Gingrich back in form at Central Florida event but schedule slim as election nearsby Jane Musgrave | January 29th, 2012
THE VILLAGES – The feisty, cantankerous, sarcastic and biting Newt Gingrich was back.
While that well-known side of Gingrich largely disappeared late last week, notably during a listless performance at a nationally-television debate, it came back today when he was speaking to some 3,000 supporters in this sprawling retirement community south of Ocala.
In a roughly 30-minute speech, the GOP presidential hopeful called chief rival Mitt Romney a liberal. He pounded the podium as he swore he would dismantle both the Republican and Democrat establishments in Washington. He portrayed President Obama as a naïve dreamer who doesn’t understand the threats facing the world. He scorned the intelligence community’s ineptitude for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
“Kick Butt and Take Names,” Don Doggett, 73, said of the former House Speaker’s demeanor. “I’m for that.”
John West, a fellow member of the Still Kickin’ bluegrass band, agreed. “What we don’t need in Washington is a panty waist,” he said.
It was his only speech of the day. While he made three stops as he made his way from Tampa to Jacksonville two days before Tuesday’s election, the other two were at Baptist churches. He attended the services and shook hands with members of the congregation.
The former House Speaker’s favorite target was Obama. “The president lives in a fantasy world where there are no enemies only misguided people with whom he has not yet had coffee,” he said.
When Iranian dictator Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says he wants to destroy Israel and kick the United States out of the Middle East, the former House Speaker said, he believes him.
“But if were a left wing Harvard law graduate surrounded by really clever left wing academics I would know that this is a sign the Ahmadinejad probably had a bad childhood, that his potty-training was probably inadequate and that he has been trying to come to grips with his mother’s failure to love him enough and therefore he’s expressing himself in some manner that if only we could unlock it we could be closer with him and we could be friends together,” he said, bringing laughs and applause from the crowd.
He criticized the intelligence community as being almost as clueless. After the 2001 terrorist attacks, he said, “Somebody in national security said, ‘Gee, we hadn’t thought about the use of commercial airliners as a weapon.’ And I thought to myself, Tom Clancy wrote a novel about it eight years earlier.”
He was less sarcastic, but more pointed, when taking on Romney. All week, he said, the former Massachusetts governor has been lying about his record. He bristled when Romney accused him of influence-peddling, claiming Gingrich was paid $1.6 million to lobby mortgage giant Freddie Mac. Gingrich said he was a historian for the government- backed firm. Gingrich also disputed Romney’s contention that he left Congress in disgrace. A boldface lie, Gingrich has said.
But the ad that seemed to bother him most was one which questioned his claims as a close friend and adviser to President Ronald Reagan.
“Nancy Reagan said in 1995, just as Barry (Goldwater) passed the torch to Ronnie, Ronnie has passed the torch to Newt,” he said. More importantly, he said, Reagan’s son will join him on the campaign trail Monday.
“Michael will here tomorrow to prove to every doubting person that I am the legitimate heir of the Reagan movement not some liberal from Massachusetts,” he said.
Without mentioning any particular politician by name, Gingrich said the Washington establishment became “unglued” when national polls, after his surprise win in South Carolina, put him on top. Weekend polls should Romney ahead by an 11 point margin.
“I am not running for president of the United States to manage the decay to the satisfaction of the establishment,” he said, adding that he meant both Democrats and Republicans. “I am not running for president to make the Wall Street elite and the Washington elite happy.”