John Podhoretz has been on a roll lately. Yesterday, for example, he captured the futility of Newt Gingrich in a single, perfect sentence: "He is incapable of disagreeing on any matter about anything without creating a whirlpool of negativity that ends up sucking in his own confreres while leaving his partisan and ideological antagonists amazingly untouched."
You can't improve on that.
But you can certainly expand on it, and place the calamity that is Newt Gingrich in its proper cultural context. (For political context, see here.) That's something that had been eating away at me these last few days. The sheer spectacle of watching Newt try to live out his man-of-destiny fantasies and failing utterly -- always in ways that were cringe inducing, yet impossible to turn away from -- evoked something powerful that I couldn't quite place. But then last night, I figured it out. It must have been Newt's $500,000 Tiffany's account, or maybe his apology to Paul Ryan. Anyway, I realized that everything about Newt Gingrich--the operatic temperament, the multiple divorces, the six-figure credit line at Tiffany's, the ego, the solipsism, the sheer haplessness and capacity for self-delusion--it all summons up the "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills."
When you think about it, the parallels are uncanny. They're all aging, camera-hungry divas who used to be something that they can't seem to let go of (model, actress, House Speaker). They remain the stars of their own universe, blind to the indifference of the world around them. Hidden stuff from their past is always bubbling up to cause them grief (a history of prostitution*, support for the individual mandate). Their chief mode is hyperbole, their calling card drama. It's how they get attention.
They're always causing scenes, having fights, and then apologizing to their "frenemies" but not really meaning it, as Newt did yesterday to Ryan--I'll bet that burned him up. They're deeply paranoid. Many mistakenly believe themselves to be artistic and give expression to this belief in embarrassing and inappropriate ways. Even the story lines are similar: Everyone is forever embarking on some doomed campaign, be it a new line of handbags or a quest for the presidency. They all keep company with weird, Tartaryen blondes who looked slugged and Botoxed (have you seen Callista?). About all that Newt is missing are a couple of leathery Eurotrash guys with Rod Stewart hair and a day at the spa. Maybe when it's all over, Andy Cohen can sit him down and elicit his tearful confessions.
*I'm told this was the New Jersey housewives
Drop-down image credit: AP