Members of the salamander family, newts possess the unique ability to regenerate fully functional limbs in the case of amputation and can even regrow eyes, parts of their brain, heart and spinal cord in the event of an injury.
Newt Gingrich’s ability to regenerate his career — to remain relevant for decades, to the point where he is now on the short list to become the Republican nominee for vice president — is no less impressive.
Rather than regenerating limbs, Gingrich’s strength lies in his sharp tongue and keen wit.
Along those lines, the National Review’s Rich Lowry recently (if inadvertently) hit on the reason Gingrich would be the better pick for VP than Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who seems to be his primary competitor.
In discussing Pence’s shortcomings, Lowry observed , “Trump’s running mate will have to be extremely deft at explaining away and deflecting Trump’s controversies. There is no reason to believe that Pence will be good at this, and I’m guessing he won’t be.”
Do you know who is deft at explaining away and deflecting things? Newt Gingrich. In fact, his role could very well be considered “Secretary of Explaining Things.” (Chris Christie, who is also thought to be on the short list, would also be better at this than Pence. But he’s not as good as Gingrich.)
Nobody else could possibly (re)interpret Trump’s indefensible comments, framing them in a more favorable light, making them sound almost intellectual, and then still convincingly manage to make someone feel like a fool for even bringing them up. (Because, after all, the question is silly when you think of how bad the Democrats are in comparison!)
Consider the smackdown delivered to MSNBC reporter Ron Allen when he approached Gingrich on the floor of the Republican National Convention in 2008 and dared to suggest that Sarah Palin’s resume was “not something we’re familiar with seeing with presidential candidates.”
Gingrich unleashed a flurry of verbal punches, insisting that Palin’s resume was “stronger than Barack Obama’s.”
“I don’t know why you guys walk around saying this baloney. She has a stronger resume than Obama,” he continued. “She has been a real mayor, he hasn’t. She has been a real governor, he hasn’t. She has been in charge of the Alaskan National Guard, he hasn’t. She was a whistleblower who defeated an incumbent mayor; he has never once shown that kind of courage. She’s a whistleblower who turned in the chairman of her own party and got him fined $12,000. I’ve never seen Obama do one thing like that. She took on the incumbent governor of her own party and beat him and then she beat a former Democratic governor in the general election. I don’t know of a single thing Obama’s done except talk and write. I’d like you to tell me one thing you think Sen. Obama’s done.”
Now, fast forward to a couple weeks ago, when Gingrich appeared on “Fox News Sunday” with Chris Wallace. In machine-gun fashion, he unloaded on Hillary Clinton, saying, “She was wrong on Brexit. She wanted the ‘Remain’ vote to win. She was wrong on Libya. She thought somehow it would get better if we knock off Gadhafi. She was wrong on the reset with Russia. I mean, what has she been right about? You need more of this kind of experience?”
When Wallace pointed out that Donald Trump was factually incorrect to suggest that Hillary Clinton was asleep during the Benghazi attack, Gingrich conceded the point, continuing, ”OK, I think that on a lot of things people can argue about what Trump says and what Hillary says, but the objective fact is there were over 600 requests for security from Libya. Now, that number came from the chairman of the intelligence committee, not from Donald Trump. They were ignored. The fact is that in the end, there was no effective effort to respond. The fact is, she clearly lied about why it occurred. And again, you had families of the people who were killed who say she lied to them.”
They don’t teach this in pundit school. (Don’t try this at home, kids.)
Look, I’m not saying that a Trump-Gingrich ticket is the bomb. In a perfect world Donald Trump wouldn’t be the Republican nominee. In a less-perfect world, Donald Trump would be set to announce New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez or South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (they’d have to be vetted) as his running mate.
But we don’t live in a perfect world. This is Newt’s world; we’re just living in it.
Roll Call columnist Matt K. Lewis is a Senior Contributor to the Daily Caller and author of the book “Too Dumb to Fail.” Follow him on Twitter @MattKLewis