The Passion of Newt
Oh, Newtie, excite us, delight us, make our knees grow weak.
We wish for you to whir us, stir us, fill our hearts and lure us.
Inflame us, reclaim us, take our souls, don't blame us.
Newt Gingrich, I admit, stirs me to poetry. There is something very different about his campaign for the Republican nomination.
"You are going to be the nominee?" Jake Tapper of ABC News asked him last week.
"I am going to be the nominee," Gingrich replied.
True, no one has actually cast an actual vote in a single Republican caucus or primary. But all that voting stuff, that campaigning stuff, is really all so ... vulgar. And so yesterday.
Newt's campaign is an immaculate one. It is pure, unstained, unblemished by the grubby demands of the old politics.
Organizing? He does not need organizing, not even in the first contest, Iowa, long thought to be a state where organizing was indispensable.
With the Iowa caucuses less than a month away, Newt opened his first — and only — campaign office in a suburb of Des Moines a few days ago. He has not built a statewide organization and sees no need to.
As an adviser to his "skeletal Iowa operation" tells Trip Gabriel and Jeff Zeleny of The New York Times, "The reality is we're flying by the seat of the pants."
Pants? Who needs pants? Not Newt.
"I think you can write a psychological profile of me that says I found a way to immerse my insecurities in a cause large enough to justify whatever I wanted it to," Newt once said.
Today, Newt has immersed himself in something larger than political organization.
"Passion," Alex Castellanos, a super-savvy Republican media consultant unaligned with any campaign this year, told me last Saturday. "Passion is the new organizing."
Sunday, Matthew Dowd, the chief strategist for George W. Bush in 2004, wrote in the National Journal, that when it comes to Iowa this cycle, "don't watch the organization. Watch for the outward signs of momentum, energy and passion for a candidate."
On Monday, veteran political reporter John Harwood wrote in The New York Times that Gingrich possesses "an organic connection" to the Republican conservative base.
Passion. Energy. Organic connection.
These are what Newt revels in.
"Really poor children in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works," Newt said in Iowa recently. "So they literally have no habit of showing up on Monday. They have no habit of staying all day. They have no habit of ‘I do this and you give me cash,' unless it's illegal."
I guess this is another example of his passion. Me, I don't see it. Both on the stump and in debates, Newt has always seemed to me to be bookish and professorial, dusty and fusty, disdainful and contemptuous.
But, in fairness to his organic powers, I tried to find out where he developed his keen knowledge of how poor people behave. His childhood was spent largely on military bases in America, France and Germany, where he was the adopted son of an Army officer. This was not high living, but it was a far cry from poverty.
In "The Inner Quest of Newt Gingrich" by Gail Sheehy in Vanity Fair in September 1995, Sheehy interviewed Newt and seemingly everyone of importance who crossed his path in life. It is a detailed, dramatic and sometimes lurid piece in which virtually everyone is quoted on the record.
And it reveals where Newt got his attitude toward work. Sheehy writes:
"Newt, who avoided Vietnam with student and marriage deferments, resisted taking a job. During his college years, Newt called up his father and stepmother to ask for financial help. His stepmother, Marcella McPherson, can still hear his exact words: ‘I do not want to go to work. ... So I wondered, would you people help me?'''
His father started sending him monthly checks. This habit of depending on the kindness of others continued.
Sheehy writes: "Dolores Adamson, Gingrich's district administrator from 1978 to 1983, remembers, ‘Jackie (Jackie Battley, Newt's high school geometry teacher and first wife) put him all the way through school. All the way through the P.h.D. ... He didn't work."
So you can see why Newt is now an expert on the "habits of working."
Early on, Newt found a secret: Get family to pay your way. Then get taxpayers to pay your way, then charge $60,000 a speech, and then get corporations to give you large sums of money. And ultimately, of course, there is the presidency, with its comfortable salary, free housing and that big plane where you can choose any seat you want.
Newtrino, bambino, our fiery jalapeno,
Thrill us. Chill us. Do everything but bill us.
To find out more about Roger Simon, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.
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