Re-Newtering America

Newt Gingrich is back!   In fact, it’s his fourth or fifth comeback.  He has his third wife in tow, two new DVDs, that old gift for the flabby-gabby, and presidential ambitions.  With the former wunderkind turning 69 in 2012, and a Republican considered a likely winner for the presidency that year, it will be his last chance to succeed his hero FDR as global leader, reformer, and savior.

I met Newt in April 1994 when he came to visit our editorial board at the Orange County Register.  (That spring there were strong indications that Republicans would take the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years and make him speaker, which is what happened.)  I brought along the 17-year-old son of some friends of mine.  I asked the boy afterward what he thought of Newt.  “All he does is talk,” the boy said.  “I don’t trust him.”

At the meeting, somebody asked about Social Security reform.  Newt replied that, having been in the wilderness four decades, Republicans first would show that they could govern responsibly, and then reform would come.  By the time Republicans put forward a cohesive reform plan with a chance of passing, with Vice President Dick Cheney leading the push in 2005, Newt was long gone from the House.

The plan, based on schemes by the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute, involved allowing people to shift some...

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