The Washington Post

The return of the better Newt?

I have confessed before — and “confessed” is the right word in this context for a liberal like me — that I came to like Gingrich in the mid 1980s. OK, let me qualify this right away. I did not like the Gingrich who helped create the polarized Congress that we have today, and I loathed the vicious and often baseless attacks he could direct toward his opponents. But when Gingrich sat down over dinner to talk about politics and how the world as he saw it worked, he could be a delightful sparring partner and conversational companion. While many of his ideas are, in my view, wrongheaded, others were quite intriguing. And when he is away from the microphones, he is willing to entertain rather heretical thoughts. There have been times in his career when he gave us intonations of the old Rockefeller Republicanism he once espoused.

Newt, the Presidential candidate, was only occasionally like this. Many of the things he said over the last several months — about President Obama and American Muslims, for example — were deeply offensive. Sadly, I fear we will hear more from this particular Gingrich between now and Election Day.

But all of God’s children are entitled to hope. My hope is that having gotten a presidential race out of his system, Gingrich can become that guy I glimpsed over dinner, the sometimes off-the-wall but almost always thought-provoking purveyor of ideas and theories. He ought to know better than anyone that there are second — and third, fourth, and fifth — acts in American politics.

E.J. Dionne writes about politics in a twice-weekly column and on the PostPartisan blog. He is also a senior fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution, a government professor at Georgetown University and a frequent commentator on politics for National Public Radio, ABC’s “This Week” and NBC’s “Meet the Press.”


Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read


Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Videos curated for you.
Play Videos
Sleep advice you won't find in baby books
In defense of dads
Scenes from Brazil's Carajás Railway
Play Videos
For good coffee, sniff, slurp and spit
How to keep your child safe in the water
How your online data can get hijacked
Play Videos
How to avoid harmful chemicals in school supplies
Full disclosure: 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, 1 ghoul
How much can one woman eat?
Play Videos
What you need to know about Legionnaires' disease
How to get organized for back to school
Pandas, from birth to milk to mom