Successful political leaders know how to read the prevailing winds and rush to the front of the parade that is passing by. And few people do this with more seriousness than Newt Gingrich, who somehow manages to remain a key Republican figure despite having left the speakership of the House in disgrace after scandals both personal and professional.
Today, the prevailing wind on the right is, well, crazy. The president is not simply wrong about this or that but is actually trying to destroy America. Our current conflicts are a sign of the End Times. If a Democratic agenda continues to be enacted, it will literally mean the end of freedom itself. And so on.
Lots of people noticed that in his speech in Cleveland earlier this week, President Obama mentioned House Minority Leader John Boehner eight times. This may or may not mean that turning Boehner into a villain is a key part of the White House's strategy going into the fall elections. But if it is, can it be successful?
Chances are you're reading this on a computer or smartphone made by an American company, like Dell or HP or Apple. And chances are also that the machine was actually constructed in China. That relationship came to broader attention recently when Foxconn, a Chinese company that puts together iPhones, Sony Playstations, and Dell computers, among other things, experienced a number of suicides, with its workers hurling themselves off buildings, purportedly out of despair at their low pay and shabby working conditions.
If you watch network news, you've had the experience of watching as Brian, Katie, or Diane says, "Some dramatic video tonight from somewhere or other. Just watch as this cow is swept away by floodwaters, caroms off a stop sign, does a double-twisting backflip, then lands on all four hooves on the roof of an Arby's. Local officials report the cow is a bit shaken, but doing OK. Just amazing." Of course, it isn't "news" by any journalistic standard, but if they've got good video, they're going to use it. If you watch local news, somewhere around 20 percent of each night's broadcast is devoted to that kind of thing (and who doesn't love waterskiing squirrels, anyway?).
One of the things that has always infuriated progressive activists about Barack Obama is his insistence on "reaching out" to Republicans, long after it becomes clear they're not interested in working with him. But as we came to understand very quickly, reaching out, even if only in his rhetoric, is just written into Obama's DNA. And even if it's only a political strategy -- presenting himself as the reasonable one, so that when bipartisanship fails he comes out looking like the good guy -- it's a strategy he's deeply invested in, and won't be giving up.