What lies behind Gingrich’s change of heart? For one thing, he’s making it clear that he remains a foe of the GOP establishment, and that he sees New Jersey governor Chris Christie’s assault on Rand Paul as a sign of how “hysterical” it is becoming. Gingrich has always been someone who stands on the ramparts, a counterrevolutionary. In the context of today’s GOP, in which neocon orthodoxy has long held sway, the only way to distinguish yourself is by challenging the idea that America must intervene abroad, wherever and whenever it can.
But there may be more to it than that. It is also the case that Gingrich has long had an astute sense for the pulse of the GOP. He may well believe—and his belief may be justified—that the party is at a turning point when it comes to examining its stands on foreign policy. The GOP has yet to undertake a real reckoning with the policies of the George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. It’s reflexive stance has been to assail Obama for not adhering to them even more closely. But as Obama’s second term continues, Republican legislators may feel increasingly liberated from the albatross of the Bush-Cheney years to reassess their legacy. Is it really the case that Obama has been soft on terror? Or has he, in fact, clung too closely to the doctrines of Bush and Cheney when it comes to civil liberties and monitoring Americans for terrorist activity? Are the very antiterror measures touted by Bush and Cheney, and continued by Obama, undermining the liberties and freedoms they purport to protect?