Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Newt and the Green-ey’d Monster

I’ve never been a big fan of trying to psychoanalyze someone from long distance, but it doesn’t require an advanced degree of psychology to figure out at least part of where Newt Gingrich is coming from in his recent attack on President Obama. In fact, all you need is a good edition of Shakespeare’s Othello to know what’s going on: he’s insanely jealous of him.

It’s pretty simple, really. Barack Obama, even with the funny name and the up-from-nowhere childhood, managed to achieve in just four years what has eluded Newt Gingrich all his life: respectability and power on a grand scale without seeming to grasp for it, a happy marriage to one wife, and an ability to win people over without having to bully them into it. And just like Iago, Mr. Gingrich is driven to rage and therefore must strike out.

He did the same thing to Bill Clinton. Here he was, this back-bench bomb-thrower from Georgia who first achieved notice when he destroyed House Speaker Jim Wright and saw his path to the White House, only to have this young Governor of Arkansas came out of nowhere in 1992 to sweep the country with a charm and attraction that drove Mr. Gingrich nuts. “That’s supposed to be me!” he’s screaming.

Those of a certain age will recognize the pattern. Richard Nixon went to his grave obsessed with the Kennedys who seemingly without having to break a sweat achieved everything and had everything he so desperately wanted for himself: good looks, charm, magnetism, people drawn to him as if by magic, and even in the face of tragedy and grief, strength and courage that he never had. Even when he achieved the pinnacle of his dream, he destroyed it all by himself through rage, self-doubt, and paranoia that somehow, some way, someone smarter and more popular would take it all away.

It’s striking how similar the career path of Newt Gingrich is to Mr. Nixon. He’s already been driven from power into political disgrace once by his own hand, and yet he keeps coming back for more, sure that this time will be the one…. and he would have made it, too, if it wasn’t for that meddling kid from Chicago! Or Kenya….

It’s been said that there are no second acts in America. Richard Nixon proved that wrong, and Mr. Gingrich is trying for it, too. Let’s just hope that unlike Othello, it doesn’t take five acts until the villain is dragged off the stage.