Timothy Egan, at the NYTimes, on “Deconstructing A Demagogue“:
When not holding forth from his favorite table at L’Auberge Chez François, nestled among the manor houses of lobbyist-thick Great Falls, Va., Dr. Newton L. Gingrich likes to lecture people about food stamps and how out-of-touch the elites are with real America.
Gingrich, as he showed in a gasping effort in Thursday night’s debate in Florida, is a demagogue distilled, like a French sauce, to the purest essence of the word’s meaning. He has no shame. He thinks the rules do not apply to him. And he turns questions about his odious personal behavior into mock outrage over the audacity of the questioner.
After inventing, and then perfecting, the modern politics of personal destruction, Gingrich has decided now to bank on the dark fears of the worst element of the Republican base to seize the nomination — using skills refined over four decades…
So, all of a sudden, the members of the Permanent Governing Party (GOP Wing) have discovered that Newton Leroy Gingrich is popular with the wrong sort of voters, namely those sad angry losers who think the Tea Party was a spontaneous upwelling of righteous anti-government Rightness. And this has the PGP (G-W) in a swivet, because Newt Gingrich, Swollen Amphibian, is not only a sure bet to lose to President Obama come November, but a sucker bet to take a lot of down-ticket Republican contenders with him on the U.S.S. Oblivion. Even before the Jacksonville debacle, sensible people like Jonathan Bernstein at WaPo were pointing out that Newt’s talents as a Master Debater had been overstated:
… Several people have pointed out that the fantasy fueling Newt’s campaign — that the trick to winning the general election is to destroy President Obama in the fall debates — is nonsense, because general election debates don’t really work like that. But what Monday demonstrated (and as I’ve been saying for a while; see also Seth Masket for a fine historical example), is that Newt’s reputation as a brilliant debater is actually a fraud. What Newt has done well isn’t debating the other candidates; what he’s done well is attacking the moderators, and it works especially well when there’s a partisan Republican audience ready to cheer any shots at the liberal media. That’s not going to happen in general election debates.
And then came Jacksonville, where Newt was pummeled into submission by dumb shouty Wolfe Blitzer, the human equivalent of a ball-driven labrador retriever barking throwthrowthrow! at you. As Ed Kilgore, at the Washington Monthly, described Newt’s performance: “He sounded bad, he looked bad, and generally came across like a weasel who had finally been cornered by Animal Control.”
I will admit that, although I thought it was impossible to overestimate the satiric possibilities inherent in the career of “Professor” Gingrich, I never dreamed he’d manage a re-re-re-return to the spotlight that would require such unlikely individuals as “Elliot Abrams, Ann Coulter, Tom DeLay, Matt Drudge, & R. Emmett Tyrell, Jr“ to attack him… for being insufficiently right(wing)-thinking and historically disrespectful to St. Ronnie of Reagan. Nor would I have believed that Erick “Voice of the GOP Gated Community” Erickson would be driven to assault poor old BobDole as a Clinton-friendly turncoat, in defense of the man Erickson is glumly certain as the most likely spoil his RedStaters’ dreams in November. Truly, we live in an amazing age.