The Bambino stands in the center of the stage, untouchable, uncatchable, unbeatable. He is Newt Gingrich, and he has become the Sultan of Swat.
It is Saturday night at yet another Republican debate, and — wham! wham! wham! — Gingrich keeps blasting them out of the park.
Mitt Romney claims he should be president, because, unlike Newt, Romney is not a “career politician.”
“Let’s be candid,” Newt replies. “The only reason you didn’t become a career politician is that you lost to Ted Kennedy in 1994.”
Newt, like the real Bambino, Babe Ruth, is a man of appetites. For food and for women, to name just two.
But when the moderators at the Yahoo/ABC debate in Des Moines ask all the candidates whether “marital infidelity” is important as an issue, the new Bambino does not quiver or quail. He does not flinch. He does not duck the pitch even though he has had three wives and admits to having been an adulterer.
“It is a real issue,” Newt says firmly. “People have to look at the person to whom they are going to loan the presidency.”
Loan the presidency! A wonderful phrase that lingers in the mind. And now the Bambino steps into the pitch.
“I have said upfront, openly, I have made mistakes at times and had to go to God for forgiving,” he says.
Whammo! It is out of here!
It is an answer that is perfectly acceptable to almost all Christian conservatives. Who can be against redemption? And do we not love the sinner more than the saint, because who amongst us has not sinned? (Only the media, that is, who constantly cast the first stone.)
In earlier debates, Newt has appeared haughty and above it all. But with that answer he returns to earth. He has feet of clay like the rest of us and asks the Almighty to forgive him. And so the fidelity question does not destroy him, but makes him.
And, make no mistake, what he is doing this Saturday night is difficult. Mitt Romney, who had done so well at staying above the fray in previous debates, crashes and burns in this one.
Romney lets Rick Perry get his goat. Rick Perry, who has as much chance of getting the Republican nomination as Luke Perry! Or Perry Como!
When Perry insists that Romney has changed his position on something or other, Mitt angrily sticks out his hand and says, “Rick, I’ll tell you what, ten thousand bucks? $10,000 bet?”
Way to go, Mitt. Remind America that $10,000 is chump change to you.
And when Michele Bachmann says that Mitt and Newt are just clones, Mitt decides to be cute. It is a mistake.
“I know Newt Gingrich,” Romney smirks. “And he is a friend of mine. But we are not clones.”
Yes, Mitt, you are tall and handsome standing there next to Newt. We can all see that. Newt looks like a sack of doorknobs compared to you.
But what does that get you, Mitt? How does that make you presidential?
Newt eyes Romney like the Bambino used to eye a high fastball. He will soon gets his chance to whack another one
Gingrich, a historian, has called the Palestinians an “invented people.” Nobody asks him whether Americans “invented” themselves in 1776, however.
Instead, Romney says that Gingrich has gone too far and that he should let Israel negotiate for itself.
Newt stabs the lectern with his finger as he roars back. “These people are terrorists!” he says. “They teach terrorism in their schools! It’s fundamentally time for someone to have the guts to stand up and say, ‘Enough lying about the Middle East!’”
The audience, as audiences do, goes wild.
If it were four years ago, I would be writing that as soon as Newt wins an actual caucus or primary, the Republican establishment will rise up and stop him. But, today, there is no Republican establishment. It has been washed away by the tea party.
And the tea party likes a long-ball hitter.
Saturday was Newt’s night. A few more nights like this — and a few actual victories at the polls — and it could be his nomination.