- - Sunday, January 15, 2012

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Anyone who knows Newt Gingrich knows that Newt Gingrich is — and always has been — all about Newt Gingrich. Newt Gingrich doesn’t give a damn about the Republican Party. And Newt Gingrich sure doesn’t care about ousting President Obama, unless he’s doing the ousting. If Newt Gingrich can’t be the nominee, then Newt Gingrich will burn the whole place to the ground.

And that’s just what he’s done since plunging in the polls. Furious over the TV ads the pro-Romney super PAC ran against him in Iowa, Mr. Gingrich abandoned his pledge not to speak ill of his fellow Republicans and struck out on a course to destroy the Republican front-runner.

In one of many odd utterances, the former House speaker acknowledged as much in the run-up to the New Hampshire primary: “My real goal was to make sure that Romney did not win here by a big enough margin to develop real momentum.” Simple: Take Mr. Romney down, even if it brings down the entire Republican Party.

At times, Mr. Gingrich has sounded exactly like Mr. Obama in his attacks on Mr. Romney’s tenure at a large venture capital firm, parroting the class warfare claptrap that will be the centerpiece of the Democratic campaign.

“There has to be some sense of everybody’s in the same boat — and I think again, as I said, he’s gonna have to explain why would Bain have taken $180 million out of a company and then have it go bankrupt, and to what extent did they have some obligation to the workers? Remember, these were a lot of people who made that $180 million — it wasn’t just six rich guys at the top. And yet somehow they walked off from their fiduciary obligation to the people who had made the money for them,” Mr. Gingrich said.

The new Newt is miles away from the old Newt, at least the facade. In early Republican debates, Mr. Gingrich chastised moderators for seeking to split the party’s candidates, force them to criticize one another.

“I’m frankly not interested in your effort to get Republicans fighting each other. You’d like to puff this up into some giant thing,” he said at one debate. “I for one … and I hope all my friends up here … are going to repudiate every effort of the news media to get Republicans to fight each other to protect Barack Obama, who deserves to be defeated, and all of us are committed as a team. Whoever the nominee is, we are all for defeating Barack Obama.”

Mr. Gingrich’s descent into the nasty should surprise no one; the corpulent, thrice-married former speaker is clearly a man who cannot control his appetites. His decision to split for a vacation in the Greek islands during the first days of his campaign prompted his campaign team to resign en masse, leaving the candidate so rudderless he couldn’t even get on the ballot for some state primaries.

Without a disciplined team of advisers around him, Mr. Gingrich’s true character has shone through. Newt’s facade as an avuncular, even-tempered man of moderation has given way to the true Newt: angry, impulsive, irrational, undisciplined.

For years, Mr. Gingrich played the coy party leader, teasing conservatives as he toyed with the idea of running for president. He played the game in 2000, and again in 2008. But like Sarah Palin, he had no intention of running: Instead, he was busy making big bucks as an author and paid speaker ($50,000 a pop). Each campaign cycle he would emerge, hit the TV circuit, hype his latest book, and then disappear into the shadows again.

Here’s the fallout of Mr. Gingrich’s scorched-earth campaign for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination: The former speaker has lost his position as de facto head of the Republican Party — forever — and with his departure, the former Alaska governor will assume his longtime role.

Mr. Gingrich was once the main speaker at the conservatives’ top summit, the Conservative Political Action Conference. He thrilled conservatives year after year with his die-hard right agenda. But this February, Mrs. Palin will be the keynote speaker. And by then, Mr. Gingrich will be a former candidate for the 2012 presidential nomination.

The job swap will be complete. Mrs. Palin will play the same role as Mr. Gingrich once did: pushing the Republican Party to the right as she cashes in on books and speeches. She’ll toy with a run in 2016 should the Republicans lose this November but pull back. By 2020, she’ll jump in — and be crushed, just like Mr. Gingrich has been this cycle. And by then, there’ll be another conservative leader in the wings to take over her role. Same as it ever was.

Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at jcurl@washingtontimes.com.