The Republican Clinton

Only one other politician in America could have played the victim card so expertly when confronted by the story of a wronged woman. Only one other politician would have thrown out so many obfuscating “facts,” or turned his lavish anger on and off so quickly. Only one other politician would have dared hope to turn such an embarrassing imbroglio to his advantage. If he was watching the debate somewhere, Bill Clinton must have chuckled in admiration and thought, “Well played, my friend. Well played.”

Newt is the Republican Clinton — shameless, needy, hopelessly egotistical. The two former adversaries and tentative partners have largely the same set of faults and talents. They are self-indulgent, prone to disregard rules inconvenient to them, and consumed by ambition. They are glib, knowledgeable, and imaginative. They are baby boomers who hadn’t fully grown up even when they occupied two of the most powerful offices in the land.

Steven Gillon, author of The Pact, a book about the Gingrich-Clinton interplay in the 1990s, was struck by their “unique personal chemistry, which traced back to their childhoods.” Both were raised by distant or abusive stepfathers and surrounded by strong women. Both were drawn to politics and wanted to serve, in Newt’s case on a vast, civilizational scale. Both were allegedly sleeping around on the campaign trail before they had won anything.