The idea of Newt Gingrich as a viable candidate for President in 2008 had always struck me as nothing more the Quixotic dream of people who spend too much time watching C-SPAN in their boxers. But after catching Newt's command performance on Meet The Press yesterday morning (full transcript here), I'm suddenly open to the possibility.
Gingrich appeared to be on top of his game. He was well-spoken, engaging, and thoughtful as he delivered a stinging critique of the Congressional GOP's drift from conservative principles along with a few well-aimed barbs at particular Bush administration policies. His attacks were not designed to bring down Republicans, but rather to prod them to actions more likely to help them retain power.
He also delivered a sterling defense of the decision to go to war in Iraq (it should be noted that he definitely has issues with the way the occupation has been handled):
Iraq has been painful, we have learned some very difficult lessons, we are better prepared today if we have to do something than we were four years ago. But if you were to say, again, because all of history is looking forward. I would--I read the--as you know I'm on the Defense Policy Board--and I went--I read the initial report, the 100-page report the president got. Knowing what the intelligence community--not in the U.S., in Russia, in France, in Italy, in Britain--knowing what they believed in 2003, it would have been irresponsible not to have eliminated Saddam's regime in 2003.
Every thrust by Russert was deftly parried by Gingrich, who calmly and confidently defended his own past actions, unabashedly defended conservative views, and articulated his positions in a manner sure to get the blood flowing among the most anemic members of the conservative base.
Gingrich is in the unique position of being a Republican insider who's been outsider long enough to avoid being negatively associated with the party's recent struggles. He harkens back to the "good ol' days" of the Nineties when conservative Republicans could still be proud of the party's control of Congress.
He does carry some baggage with him of course and I don't know how "electable" he'd be in a national race, but when you listen to him and then consider the alternatives, a "Gingrich in 2008" campaign starts looking awfully appealing. And realistic.
Gingrich himself remains coy on the subject:
MR. RUSSERT: But you're not, you're not ruling out running?
MR. GINGRICH: I'm not ruling out running, but I'm also saying we have real things to do in '06. We have real things to do in '07. And it'll be nice to have a couple of years of talking about solutions, not just talking about ambitions.
But I don't think he's running around Iowa because he likes to collect feed hats. Run Newt run.
UPDATE: Kurt at Writing History was already on the bandwagon.