May 17, 2011 3:41 pm

I was traveling and in meetings most of the day. So unlike most every other day, I was almost totally off the news grid. I caught a few headlines here and there on my iPhone about the unfolding Newt implosion. But, my God, I couldn’t quite grasp the scope until I got back to my hotel room and started reading our stories. And now it comes out that this afternoon Newt was compelled to personally call Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) to apologize for questioning and criticizing Ryan’s Medicare phase-out plan. His spokesman publicly stated that Newt apologized. Publicly. On the record. Voluntarily.

I mean, wow. Watching TV just now, I see that South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) is now lashing out at Gingrich as some sort of GOP health care policy traitor.What’s breathtaking about this isn’t just the reckless ridiculousness. That’s Newt’s trademark. But I can only imagine Newt’s mortification. This is a man of no little ego. Whatever else you want to say about Gingrich, he is a genuinely historic figure in the history of American politics. And he’s called on the carpet and has to apologize to these newcomers who couldn’t have been out of their 20s when he was in his early 90s heyday?

I can only imagine.

The other lesson here is that fear is a strong motivator. The mandates flub was a problem but calling the Medicare phase out plan “radical” and too much for the American people to swallow was something else entirely. Democrats are exultant (seriously, look at these quotes) because Gingrich has given them a tagline they can run in every competitive House race around the country next year. Rep. X voted for the Medicare phase-out plan that even Newt Gingrich called “right-wing social engineering.” For Democrats, that’s just a great thing since everyone can get really quickly what that means. And it sounds pretty telling.

There’s a lot of fear among House Republicans — especially the many freshmen from competitive districts — about this Medicare vote hanging over them. They all have to realize that they have to hang together on this. Division is lethal. So it’s no surprise that Newt’s flippant criticism — in characteristically brash and florid style — are bringing them down on him like a ton of bricks. It’s aggression rooted in fear.

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