Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich — who bounded onto the CPAC stage to the strains of Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” — predicted that the GOP will seize control of the House and Senate in the midterm elections. That was the headline-grabbing bit of his bombastic, 30-minute speech, which touched on topics as varied as the works of Albert Camus, old anti-Soviet slogans, Gordon Wood’s definition of “corruption,” and Minnesota’s ability to balance the budget.
“Please note,” tweeted Tim Cameron of Gingrich’s group American Solutions. “Newt Gingrich doesn’t need a teleprompter.”
Other speeches by the politicians on CPAC’s presidential straw poll* were far more obviously partisan. Gingrich did have booster-ish zingers, crediting Obama with creating the jobs of Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.), Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-Va.), and Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) and crediting Mitt Romney with creating more jobs than the Democrats. The first statement was cant — the second was a cutting remark that underscored why, exactly, a man who left the speaker’s chair in disgrace 12 years ago could speak so confidently about how his party was ready to govern again. He framed his prescription for Republicans — “bipartisanship” that demanded parity, right now with the majority party — as a good faith effort to save Democrats from themselves.
“We can’t go on recess,” he said.
The Democratic Party that Gingrich saw in Washington resembled the one that Glenn Beck rails against on his Fox News show — a “radical” and “corrupt” project antithetical to America’s institutions and history. Multiple speakers have compared the administration to the Soviet Union; Gingrich did so more subtly, explaining that the Soviets tried to convince their subjects that “2+2=5,” and so did the Democrats.
Before the speech, I asked a few attendees what they thought of Gingrich. Did they forgive him for endorsing Dede Scozzafava in NY-23? Sure, said University of Alabama student Alexandra Brown — “He’s Newt Gingrich.” But Ohio activist Marie Heinig told me she’d ruled out Gingrich as a conservative leader because of the “immorality” with which he conducted his personal life.
*with the exception of the one by Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.)