Newt Gingrich hadn't been in the Republican presidential race a week before embroiling himself in his first damaging, inadvertent controversy.I don't support candidates for the Republican nomination running against their own party. For me, the question is whether Gingrich falls in to the Sarah Palin category: if nominated, I may not vote.
On Meet the Press, the former House speaker excoriated the Medicare provisions of the Paul Ryan budget as "radical" and "right-wing social engineering." As a presidential hopeful who will have to appeal to elderly and near-elderly voters, Gingrich's hesitation about the Ryan plan is understandable and shared by other potential GOP candidates. Only Gingrich, though, felt compelled to take a rhetorical flamethrower to the document endorsed by almost every House Republican.
That's Newt being Newt. When he went to Iowa and predictably plugged ethanol subsidies, he inveighed against "folks in big cities" who "decide what should happen to people in rural America." Every candidate in Iowa endorses ethanol. Only Gingrich makes it a grand sociological clash between different regions of the country.
He can't help himself. Gingrich prefers extravagant lambasting when a mere distancing would do, and the over-arching theoretical construct to a mundane pander. He is drawn irresistibly to operatic overstatement - sometimes brilliant, always interesting, and occasionally downright absurd.
Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. is reputed to have said FDR had a first-class temperament but a second-class intellect. Gingrich flips the Holmes formulation around: He has a first-class intellect but his temperament belongs in steerage.
(via reader Doug J.)