NEWT AND THE NEOCONS….You learn something new every day. This is from today’s Los Angeles Times:

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich ? increasingly identified as a neoconservative spokesman ? unleashed a blistering attack Tuesday on the State Department….

Newt is a neocon? Who knew?

Actually, though, this is good news. Indulge me for a moment here. I’ve never had much sympathy for the Republican party (does it show?), but the point when it completely lost me was in the early 90s when Newt Gingrich rose to power. Younger readers might not relate to this, but in the mid-80s Newt was just a bomb throwing backbencher from Georgia, generally considered on a par with lunatics like Bob Dornan or Jesse Helms and not taken any more seriously than either on the wider stage. But as the Rush Limbaugh era took shape later in the decade, nothing symbolized the rage-induced rightward drift of the Republican party better than the ascendancy of Newt Gingrich.

It’s hard to explain how this felt to a liberal like me. It was like waking up one morning and discovering that Norman Mailer was the new leader of the Democratic party. A guy who had been considered a fringe radical just a few years earlier was suddenly a serious statesman.

That was the point at which the Republican party lost whatever sympathy I might have had for them in the past. What respectable party would even think of handing the reins of power over to a guy like Newt?

Anyone under 30 probably doesn’t get this. Newt just seems like background scenery, a symbol of what the Republican party is and always has been. But, in fact, it hasn’t always been this way, and Newt’s rise to power was a watershed.

But now the good news. It turned out that Newt wasn’t a harbinger of things to come after all. His ideas were bizarre, his personal life was a wreck, he was congenitally unable to ever keep his mouth shut on any subject whatsoever, and Bill Clinton was able to work him into such a blinding rage that he took leave of his senses on more than one occasion. He wildly misread the popularity of his ideas, and almost from the day he took office he began to overreach. Within a few years he was gone.

So if Newt really is a neocon, it’s nothing but bad news for neocons. Newt has always been intoxicated by ideas that are big and bold, but Newt’s infatuations have also turned out to be almost universally unpalatable to the average American. If he’s boarding the neocon express, it probably means that it’s already on its way over the cliff.

We can hope, anyway.