The newt, or salamander, is noted for several fascinating features. Many newts have a capacity known as autotomy, allowing it to distract predators by dropping a limb which wriggles and calls attention to itself while the main part of the organism escapes notice by holding perfectly still. Even the ones that cannot voluntarily shed body parts are able to regenerate them when they have been lost through attack or attrition.
The newt uses its colorful vision to locate targets for its own foraging. Few creatures are endowed with this degree of trichromatic vision. Although the newt can spend periods of time underground, resting its eyes, when it reappears on the horizon it takes in the scene quickly. When the newt is ready to pounce, it strikes with its tongue. The only weakness the newt has is in hearing, because it lacks an outer ear.
The newt has long been a symbol for rebirth, due to its abovementioned ability to fashion new organs to replace lost ones. Mythologically, the newt has been described as a creature that is created from the flames. This probably comes from the fact that when rotting logs catch on fire, the newt is often seen scrambling out from its hiding place. In any case, this notion of emerging intact from the inferno has increased its panache as one that can survive — perhaps even thrive upon — adversity.
ALL OF THIS BRINGS us to the present pass in the Republican presidential primary race. Out of the flames of several downfalls and setbacks in his earlier political incarnations, Newt Gingrich has taken a commanding lead in the polls. He has been highly effective in the debate format that has served as the main educational forum for potential voters to learn about the candidates.
After the boisterous Bachmann boomlet bottomed and the populous Perry parade plotzed and the clamorous Cain crest crashed, the evergreen Romney has still failed to ignite the passion of the Republican primary voter. Instead of the thrice-burned thrill-seekers wearing a Mitt to avoid the flames, they have turned instead to the newly reconstituted Newt. In my own state of Florida, Gingrich leads Romney by as much as 48-25 according to the Miami Herald.
Suddenly, a huge fratricidal sortie is launched against Newt by former Senator Jim Talent and other Republicans who hasten to announce that he should not be deemed as a capable and trusted conservative leader. How could a brother be so perfidious? They explain off the record that they have no choice but to leap into the fray to save the voters from their own folly, since Newt is unelectable as President.
To tell the truth, Newt was indeed unelectable for the last decade or more, but that is no longer the case. There was only one possible scenario for him to make this big a comeback and that very tableau has in fact materialized.
The best parallel would be the career of Ariel Sharon. I lived in Israel from 1989 through mid-1994, and there was not a single citizen in the country who thought that Sharon could ever be a candidate for Prime Minister. He was seen as too much of an ideologue; when that was combined with various personal scandals, accusations of accessory to genocide, and being the most universally hated figure within the European Left, he had four strikes against him at the very least. He had a power base in the Likud Party, so he could always wangle himself a ministry when they were in power, usually the most irrelevant and unobtrusive one available.
But the assassination of Rabin against the backdrop of Arafat blowing up the Oslo Accords meant that Israelis were going to put aside all the personalities, the peccadilloes, the peculiarities, the pet peeves and the politics, in favor of one focused expression of confidence in principle and policy and perceptiveness and powerfulness. The debate over whether Sharon lived up to those qualities has been suspended out of respect for his coma, now ending its sixth year, but win he did and lead he did.
The United States of America is now at the same sort of crossroads. People are walking around with a tangible sense that this country is about to crack, that we may never see prosperity again and that our security will shortly be compromised by our ever-increasing indebtedness. The sitting President strides blithely forward into the abyss, beckoning us to follow him down.
The other day we were treated to the spectacle of him standing in his mother’s home state of Kansas and inveighing against small government and individualism as a failed experiment in history… even as Europe, bastion of big government and socialism, crumbles before our eyes. If he fiddles as America burns, can Newt emerge victorious from the flames? Yes, Newt can!
Full Disclosure: Newt Gingrich’s daughter, Kathy Lubbers, represents me as a literary agent in trying to sell my novel, Private Ernest Taylor.