Untold Newt

Hannity and Colmes led tonight with Newt Gingrich, who’d quoted Charles de Gaulle to call the 9 Republican candidates “pygmies” at an American Spectator breakfast. I was at that breakfast, I noted the quote, but I’m still bemused that it was the big takeaway. I mean, Newt makes bitter snipes at Republicans all the time. The real highlight of the breakfast was a brawl between Ed Hudgins of the Objectivist Center and… well, and everyone else.

Hudgins didn’t care about presidential politics. He asked Gingrich about some of his recent writing on church and state. It was a long, rambling question, almost two minutes long, which always pisses off a room. But Newt made it worse. “Where do your rights come from?” This was a call-and-response: Hudgins was supposed to admit that “our creator” gives us our rights, since Jefferson said so. But Hudgins came loaded for bear and refused to cede that. When he started quoting something else Jefferson wrote about divinity, Gingrich asked it again: “Where does the Constitution say our rights come from?” It would have been very easy for Gingrich to cut off the debate — Hudgins had handed his mic back to the woman passing it around to questioners — but he had to keep needling Hudgins, and Hudgins kept answering. The two men got into a spirited tussle and with every round the groans in the room grew louder. “Let Newt answer the question!” Bob Tyrrell said. “Jesus!” said someone who looked like Jed Babbin. “Take his microphone away!”

Newt answered the question, Hudgins duly chastened. The next question: What can war supporters do to make sure the mission in Iraq is successful?