"Don't call it a comeback, I been here for years." -- LL Cool J
Indeed he has. And such are the odd vicissitudes of politics in America that it seems as if its liberals who are the ones waxing nostalgic over one Newton Leroy Gingrich.
A corner on the cover of Mother Jones teases, "He's Baaack"; an 8,000-word cover feature in The New York Times Magazine (with a rather flattering picture) suggests the same thing; after a horrible post-almost-State-of-the-Union performance by Bobby Jindal, pollster Peter Feld predicts Newt will be the 2012 GOP nominee.
From whence comes all this grudging admiration for a man national magazines once labeled Scrooge and depicted as the Grinch -- the Christmas before he was first sworn in as Speaker?
It's a bit more complicated than the conservative-held view that the mainstream media is uniformly liberal and thus automatically rooting for Democrats. (And I say this as someone who worked for Gingrich in the mid-90's). The media loves conflict. Thus, the '93-'98 Clinton-Gingrich/Republican Congress period is seen as something of a Golden Age for political alley fights, culminating, of course, in impeachment and, two years later, in its bizarre drawn-out echo – the 2000 recount drama.
Alas, it doesn't seem like anyone in the GOP can act as a needed foil for Barack Obama and the Democrats. Sarah Palin is still trying to rebuild her image – and pay some back taxes; Jindal needs to recover from his speech; RNC Chairman Michael Steele has had several early stumbles. Republican governors are split on the stimulus package. So, right now, everything is going Obama's way. That's all well and good for the "liberal media." But for the media that needs conflict to sell papers or attract viewers, that's just not going to work.
Besides, there's another element here. Gingrich revels in political action. Perhaps no one other than his '90s doppelganger, Bill Clinton, loves both the policy stuff and the political strategizing more than Newt.
Steele became a GOP folk hero for his “Drill, baby, drill” chant at the Republican National Committee. But it was Gingrich whose “Drill here; drill now; pay less” on-line petition while gas prices were skyrocketing last summer that galvanized congressional Republicans, convinced the broader public – and caused Democrats to agree to remove the decades long restriction on drilling for oil offshore.
Yes, now that Democrats control both Congress and the White House, such exploration is unlikely to occur. Still, Republicans: don't forget that the man who helped draft and sell the Contract With America – an organizing document that nationalized the '94 elections and brought the GOP its first House majority in 40 years – still has the power to influence public policy.
And still has the power to terrify Democrats.
Even the media would like something of a fair fight in political battles.
Right now, Republicans resemble Smurfs trying to fight Superman. So, a Newt Gingrich rising from the ashes may just what everyone needs.
Perhaps even for a Barack Obama who could use a good fight.
Robert A. George is a New York writer. He blogs at Ragged Thots.