The Naughty and Nice Newt

Both sides of former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich could be seen during his interview with CBS News’ Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation Sunday.

Gingrich’s last appearance on the show back in May was a disaster after Schieffer asked him about his half-million-dollar line of credit at Tiffany. The former Speaker was flustered and defensive, and the question has haunted him throughout his campaign.

Now Gingrich has made a stunning comeback, vaulting ahead to front runner status. So, the newly confident Gingrich talked about what he knows best—policy. And there the two Newts were on display.

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich on "Face the Nation" Sunday. Photo: CBS News.

The “good” Gingrich seemed the epitome of reasonableness when he discussed immigration—a real hot button issue for the Tea Party and Republican base.

Gingrich repeated what he had said in an earlier debate: “I do not believe the American people are going to send police out to round up folks who have been here 25 years.”

Instead, he proposed what was in effect a path to citizenship—or at least to legal residency. That was in contrast to others like Rep. Michele Bachmann, who wants to expel all estimated 11 million illegal immigrants.

The former Speaker may not want to sic the cops on illegals, but he has no problem doing that for what he calls “an increasingly arrogant judiciary.”

 Specifically Gingrich would allow Congress to subpoena judges to interrogate them about decisions determined to be “out of sync with an entire culture.”

When asked by Schieffer if that meant “send[ing] the Capitol police down to arrest” judges who refused to appear, Gingrich didn’t blink. “If you had to or you’d instruct the Justice Department to send a U.S. Marshall,” he replied.

He also shrugged off criticisms from President George W. Bush’s former attorney general Michael Mukasey that the idea was “dangerous, ridiculous, totally irresponsible, outrageous, off the wall, and would reduce the entire judicial system to a spectacle.”

“I think many lawyers will find this a very frightening idea,” he acknowledged, adding that “the lawyer class defines America.”

And there you have it: the good Newt and the scary Newt. No wonder prominent mainstream conservatives and the people who served under him in the House of Representatives are most vociferously opposed to his candidacy. And no wonder that after surging in the polls, he’s beginning to slip.

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