A little late to fear Newt embarrassment

A LITTLE LATE TO FEAR NEWT EMBARRASSMENT…. Just a few weeks ago, Don Imus asked Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) to reflect on disgraced former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), and his role in the modern Republican Party.

Gingrich, Cantor said, “is still very much a counselor, adviser to us.” Cantor added, “He is always around to allow us the benefit of the lessons he learned in all of that. He’s an idea factory.”

Whether Cantor’s kind words were sincere or perfunctory wasn’t entirely clear, but Politico noted that others in the GOP aren’t necessarily thrilled with Gingrich’s bizarre, wild-eyed antics.

It has been a busy season for the former House speaker, who seems every few weeks to return to a playbook he first began using three decades ago: Lobbing rhetorical grenades into the crowd, and basking in the uproar that follows.

Gingrich is used to hearing gasps of outrage from his Democratic targets. But his latest provocations have also brought groans and rolled eyes from Republican quarters, where some prominent figures warn that Gingrich’s instinct for bombast is an obstacle to him being taken seriously as a party leader or a promising presidential contender in 2012.

Even some Republicans, the piece notes, have found that Gingrich “never learned the difference between going to the edge and going over it,” as evidenced by his recent lunacy suggesting America’s elected leadership is as dangerous a threat as the Nazis or the Soviets.

“He knows how to appeal to and arouse the conservative coalition,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.). “But he also has a tendency to go one stop further than he should.”

That’s understating the case, though I appreciate the sentiment. But isn’t it a little late for Republicans to start feeling Gingrich-related embarrassment? After all, according to Cantor, the disgraced former House Speaker “is still very much a counselor, adviser” to congressional Republicans. If he’s more trouble than he’s worth, why not just cut the nut loose? Why not ask him to stop appearing on television every other hour, making the GOP look ridiculous?

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Steve Benen

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.