No, we have not gone back in time to the nineties.
Cher is not introducing a new generation to autotune with “I Believe”, “Friends” is not on TV for three straight prime-time hours, and DC bookstores are not being served with subpoenas to give up the titles of books bought by Monica Lewinsky. But Newt Gingrich really is talking about running for president again.
This week, the former Speaker of the House of Representatives (1995 to 1999) and de facto face of the House Republican Revolution of the nineties, launched a new website to explore “whether there is sufficient support for my potential candidacy for President of this exceptional country.” The website features a large picture of Gingrich with his third wife, Callista, (best known as the staffer with whom Gingrich cheated on his second wife with during the investigation into the Monica Lewinksy scandal), but little else aside for a place for supporters to sign up and leave a comment.
Gingrich is going to have to do some serious making nice. The man who fell dramatically out of popularity following a government shutdown that was somewhat viewed to result from a tantrum on his part is staging his comeback during a time of more GOP-initiated shutdown threats.
In addition there is the legacy of some less-than-honorable behavior within his first and second marriages (telling his first wife that he wanted a divorce as she was in the hospital with cancer, so that he could marry his second wife, with whom he was having an affair, and who he subsequently cheated on with his third wife.) Gingrich seems ready to put that behind him and has made overtures to Christian evangelical leaders, providing extensive financial and strategic support for their causes and asking forgiveness for his behavior. He even helped them to fund – no kidding – projects promoting abstinence. It seems to be working. The Tribune quotes Pastor Brad Sherman of the Solid Rock Christian Church as gushing over Gingrich. “I think he's just excellent. Everybody brings up his past, but he's very open about that, and God is forgiving."
Republicans are split on him. A recent survey by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center showed 41 percent of people who identified as Republican viewed him favorably but 39 percent view him unfavorably. Those ratings were much higher among those Republicans who also identified as conservative, but conversely lower among those who identified as moderate. Overall, however, he only pulled support from seven percent of those polled, trailing far behind the other candidates.
Here he is maintaining impressive equanimity in the face of offensive questioning by the comedian Ali G.
Here's a quick peak at where Mr. Gingrich stands on the issues.
While you might expect Gingrich to carefully sidestep any issue having to do with ethics and marriage, you would be underestimating him. The Miami Herald says Gingrich "played a key behind-the-scenes role in an unprecedented - and successful - campaign to remove three Iowa Supreme Court judges who approved same-sex marriages in the state, helping secure $200,000 in seed money for the effort." Gingrich himself has said "I think there is a gay and secular fascism in this country that wants to impose its will on the rest of us, is prepared to use violence, to use harassment. I think it is prepared to use the government if it can get control of it. I think that it is a very dangerous threat to anybody who believes in traditional religion."
There are more artifacts from his political history Gingrich will be dragging with him, including a 2008 commercial he did with Nancy Pelosi, in which the two sit on a couch (which oddly, seems to be floating atop of the surface of the reflecting pool) smiling sweetly at each other and urging the country’s leaders to take action on climate change.
Gingrich so far has shrugged off concern from his party, saying “I’d do a commercial with Al Gore” but also saying “I don’t think we’re faced with a crisis of global warming, I think the scientific data is very unclear.”
"If you look at the rise of China, the rise of Iran, the challenges in Iraq, the problem with the terrorist war with the irreconcilable wing of Islam — I think you need to spend enough money on intelligence and defense and diplomacy to protect the country."
Asked about the Republican plan to eliminate the income tax and increase instead the sales tax (called with much subtlety the "fair tax" by its proponents), Gingrich said "I think it's an interesting idea but I'm not yet convinced it's a doable idea."
Gingrich is an expert on tigers and is worried about the preservation of the species.
Striking Workers in Wisconsin:
"This is about the people of Wisconsin, having the right, to have their elected officials pass reforms that were a key part of the campaign last year, and I hope that everyone is going to rally to the principle that no minority should be able to block the legitimate reform of government, and that union demonstrators, taking time off, using sick-leave inappropriately in order to demonstrate is fundamentally wrong."
On the Park51 Mosque:
"The World Trade Center site should be a battlefield memorial. Because it was a battlefield. This was an act of war... To suggest that a few blocks from the site at which Islamic extremists killed three thousand Americans, that we should tolerate an act of triumphalism? And anybody who knows anything about history knows it was an act of triumphalism from the original name! It was going to be called the Cordoba House... now you think they happened to randomly pick that?... What they were relying on was that half of us are too ignorant and the other half are too timid to stand up and say baloney."