Hendrik Hertzberg writing about the presidential candidacy of Newt Gingrich is a little like Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel – the perfect pairing of artist and project. And, like Michelangelo, Hertzberg has given us a masterpiece. It's in this week's edition of the New Yorker. Here is an excerpt:
...As a futurist, Gingrich has imagined “populism in space,” honeymoons on the Moon, and theme parks with real live dinosaurs. Now, after being written off as an unpleasant relic of the mid-nineties, he can plausibly imagine himself behind a desk in the Oval Office. Can you? Go on. Imagine it.
As the protagonist of the tale, imagine, if you will, a man who, as Speaker of the House, orchestrates the impeachment of a President for an adulterous affair with a White House aide twenty-six years his junior while he himself is conducting an adulterous affair with a congressional aide twenty-two years his junior, having earlier left the first of his three wives while she was hospitalized with cancer. Imagine a man who attributes these behaviors to “how passionately I felt about this country.” Imagine a man who, told he can’t sit in a front section of Air Force One, shuts down the government. Imagine a man who becomes the only House Speaker ever to be disciplined for ethics violations. Imagine a man who, in a country just staggering out of the worst recession of the past fifty years and facing the threat of worldwide economic collapse, proposes to hire small children to work as janitors, mopping floors and cleaning toilets in their schools (or their orphanages, perhaps). Imagine that man as Commander-in-Chief. It’s no stretch for him. His fantasy life is so rich that he has already compared himself to Abraham Lincoln, Charles de Gaulle, Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, and (for sheer perseverance) Ho Chi Minh.
After watching Saturday's Republican debate on ABC, I'm even more convinced that Gingrich has a legitimate shot to win the nomination. It's still Romney's race to lose, I think, but he may be on his way to losing it. He seemed visibly rattled at times, something I hadn't seen previously in the debates (although, as Alec has pointed out a few times, he may not be as unflappable as it seems). And while Gingrich has plenty of vulnerabilities, his history of fighting for conservative causes (and against Bill Clinton) during the 1990s is bound to give him more credibility with the right than Romney. You don't have to take my word for that. Nate Silver thinks it's true. And he actually knows what he is talking about.
Still, the notion of Gingrich as a serious candidate for anything, let alone the highest office of the land, remains positively mind-boggling.