"Nothing concentrates the mind like the prospect of a hanging." The English poet Samuel Johnson actually put it this way: "When a man knows he is to be hanged...it concentrates his mind wonderfully."
The emerging prospect of Newt Gingrich as the party's nominee for president late next summer has concentrated the Republican mind.
To those who have a big stake in winning the election and returning to the White House, to all the power and perks of the presidency, Newt Gingrich looms as a greater threat than Barack Obama. Top Republicans believe the difficult economy offers them a real chance at beating the president. The far harder problem is beating Newt Gingrich who is now riding at the top of Republican polls. If they can't beat him, the party suddenly looms as the underdog in next fall's race for the presidency.
But how do the Republican leaders and wisemen free the caucus and primary voter from the killer instinct that's sending them to Newt? How do they stop the hard-chargers from voting for a guy who promises in word and attitude to do to Obama what they most want done to him: attack him, all the while debasing him, doing everything but spit at him? How do they stop the voter from wanting their party's candidate to show the same hatred toward the president that they, the party's thinkers, have? If contempt is what they, the party thinkers and leaders, voice toward Obama, how can they rightly deny their voters the right to have a candidate who does just that?
It'll be interesting to watch the Republican leaders and thinkers find ways in the next several months to measure and modify their words to avoid the anger of the party's base itself. Otherwise they will be condemned to repeat what the party did in 1964, run a presidential candidate who said "extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice."