Say what you will about Newt Gingrich, the man is a superb speaker. I refer not to his former title of House Speaker, but his ability to stand before a group of people and captivate them with his rhetoric – unlike the current President of the United States and, most importantly, unlike the current crop of presidential candidates of both parties.

Gingrich’s latest example as spellbinder came last week at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. There, before a sizeable luncheon crowd, he dissected the current political system, evaluated the current White House contenders, and gave a hint as to what he might do regarding his own presidential ambitions. All of this he did without notes, without a Teleprompter, without political consultants, but with the skills that come from years of classroom teaching and political jousting with the media.

The reason this performance seems exceptional is the comparison between Gingrich’s way with words and George W. Bush’s constant entanglement with the English language. As William F. Buckley, Jr. said of Bush, “Words are not his thing.” The presidential contenders also leave much to be desired, since they are both products and prisoners of their handlers, advisers, technicians, and managers. The candidates are drilled and coached constantly on how to handle the 30-second sound bite, or summarize in one minute or less how they would change the world, if elected.

Gingrich and former senator Fred Thompson are the two shoes yet to be dropped in the 2008 race. But it appears that Newt is edging closer to announcing his candidacy. Thompson, who represented Tennessee in the Senate, is having campaign troubles even before he announces. Top members of his campaign staff have recently been reshuffled or replaced, and people are beginning to wonder whether his actor’s role as a prosecutor on TV’s “Law and Order” can transition from make-believe to reality.

During the National Press Club appearance, Gingrich described Hillary Clinton as “as very formidable professional,” and indicated in so many words that he thought she would be the Democratic candidate in 1980. Asked if he planned to enter the fray, he gave that familiar smile and replied, “I rest my case.” Previously, Gingrich teased the media by stating, “If there were a large enough vacuum, then obviously I’m willing to consider running.” In reality, Hillary would be the perfect opponent for Gingrich, since the baggage he carries would be neutralized or invalidated by the Clinton family’s own indiscretions.

The Monica Lewinsky encounters, the impeachment proceedings against Bill, Hillary’s own involvement with the White Water episode – each would be replayed in all their depravity if the Clinton camp even dared to mention Newt’s extramarital affairs or his lack of sensitivity. The latter fault of insensitivity involves the touchy issue of whether Gingrich knew that his wife, Marianne, might be suffering from multiple sclerosis when he told her on Mothers Day, 1999, that he wanted a divorce. Then there is the alleged comparable incident in 1981, when he told his first wife, Jackie, who was hospitalized with cancer, that he wanted out of that marriage.

So in a Gingrich versus Hillary showdown, both sides would hold devastating ammunition. To use Hillary’s metaphor, you don’t tell the enemy that you might nuke them, even though they know full well the weapons are in your arsenal. And it was Gingrich who led the impeachment movement against Bill Clinton, so we already know where Newt stands. But what a battle royale it would be – like two scorpions in a bottle. A recent “Frontline” TV documentary noted that the Republican party “can’t resist a tent show,” and therefore won’t be able to hold off drafting Gingrich. While the declared candidates have been showing up at predetermined locations for their 30-second sound bites, Gingrich has been touring the country on a 25-city promotional tour for his newest book, with virtually unlimited time to voice what’s wrong with America and how it might be fixed.

While several of the current crop of candidates have stumbled and blundered over position statements, and have had to spend valuable time explaining what they really meant, such as Barack Obama’s “invasion” announcement, Gingrich enjoys the luxury of being able to grow and change in private. Viewed in another light, Gingrich appears to have a personal strategy, a master plan that the declared candidates either lack or are unable to articulate.

September 27 is the anniversary date of Gingrich’s best-selling book, Contract With America. It is no coincidence that during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he answered a question about 2008 in the following manner: “Well, I’m thinking about running, but I won’t do anything at all about the possibility of running until late in September.”

– Chase.Hamil

 

 

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