NOTHING SUCCEEDS LIKE REPUBLICAN FAILURE
So earlier today I read the New York Times Magazine cover story on Newt Gingrich by self-hating liberal Matt Bai, and from it I learned that Gingrich is "brilliant," the GOP's "last great thinker," a serious contender for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, and, in fact, the comeback kid of the moment.
How significant is Gingrich these days? Well, according to Bai, "the last 12 months or so have been ... a pretty great year for Newt."
Let's examine that statement in detail -- using Bai's own evidence.
* Last spring, as gas prices soared, Gingrich expertly employed the combination of an Internet appeal and some cheerleading from Sean Hannity to popularize his new slogan for increased domestic oil production -- "Drill here, drill now, pay less" -- and delivered to Congress a petition with more than a million signatures in support of more drilling.
Fine work -- except that gas prices fell and everyone except wingnuts forgot about this campaign, and the presidential candidate at whom it was directed made a microadjustment in his stance on offshore drilling, then won the election handily.
* In September, an emboldened Gingrich goaded influential House Republicans into revolting against Bush's bailout plan for the banks.
Except that this revolt was ultimately unsuccessful, and did real harm to the Republicans' presidential nominee, who'd gone back to D.C. to give the appearance of solving the banking crisis, and wound up looking inept if not obstructionist.
* [Gingrich] urged [congressional Republicans] to go after the nomination of the incoming Treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, who had been one of the architects of the bailout plan Gingrich found so odious and who was now in trouble over unpaid taxes.
An effort that was entirely unsuccessful.
* He has forged new alliances with leaders of the next generation [of congressional Republicans] as well -- most notably Eric Cantor, the Virginia congressman who is minority whip....
Which might be a brilliant move if Cantor weren't a laughingstock outside of Wingnuttia.
* On Thanksgiving Day, ... in an e-mail message one recipient shared with me, Gingrich fired off a riff on an idea by Louie Gohmert, a Republican congressman from Texas, who had suggested that, instead of a stimulus bill, the party propose a payroll-tax holiday. "FICA and personal income tax combined are about $160 billion a month (you might want to check my math)," Gingrich wrote to a group of Congressional allies. "So if Pelosi proposes a $700 billion stimulus spending package in January, we could propose a 4-month tax holiday as the alternative." In a separate e-mail message to his own aides, he wrote: "Think of no personal or corporate income tax and no fica tax for a year as a stimulus package. Am I nuts in rome or is the contrast startling."
An idea we barely heard about because it was never seriously proposed. (As Bai himself notes, "The tax-holiday idea never really went anywhere.")
* As Gingrich explained it to me back in November, just after the election, what he had been preaching to Cantor and other House Republicans was [that there were] two basic paths for Obama: either he was going to cater to interest groups and his Congressional wing, or he was going to take a more centrist, more reformist approach to governing.
If he chose Door No. 1, then Republicans had to propose a thoughtful, alternate agenda of their own. "Screaming 'No!' is just not a strategy," Gingrich told me. But he said he was betting that Obama would take the second approach -- that he meant what he said about leaving the old doctrines behind and intended to govern in a way that might fundamentally realign American politics. And if that were the case, Gingrich ... was telling them that ... their best play -- and maybe their only play -- was actually to team up with him on legislation if they could.
Except that Gingrich didn't have a plan for what actually happened, which was that Obama reached out to Republicans and empowered congressional Democrats. The "brilliant" "last great thinker" never had a brilliant piece of thinkology for his charges in response to that possibility, and they (and he) ultimately lost even more credibility with voters as a result of their anti-stimulus hissyfit.
* Gingrich exhibited obvious but short-lived interest in a 2008 presidential run, at one point musing that he might run if his supporters could raise $30 million.
Which, of course, never happened.
Wow -- helluva year for Newt, right?
But, see, it doesn't matter, because self-hating liberal reporters such as Matt Bai will always take a Republican's Black Knight-like claim of fearsomeness very, very seriously. As long as there are Matt Bais in the media, Republicans will always have credibility and power that's vastly out of proportion to their standing with actual voters. The Bais of the world are a force multiplier for the GOP -- probably the best force multiplier Republicans have.