"Newt Gingrich was drunk. He was eloquently drunk, lovingly and pugnaciously drunk."
Well, that's how the Washington Post's fresh expose of the former Speaker should have opened -- poetically, if a trifle plagiaristically. A real time-saver, though, that suggested lede; 12 defining words of towering vocational hypocrisy, sparing the busy reader either 465 novelistic pages or four journalistic ones.
[A] largely unexplored cache of documents compiled by a former Gingrich aide ... show Gingrich was viewed by his staff primarily as a tactician — the "tent evangelist" of the conservative movement, one staffer said — with little ideological core.
I'll leave the Post article to speak for itself, although here I would add a touch of irony.
Perhaps the story's most damning passage -- most damning, that is, to any contemporary conservative -- is the one that virtually any conservative of conservatism's more lucid, Burkean yesteryears would have proudly advertised:
Gingrich had described himself as a "progressive" in his 1970 application to teach at what was then West Georgia College. That self-description changed to a "common-sense conservative" by his 1974 race.
"Changed to a," in the aforementioned lucid age, might well have been written, "included." For there is no organic conflict between progressivism and common-sense conservatism; indeed, the founder of modern progressivism, Franklin Roosevelt, was unshakably conservative in many of his cautionary ventures and tales, just as Edmund Burke seldom disdained the mantle of progress.
Today's sharp contrast between the two schools of thought may be a political reality, but it's also a philosophical fiction -- if, that is, we embrace the authentic meanings of "progressivism" and "common-sense conservatism." But that's damn hard to do these days, which is to say, ever since conservatives went and got themselves pugnaciously drunk on pseudoconservative evangelicalism.