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Newt Gingrich: The joke that South Carolina didn’t get

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I never wanted to write an attack piece. As a satirist with a few TV appearance under my belt, I’ve always avoided the type of person-as-the-joke pseudo-commentary you can hear from smirking amateur comics in LA who say things like, “Hey guys, GLENN BECK! Haha!”

Legitimate commentary deconstructs politicians in order to make a point, rather than relying on shared prejudices to get a snicker. But despite my best attempts, the only real point I can think of to make about Newt Gingrich is that he actually is a joke, and he’s one that a shocking number of Americans don’t get.

This is my attempt to explain it to them.

His opinion is for sale.
Gingrich recently criticized Mitt Romney for his role in the buyout industry, saying that private equity work “is not venture capital.” But two years earlier, he had taken $40,000 to deliver a speech praising the private equity industry.

He told NPR’s Melissa Block that TARP was a “very, very bad idea.” He later voted for it. According to Bloomberg News, one of TARP’s primary beneficiaries, Freddie Mac, paid Gingrich’s consulting firm at least $1.6 million.

Gingrich’s career has been full of flip flops that would make for an interesting Gingrich vs. Gingrich debate made of actual quotes. 2011 Gingrich would claim that he “never favored cap and trade,” then 2007 Gingrich would counter that he’d “strongly support” a package with “mandatory carbon caps combined with a trading system.”

He is a hypocrite.

Gingrich’s hypocrisy isn’t limited to flip-flopping when it’s convenient to his campaign. In an October debate, when discussing who should be jailed for the economic crash, he said, “Let’s look at the politicians who created the environment, the politicians who profited from the environment.” It seems this would include himself because of the $1.6 million Freddie Mac paid him.

Does this mean Gingrich thinks he should be jailed? Probably not. He’s used to making critical statements that apply to himself. For example, while on a speaking tour to promote family and religious values, Gingrich asked his ex-wife for an “open marriage,” then, when she refused, a divorce, according to her statement to ABC News.

Considering Gingrich’s personal affronts to what conservatives call the “sanctity of marriage,” which include cheating on his wife, getting a mistress, and getting divorced twice, it’s also difficult to take seriously his opposition to same-sex marriage, which the Christian Post reports that he called “a temporary aberration,” saying, “I do believe that marriage is between a man and a woman.”

And around the same time Gingrich was both cheating on his wife and loudly criticising Bill Clinton’s moral character, he also became the first Speaker of the House to be disciplined for ethical wrongdoing. Special Counsel James M. Cole concluded that Gingrich had lied to the ethics panel, attempting to force the committee to dismiss its complaint, according to the Washington Post.

His excuse for cheating on his wife was that he’s passionate about America.
In an interview with CBN, Gingrich excused his infidelity by saying, “There’s no question at times of my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate.”

If this excuse is valid, perhaps we should start to question the level of patriotism among the candidates who haven’t cheated on their wives.

He looks like Dwight from “The Office.”

It’s true.

While this is obviously superficial, it could be important in a race against Obama. According to a study published by the Cambridge University Press, candidates who are rated as more attractive have an enormous advantage. The report refers to findings “that snap judgments by research subjects about candidate appearance—that is, perceptions formed by looking only briefly at images of candidates’ faces—correlate with candidates’ actual performance in real-world elections.”

His pants are on fire!
No one should be surprised that Gingrich, a politician, tends to lie a lot, but he has managed to produce some real gems. Of all his blatant lies documented on PolitiFact, my favorite is when he said, “No federal official at any level is currently allowed to say ‘Merry Christmas.’”

Below are some other gems.

So what do we make of this?
I never really understood the “Anybody but X” presidential campaign slogan. Even the worst presidents, such as Jimmy Carter and George Bush, must have been better than someone. Surely, there was always some disingenuous, cheating, manipulative, immature, pathological hypocrite who is worse.

Perhaps that someone is Newt Gingrich.

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