DEFINE ‘STATESMAN’…. On MSNBC’s “Hardball” yesterday, Chris Matthews and Howard Fineman talked a bit about a certain disgraced former House Speaker and his role in the political world.

MATTHEWS: I have to tell you, time does heal all wounds. Aren’t you amazed at how Newt Gingrich has come back almost like Lazarus, Howard? The guy was sort of taken out of this town on a rail. He was tarred and feathered. He had all kinds of personal problems we will not go into. He had all the problems you can imagine Clinton had, on top of the fact that he had blown it politically in the Congress. He had lost all credibility. Now, he’s back as the Obi Wan Kenobi of the Republican Party.

FINEMAN: He’s a statesman.

MATTHEWS: How’d that happen?

FINEMAN: If you hang around long enough, that’s part of it.

MARTIN: Survivor.

FINEMAN: He’s a survivor. He’s a thoughtful guy. I mean, there’s no question that he’s a fascinating guy to listen to.

MATTHEWS: He is fascinating, the guy. He’s one of the world’s great fire crackers.

This might be one of the more classic examples of Villager thinking I’ve seen in a while. Newt Gingrich, a national embarrassment and pseudo-intellectual, is a “statesman.” Why? Because the media keeps putting him on television, giving him a platform to say ridiculous things.

As for whether the former House Speaker is “a fascinating guy to listen to,” I’d love to hear Fineman and Matthews elaborate on this. Name, for example, an insightful idea Gingrich has come up with — ever. Did they find it “fascinating” when Gingrich said women should be barred from combat roles because “males are biologically driven to go out and hunt giraffes”? Or how about the time Gingrich equated the Democratic Party with Susan Smith drowning her two young sons? Or how about the time he suggested liberals, “situation ethics,” Halloween costumes, and McCain-Feingold helped contribute to the shootings at Virginia Tech?

Matthews started off with the right observation. Gingrich was forced from office by his own party; he was personally disgraced; and he had “lost all credibility.” The real question, which Matthews chose to ignore, is why news outlets and Republican activists, burdened with poor memories, decided to elevate Gingrich to the level of “statesman,” for no reason at all.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.