In case you’re wondering who I favor for the Republican nomination for president, the answer is Newt Gingrich. He wasn’t necessarily my favorite at the beginning, but after Sarah Palin declined to jump in and Michele Bachmann dropped out, he’s what I have left.
I like him because I think he best represents what the Republican Party has become. He doesn’t have the utter daffiness of Sarah and Michele, but he has the belligerence and the hypocricy to make up for it.
Especially the belligerence, which is what he’s most celebrated for.
You remember the old days, when the Republican and Democratic parties were more or less mirror images of each other, the Republicans tipping more toward big business and the Democrats more toward labor but otherwise not much different.
National politicians were cozy and collegial with each other — you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.
Newt was part of the change, along with Nixon and his Dirty Tricksters, Karl Rove, Roger Ailes, Rush Limbaugh and the whole Fox Propaganda apparatus. No more “my esteemed colleague” stuff.
Now it was war, and Democrats were not the opposition, they were the enemy. “This war has to be fought with a scale and a duration and a savagery that is only true of civil wars,” Newt told the Heritage Foundation in the 1980s. That’s been his approach ever since, and more recently it’s been the approach of the Republican Party in general.
Newt’s political action committee urged other Republican candidates to “speak like Newt” and when referring to Democrats to use such words as “decay, radical, destroy, pathetic, corrupt and shame.”
So it has been, especially since a moderately liberal black man has been president.
Barack Obama is an alien, a large portion of the American people believe — a Marxist radical schooled at the knee of Saul Alinsky. A secret Muslim. A Luo tribesman from Kenya.
The Gingrich-ites have encouraged, pandered to and led that portion of the population, to the point where now it’s what the Republican Party has become, the party of the crackpot fringe, trying to “Save America” by “Stopping Obama’s Secular-Socialist Machine,” to borrow the title of Gingrich’s most recent book.
Oh, it’s been a dizzy ride.
What’s nice about Newt is that he embodies not just the uncompromising partisanship and not just the over-the-top rhetoric, but also the underlying dishonesty, which you find throughout the religiously inspired right-wing revival.
No need to repeat it — the cheating on his wife while denouncing President Clinton for similar sleaziness, shilling for Freddie Mac while decrying the mortgage bubble, running against the Washington establishment while being a leading member of it, getting fined $300,000 by his own House of Representatives for unethical behavior. Even ascribing his marital cheating to “how passionately I felt about this country.”
It’s the kind of laugh-out-loud hypocrisy that I associate with such luminaries of the born-again-Christian world as Ted Haggard and Jimmy Swaggart.
To his followers, the more extreme the better, the more deranged the better.
When he spoke in Sarasota recently, he said something about sending Obama back to Chicago, and the crowd chanted, “Kenya! Kenya!”
Romney can try to imitate it, as poor John McCain four years ago also pretended to be a right-wing kook, but there’s something unconvincing about him, as there was something unconvincing about McCain.
Newt is the real thing, and I believe it would be fair and just for him to be the party’s nominee. I can’t vote in Florida’s primary today, but I’ll be cheering for him from a distance.
The meaning of opponent
An opponent in boxing is not just an opposing fighter. “Opponent” is a technical term meaning a guy who is overmatched so that another fighter may build a winning record. It’s a guy who is expected to lose, without that implying any kind of fix.
A promoter puts together a card ideally with some bouts equally matched but having a pretty good idea of who is likely to win the others, and the fighter who is expected to lose is known as an opponent.
Manny Lucero, a Mexican featherweight who fights out of Albany, fought a lot of opponents on his way to establishing a 20-0 record, and then he fought some guys who were far from being opponents, like the great Manny Pacquiao, who beat him, but now he’s 33 years old, and like a lot of fighters with respectable records, he still needs a payday. And the sad economic truth is that at this late stage of his career he can get a better payday as an opponent than as a prospect, as an up-and-coming fighter is called.
So he takes fights that he has only a long-shot chance of winning, knowing that he’s on the card with the expectation that he will put up a good fight but in the end will lose.
Last year, after a win in Troy, at Hudson Valley Community, and another in Albany, at the Crowne Plaza, he traveled to Arizona and then to Las Vegas, as an opponent for undefeated “prospects.” He lost both of those fights, moving his record to 26-8.
Last Saturday night he traveled to Atlantic City to fight the undefeated Irish featherweight champion, Patrick Hyland.
I was with him in his dressing room at the Resorts Casino Hotel, which wasn’t actually a room but just a curtained-off corner of a ballroom. (Such semi-privacy is a perquisite of main-event fighters. Undercard fighters milled around at large.)
He wore a Mexican lucha libre mask, which I had never seen him do before, and I joked with him about wearing it into the ring, not knowing that that’s what he intended to do. He was serious, far more serious than before his local fights, when he was on the other side of the opponent-prospect divide, and I thought maybe the mask served a purpose.
Can you imagine the final hour before going into a ring to punch it out with a guy who is likely to punch harder and straighter than you?
I really cannot, which is partly why I was there.
Not to keep you in suspense, Manny fought as hard and as aggressively as I have seen him fight, not just in the manner of an athlete but with true belligerence, never backing down, but nevertheless consistently getting beaten to the punch by the younger, longer-reaching, and more accurate champion, and at the end of the scheduled eight rounds, he jumped up on the corner ropes in triumph, not because he thought he had won — everyone knew he had been outpointed — but because he had fought a noble fight and had finished it honorably.
He was as happy as I’ve seen him after some of his wins. He hugged Hyland, and Hyland hugged him. He posed for pictures with bosomy waitresses, accepted congratulations all around, and went back to his dressing cubicle to strip down.
For me it was a moving night, even though Manny had now lost nine of his last 14 fights.
I took a couple pictures of the action, which you can view by clicking HERE.