...I've stood at Auschwitz, where millions were massacred. Then I read about in Darfur, where hundreds of thousands are dying in the Sudan.... ...I look at civilizations that have collapsed: Rome, Greece, China, the Aztecs, the Mayas. And then I look around at our pretensions and our beliefs -- that we are somehow permanent -- and I am reminded that it is the quality of leaders, the courage of a people, the ability to solve problems that enables us to continue for one more year, and then one more year, until our children and our grandchildren have had this freedom, this safety, this health and this prosperity.....

Newt Gingrich on "This I believe" (All Things Considered)

I've long since come to believe that Newt Gingrich as virulent reagent was never more than political affectation. No one ever doubted he was brilliant, but since his tumble from political grace, he has surprised me with an unexpected level of discernment and sensibility in his commentary. Yesterday's audio file on NPR takes the cake for me, though. He brought me up full short. I heard the creed of a man who is genuinely concerned for his civilization, and considers solutions based in humanity and humility, rather than bluster and belligerence. Apparently Gingrich extemporized the entire comment, and I was impressed by its coherence, but much more so by its tenor.

It's too bad that Gingrich decided against such equanimity at the time he was in a position to actually make a difference. Then again, if he had done at that time, his colleagues would likely never have allowed him to ascend to such a position. Such is realpolitik today, and especially so in the cartoon halls of American government.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia
2 responses
Of course there might be other explanations.

Such as: maybe Gingrich hasn't changed at all but rather the lens NPR is now giving you to view him has a different filter.

My personal feeling is that whenever anyone starts being demonized (or being a virulent reagent in your words) that means they are probably very effective.  In other words, the quiet guys everyone likes are doing jack s**t.

I make a point of trying to make my own opinion of demonized political leaders by attempting to get rid of any intermediate commentary and filters.  It turns out most lightning rods like Gingrich, Paul Wolfowitz, and Hillary Clinton are real people with very smart and interesting ideas but they've been distorted by the media and by political opponents.
No.  With Gingrich it was never a matter of media exaggeration.  If anything, I think that the media didn't do justice to just how inflammatory he was.  He made statements on civil rights, economics, government programs, commerce, immigration, geopolitics,. etc. that were not much less benighted than statements of the Bush administration.  I agree it was probably theater, but that doesn't minimize the damage to the civility of political discourse.