SHIFTING WITH THE WIND…. After Sarah Palin began making incoherent arguments about “death panels,” Newt Gingrich was the first high-profile conservative to come to her defense. It was odd, at first blush, since many assumed the former House Speaker must have realized how ridiculous this was.

But Matt Taibbi found an even more important point: Newt Gingrich has spent years enthusiastically praising the same Advance Directives.

[W]hat happens when suddenly the Republican party decides it wants to scare the shit out of a bunch of old people by telling them the new health care bill is going to include a provision in which “death panels” ask them “when they want to die”? Now all of the sudden Gingrich is violently against the same programs he was so windily praising earlier this year.

And make no mistake, this is exactly the same thing. The only thing that’s actually in the health care proposals is a provision that would allow Medicare to pay for exactly the kind of programs Gingrich praised, on a voluntary basis. The programs are not government-administered in any way, there’s just government money now to pay for the private programs. And now Gingrich is suddenly aghast at them. […]

This is as clear a case as you will ever find of a politician just getting up on television and just flat-out dogging it, saying something without even the faintest shred of belief, just as a means to an end…. [T]here are limits to how much even a politician should be allowed to lie.

Well, one would certainly like to think so. Of course, there are no limits — anyone willing to bet Gingrich’s shameless dishonesty will prevent him from being invited back to a Sunday morning show? — which is why the lying happens in the first place.

Also note, Gingrich makes 180-degree turns all the time. Just two years ago, Newt said a cap-and-trade system on carbon emissions would be a “very good” idea that he “would strongly support.” When Democrats did just that, Gingrich condemned the proposal he’d already praised.

And the reason this still matters is that the disgraced former Speaker is still a go-to leader in Republican circles, and is considered a “statesman” and a “visionary” by the media.

Gingrich is a pseudo-intellectual con man, as his “death panels” nonsense makes clear.

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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.