Al Jazeera's Avi Lewis told Gingrich, "In the past, you've called for the bombing of Iran's oil refineries." Gingrich clarified, "I called for sabotage, not bombing.... Fundamental difference." Gingrich explained that the U.S. should use "covert operations" against Iran's refineries because they "have only one refinery that produces gasoline in the entire country.Obviously the sentiment is nutty, but is there really a difference between government bombing and government-encouraged sabotage, really?
I don't really think that the Republicans are dumb or desperate enough to pick Newt for 2012. They have to know he's crazy, but if he gets people worked up, what the hey, right? I actually think he has more of a chance than people think. For one thing, he has a narrative. That narrative isn't really that impressive in context, but Gingrich could say that he beat the Democrats in 1994 and derailed Bill Clinton's agenda, and that he can do the same thing again against Obama. Gingrich certainly played a part in that saga, but it's not exactly unheard of for the opposition party to win seats in midterm elections. And whatever strengths Gingrich had as a tactician have long since gone, leaving someone suited only for the accountability-free zone of cable news.
Plus, there's Newt's recent conversion to Catholicism to consider. We all know about the legendary problems Mitt Romney had in reaching out to the party's evangelical base because of his Mormonism (among other things, admittedly), but I suspect that a Republican Catholic would have nearly as hard a rock to climb. My experience with evangelicals has been that many consider Catholicism a cult, or something very close to it, and that Catholics "don't count" as Christians. I think that Jeb Bush might be able to finesse this by being a member of an already powerful and popular (to Republicans, at least) political family. Perhaps Newt might be able to get in because of his long ties to the GOP, and notwithstanding the recent papism. But maybe not. I think that such a thing could prove absolutely fatal to someone like Bobby Jindal, who has some exposure and some supporters but about whom much simply isn't known. The exorcism story in his past will be a huge obstacle, and I would imagine that someone like Huckabee would make a big deal over the denominational issue. But I simply don't think that you can build an entire infrastructure around a fundamentally exclusive vision of Christianity and expect it to hold together when you start pushing out the walls to let more people inside, even if the other groups fundamentally agree with you on the issues and are natural coalition partners. Maybe they can be in the tent, but they can't lead it. I don't see it happening.