WHY NEWT MATTERS (MERIT NOTWITHSTANDING)…. Whenever I take note of disgraced former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s latest nonsense — something I do from time to time — I invariably hear from readers who believe he’s not worth mentioning. It’s not an unreasonable point.

Gingrich is, after all, something of a sideshow. The pseudo-intellectual was driven from power by his own party more than a decade ago, and hasn’t done anything worthwhile with his time in the 12 years since. No matter what nonsense Gingrich comes up with next, who cares?

The usual answer has to do with the media — news outlets completely ignore every other living former House Speaker, but they inexplicably hang on Gingrich’s every word. In 2009, the first year of the Obama presidency and with large Democratic majorities working on an ambitious agenda, “Meet the Press” had one guest appear more than anyone else in the country: Newt Gingrich. It’s a fanciful idea, but maybe, by shining a light on his madness, the media will turn their attention to more serious people who actually have official responsibilities.

But there’s another problem: congressional Republicans still rely on Gingrich’s guidance, too.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) still plays a role in advising the current House Republican Conference, Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said Tuesday. […]

“Newt Gingrich — I was not lucky enough to serve with him when he was in the House — but he is still very much a counselor, adviser to us,” he said on the “Imus in the Morning” show on Fox Business. “He was the architect of the last Republican takeover of the House. He is always around to allow us the benefit of the lessons he learned in all of that. He’s an idea factory.”

He’s also a nut, though the House Republican caucus may be too far gone to notice.

Regardless, much to my dismay, Gingrich may be a disgrace, but so long as Republicans and major media outlets extend credibility and influence his way, his forays into madness are probably worth documenting.

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Steve Benen

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.