him. Newt has already tried to set this country back in his past political life. Now he is back trying to complete the job he started before.
+24 # Tippitc 2011-12-04 20:46
Arrogant is a better description and where does he get such 'wacked' ideas?! Children as school janitors and poor children have no good habits unless they are illegal - wow - maybe he should pick on somebody his own size or maybe someone old enough to vote!!! I think the old boy is losing his grip - can anyone really take the 'lead clown' seriously?!?!
+23 # MainStreetMentor 2011-12-04 22:19
What do you mean "The Return of the Bad Newt"? He was never gone - he just learned to mask the "bad" parts better - at least for a while.
+10 # Gryzelda 2011-12-05 07:56
I agree - when I first saw the headline, I thought, the younger peoplle don't know Newtie - he was NEVER "good". Bombastic, arrogant, self-aggrandizi ng - YES. But always corrupt & venal. Anyone who doesn't know the history of his prior speakership - please, look it up. There is a lot to read...
+9 # freeportguy 2011-12-04 23:33
We've been hearing for a while how much of a "dictator" Obama is, mostly for passing a health care reform that would make it mandatory for people to get health insurance, of all things.

And we're supposed to hand power to someone who thinks of himself as the's the second coming of Churchill, Reagan, and god knows whatever other revered politicians...?

The only place I agree with Gingrich is when he calls himself a "uniter", for I've rarely seen a person who can unite both republicans and democrats into DISLIKING him!

The man is too pompous for anyone's good, including himself, and we're supposed to hand him the key to the WH?
+9 # pernsey 2011-12-04 23:57
The only person that would see him as self confident is the brainwashed Fox news right. Everyone else just sees him as the pompous ass he really is. He has no clue what hes even talking about.

+7 # X Dane 2011-12-05 01:34
He is a bombastic windbag, I almost think we would be lucky if he is the reoublican nominee. he carries more baggage than a 747. It would be sweet to see him shot down.

He may not get enough money to fight hard, for so many of the republican PUH BAS dont like him, and that's putting it mildly. Despise him is probly more correct.
And to think he brought down the Sovjet Union single handed.

I just saw on the news that another windbag is reconsidering running MR. Trump. The idiots keep a comen.
+13 # giraffee2012 2011-12-05 01:46
The GOP is in for some exposure of "who they are" - at the polls.

Obama will put whipped cream on Newt and eat him for dessert.

He cannot hide from his history in the general election.
+3 # Gryzelda 2011-12-05 08:24
I sure hope so. But I am fearful - I truly believe, Newtie WILL "blow himself up" with his uncontrolled mouth, quite soon - yet the guy is so good at selling himself. The more intellectually challenged & ignorant among us (eg, "T-baggers") may actually BUY what he is saying. (He sounds smart, just ignore the big words) And if FAUX snooze jumps into the Newtie clown-car, they could help sell him, via endless repetition of his virtues. A lot of the younger people do not know his record in the 90's; they were too young to pay attention or just did not care.
+2 # X Dane 2011-12-06 17:18
Giraffe, I like your comments a lot.....but you grossed me out with: "Obama will put whipped cream on Newt and eat him for dessrt" YOUK, YOUK YOUK. I like much better: Obama will wipe the floor with Newt, and then throw him in the trash. Now THAT would make me feel good.
+12 # Ralph Averill 2011-12-05 04:36
On the PBS Newshour last week commentator Mark Shields described Gingrich as having more skeletons in his closet than the Harvard Medical School, and that if he got the nomination, Obama would coast to re-election. Shields's opposing commentator David Brooks agreed with him.
The more attention Gingrich gets, the more off into the ozone he's going to go, until he crashes and burns like the others. It's as if Romney is picking his competition.
+4 # SouthBrun 2011-12-05 06:54
Newt is like an M&M piece of candy with a thin veneer of sweetness. He too hopes to melt in your mouth and not in your hand. The hand that casts the vote, that is...
+10 # grindermonkey 2011-12-05 07:45
This should have read "The Return of the SHORT NEWT" He is short, overweight, unhealthy and generally disgusting. But most important he is a POLITICAL FAILURE and has nothing to offer his supporters or opponents. Remember he was voted OFF the podium as House Speaker? What substantive legislation can he point to during his thankfully brief tenure as Speaker of the House, third in line to the Presidency itself? Historicity and blither, and double talk; he represents what stupid thinks smart sounds like.
+11 # commissar 2011-12-05 08:12
"Only a few hours before, Gingrich bragged of having overseen the creation of 11 million jobs as speaker of the House."

Wait a minute. When in ANYONE'S political lifetime has the Speaker of the House been credited with the creation of even 1 job???? This is bizarre.

You weren't president, Newt. And you fought the president at the time tooth and nail. You don't deserve credit for sh*t you self aggrandizing a**hole.
+12 # commissar 2011-12-05 08:13
And as long as Newt wants to bring up his legacy as Speaker of the House: he was the first Speaker in US history to be found guilty of corruption, leading to a $300,000 dollar fine.

Is that the same legacy you're so proud of, Newt?
+9 # feloneouscat 2011-12-05 08:13
The question I would ask is "as Speaker, how did you make America better and show your work". He says a LOT but the reality is that he did not make America better. Many of the laws were vetoed (fortunately) by Clinton.

A review of the laws passed under his leadership might show that he was under the influence of the 1%.
+3 # Travlinlight 2011-12-05 08:35
Gingrich (read Grinch-rich) is one more mad barbarian at the imperial gate. Nearly all of the Repugnican candidates (Huntsman may be a little different)are lke the Visigoths or Ostrogoths who took over command of Rome in the 5th century AD. As recently as 25 to 30 years ago, these strutting apes would have been laughed out of the political forum as absurd extremists utterly lacking in sober statesmanship. As bad as Dole and the other country club Repubs were, they at least had some modicum of sense and human decency.

America is already in serious decline, due in large part to a materialist/con sumerist perception of the world that is fast destroying the planet; electing any one of these babbling Babbits and clowns will seal the deal on our demise, which may be too far along to stop in any case.
+5 # John Locke 2011-12-05 09:15
His platform is his own worst enemy, he wants to do away with child labor laws, taking us back to the late 19th and early 20th century, i look at him and Romney as jokes, Obama will win by default, and thats really sad, Obama also lacks leadership ability, and has for the most part sold out for money...
+10 # THED 2011-12-05 09:16
Just a quick response to RMCD. Stop citing the following as if it were truth: "Just like Al Gore invented the internet." This is an urban myth. Al Gore never said this; it was invented by the rightwing smear machine to denigrate him. Rather than explain, just go to: or to, Even Newt Gingrich has implied that this claim is incorrect.
+8 # Kootenay Coyote 2011-12-05 09:41
No Newt is good Newt.
+11 # Mainiac 2011-12-05 09:53
Just a quickie. It is important to not repeat untruth e.g. Gore never made a statement claiming that he invented the Internet. He did say that he introduced legislation that made the Internet possible. See
-1 # MylesJ 2011-12-05 15:00
Just call him Mr. Mastectomy and leave it at that.
+4 # Ken Hall 2011-12-05 16:01
It amazes me that anyone can take this guy seriously. His "Contract For America" was really a contract on America, and he has been one of the mainstays and architects of the destruction of regulations and regulatory agencies that once kept a check on the power and greed of corporations in the US.
+4 # ABen 2011-12-05 16:34
Newt is nothing more than a monument to unbridled hubris. Having once met the man, I would characterize him a "bottom feeder."
+4 # leedeegirl 2011-12-05 18:34
it's amazing how the "family values party" could even CONSIDER endorsing a guy who served divorce papers to his cancer-stricken wife while IN HER HOSPITAL BED!

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