In the Arena

The Newt Balloon

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My print column this week, which can be found here by TIME subscribers, is about Newt Gingrich–who is, without doubt, one of the more interesting specimens in American politics, a combination of vile rhetoric and occasionally interesting policy ideas. What can you make of a guy who, on the one hand, called President Obama the purveyor of a “Kenyan anti-colonialist” worldview and, on the other hand, has spent much of his public life trying to figure out ways to help the poor? 

Gingrich’s means are always the same–market-oriented solutions–but the ends are often benign (and, just as often foolish, as with his continuing attempts to privatize Social Security). The one constant is the rhetoric, which is grandiose on his more humble days. The Wall Street Journal points out the difficulties of this style in a smart editorial today.

It may be that Republicans have been so whip-lashed by their lunatic presidential campaign that Newt will be their final resting place—a result fervently desired by the Obama White House–or that the Newt hot air balloon will expand and expand until it pops. Either way, we are about to experience one of the more fascinating, and entertaining, months of American politics that I can remember.

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