South Carolina's primary is over, and for all I know at this writing, the GOP nomination could more or less belong to Mitt Romney.
But if Newt Gingrich beat or seriously challenged Romney in South Carolina, then it undoubtedly happened in large part because of the brilliance of Gingrich's debate performance last Monday. And even if Romney is now on a sure path to the nomination, he and the rest of us are better off for having heard what Gingrich had to say.
Gingrich was able to connect in vintage Reagan fashion with so many people on so many levels, in order to remind them of what is good and worth defending about America.
Even a Massachusetts crowd would have thrilled to hear him say -- to raucous applause largely denied Romney -- "[The Republican candidates] actually think work is good. We actually think saying to somebody, 'I'll help you if you're willing to help yourself' is good."
He rejected with all the heaving contempt it deserves the suggestion that encouraging children from poor families to develop a work ethic is bigoted. Gingrich cited his daughter's first job -- janitorial work at a church in Carrollton, Ga. -- and explained with simple eloquence how earning her own money helped her make the connection between work and independence.
In fact, he got his biggest reaction -- a sustained standing ovation -- when he sprayed disinfectant on the shabby notion that poor people are incapable of becoming self-sufficient.
"I believe every American of every background has been endowed by their creator with the right to pursue happiness, and if that makes liberals unhappy, I am going to continue to find ways to help poor people learn how to get a job, learn how to get a better job and learn someday to own the job."
How bracing his remarks were -- but how tragic to live in such an entitlement-minded society that his views, which should draw little more than a collective "Duh," are instead thought controversial or even mean.
We can debate whether Gingrich is callous, or whatever dismissive adjective is applied to every other word he utters. But we better blankety-blank well hope that makes us feel all warm and fuzzy, because while we're preening over our counterfeit compassion, more Americans are being born into multigenerational dependence on government and have nobody to tell them that remaining there is a ticket to despair.
Absent anyone else who will say so -- or who will say it in a way that doesn't sound like the usual rhetorical mush -- Gingrich is filling a gap that urgently needs filling.
A passage in the Times Free Press on redistricting that puts Rep. JoAnne Favors, D-Chattanooga, and Rep. Tommie Brown, D-Chattanooga, who are black, in the same district: "While they sided with fellow Democrats in voting against the GOP plan out of loyalty, both lawmakers agreed in separate interviews this week the GOP plan best served Chattanooga's black community."
Repeat: "While they sided with fellow Democrats in voting against the GOP plan out of loyalty, both lawmakers agreed in separate interviews this week the GOP plan best served Chattanooga's black community."
So to please a party, they voted against something they believed to be best for this area.
To whom, exactly, do they think they owe their loyalty?
To be president of the United States -- the most complicated job in the world -- is by definition to be in over your head.
But some gurgle more than others.
Is it too late for Cheney to get in the race?