Who was it who, from his inside perch two decades ago, worked to turn the GOP into the extremist party that it is today and issued a contract on America that helped the party gain control of Congress in 1994? Was it somebody else who attacked Medicare and Medicaid and went after clean air and water standards, calling the Environmental Protection Agency the "Gestapo"? Was that some other Newt Gingrich?
Back in November, in an interview at O'Hare Airport with CBS News in which Gingrich was denying he was a $1.6 million lobbyist for Freddie Mac, the interviewer pointed out just how "well-plugged-in Republican" Gingrich is. He didn't deny it. He wallowed in it.
Question: But [the Freddie Mac story] might remind people that, well, you're a Washington insider.
Gingrich: There is no question when you serve 20 years in the House and you're Speaker of the House for four years, you know a fair amount about Washington. But my argument is, we just tried an amateur for the last three years and it didn't work very well.
Question: So the country would be better off with you, not an outsider.
Gingrich: The country would be better off with somebody who is determined to change Washington and who knows how to do it. I am the only candidate running on the Republican side who has actually had real responsibility in Washington and has actually—at the scale we're talking about—done things like reform welfare, reform Medicare, pass the first tax cut in 16 years, balance the federal budget for four years, pay off $405 billion in federal debt. These are real achievements. I think the country is ready for somebody who stands for dramatic change but who knows how to do it.
There's no doubt there's a strong contingent in the Republican establishment who would love to make Gingrich a permanent outsider, who want Mitt Romney to be their standard-bearer for November, and who feel the former Georgian is a blot on the GOP brand. There is also no doubt that without Newt Gingrich's guiding hand the party would be an entirely different animal than it is today. Perhaps one with a heart and soul.