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The Gingrich Style

The Gingrich Style

By Joe Conason - May 20, 2011

It is hard to see why anyone was surprised by Newt Gingrich's self-ignited implosion in the earliest hours of his presidential candidacy. The career of the former House speaker and Georgia congressman is practically bursting with proof that he suffers from chronic paranoid hysteria -- a condition that has done more to advance than diminish his status among conservatives.

They loved him until he aimed his vitriol against one of their own, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, deriding the Wisconsin Republican's plan to gut Medicare as "right-wing social engineering."

Inundated by denunciations from every quarter of his party and movement, Gingrich swiftly backtracked and apologized and tried to blame the media. But his former fans are perhaps beginning to realize what most Americans understood about him years ago -- that he is wholly untrustworthy and unfit for leadership.

Addicted to excess in every facet of his life, Gingrich first became an important figure in the conservative movement almost two decades ago chiefly because -- unlike the more decorous Republicans who then led his party -- he was eager to utter the most vicious accusations against liberals and Democrats.

More than that, he encouraged other Republicans around the country to do likewise, founding an organization called GOPAC that trained right-wing candidates how to use a lexicon of slurs describing their liberal or Democratic opponents as "sick," "pathetic," "radical" and "traitors," among other things.

He echoed that list in his attack on the Ryan plan, too, which he described as "radical," giving great offense to his fellow Republicans.

Yet Gingrich's blustering, abusive rhetoric style has not only served him well, at least until now, but has also become the dominant tone among Republicans and conservatives. When he rants on about the "secular socialist Obama machine" as a threat comparable to Nazi Germany or Soviet communism, nobody on the right tells him to dial it back and almost everybody applauds.

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Copyright 2011, Creators Syndicate Inc.

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