In the three decades it took for Newt Gingrich to climb from impoverished college professor to multi-millionaire presidential candidate, he made some enemies along the way. And now that Gingrich is at the top of the polls, those enemies are having some fun airing their grievances. This week, former Republican congressman Guy Molinari called Gingrich an "evil man," his candidacy "appalling," and threatened to show up and make trouble at Gingrich's Staten Island town hall, SILive.com reported. And Friday, another New York Republican, Rep. Peter King, explained his anti-Newt feelings in detail to Capitol New York's Reid Pillifant. They're only a couple of many, many Newt feuds. Here are some of the best.
How it started: Gingrich wouldn't quit smack-talking New York. "Part of it was, and this is parochial on my part I guess, but the fact that he would never miss a chance to take a shot at New York. And this was even after we had elected Giuliani as mayor, Pataki as governor. That was like part of his routine, to attack New York. Big-city bosses. New York corruption, that type of thing. I just got tired of that."
Personality clash: "He also has this incredible sense of exaggeration. Like, I don't know how many times he'll say, 'This is the most corrupt act in the history of Western Civilization,' or 'the most despicable.' You can only say that so many times. ... I thought he was somewhat dismissive. I was never on his staff, never part of his circle, but in my dealing with him it was very professorial—not even professorial—very pedantic. ... And then, just his style. I thought it was very, not just abrupt, that's the wrong word, because I don't mind guys being tough. It was just a very superior complex—a superiority complex—and I don't think he had that much to be superior about.
Best lines: Gingrich implied to reporters the government shutdown of 1995-1996 was his way of paying back Clinton for making him sit at the back of the plane on the way to Yitzak Rabin's funeral. Gingrich said he said that just because he was tired. King doesn't buy it: "But no, the next morning at the Republican conference, he got up and went into this whole detail about how Clinton had snubbed him, had him sit in the back of the plane, get off the back of the plane, didn't talk to him during the trip. … And he compared it—'Somebody did this to Woodrow Wilson in 1919,' or whatever the hell it was, 1918 [and] 'caused a national uprising.' And once the American people find out that he was treated like this, the country was going to turn on Clinton ….That's what he got out of Rabin's funeral, that's what he got out of the government shutdown, all of this, in Newt's mind, he had focused it all on himself getting off the back of the plane … That's the main reason I think we ended up losing that fight, is because it looked like Newt being petulant."
Winner: Gingrich's snubs against King are much more subtle, and definitely not as entertaining. On the other hand, is the winner the one who most convincingly pretends not to care?
How it started: Meghan McCain went on Imus in the Morning and called Gingrich's campaign a "vanity project."
Best line: "How would she have a clue?" Gingrich responded.
Winner: Gingrich. McCain kept complaining that Gingrich is a sexist pig. But given that she's a prolific author of essays about her boobs, we think it's perfectly fair to call her clueless.
How it started: The Washington Post dates the feud to 1989, "when a Gingrich aide spread rumors about the sex life of then-Speaker of the House Thomas Foley ... Gingrich said then that the aide, Karen Van Brocklin, was no longer allowed to speak to reporters." Frank thought that was more a reward. It continued in 1990, when Gingrich pushed for a harsher punishment when Frank's boyfriend was involved in a prostitution scandal. And in an October debate, Gingrich called for Frank to be thrown in jail over his ties to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae before the financial crisis.
Best lines: “Barney Frank hates me," Gingrich told the Republican National Committee in 1995. After Gingrich called for his jailing, Frank explained, "You have to understand, when you think you are the intellectual leader of the free world, and you find yourself struggling pass Michele Bachmann in a poll in Iowa, it's unsettling. I understand that the poor man isn't getting his due."
Winner: Frank. He's funnier.
How it started: Paul was running for Congress in a district held by Greg Laughlin, who was a Democrat till Gingrich convinced him to switch sides. Paul ran against him anyway, as Politico's Ben Smith explains. Gingrich had once said Laughlin was a "Clinton clone," but went on to praise him.
Best line: Paul's campaign said, "Congress is the one place Greg Laughlin shouldn't be serving time."
Winner: Gingrich is beating Paul in the polls right now. But Paul just released a pretty mean attack ad against Gingrich:
How it started: Back in the early 1980s, the nobody congressman Gingrich called Sen. Dole "the tax collector of the welfare state." In 1995, Fortune explained that it had been easy for Dole to dismiss Gingrich then as "young hypocrites." "'They think they can peddle the idea that they've taken over the party,' he loftily told a New York Times reporter. 'Well, they aren't the Republican Party, and they aren't going to be.' The point is, Bob was wrong, but he's moved on; he's dealing with the changed realities of the political marketplace."
Best lines: Gingrich's tax line, of course. In 1990, when Gingrich rebelled against the Republican budget proposal, Dole scolded him, "You pay a penalty for leadership. If you don't want to pay the penalty, maybe you ought to find some other line of work." In 2005, Dole complained that having Gingrich tied around his neck made it impossible to beat Bill Clinton in the 1996 election. And earlier this year, he told National Journal, "You know, I was referred to by Newt Gingrich as the tax collector for the welfare state," Dole recalled. "I've never understood what he meant by that. Maybe I can remind him of it."
Winner: That sort of depends whether Gingrich can tie Dole by winning the Republican nomination this year and then best him by winning the general election.
How it started: This was one of Gingrich's first big feuds! In the 1980s, this crazy new thing called C-SPAN wanted to tape everything that happened in the House of Representatives. House Speaker Tip O'Neill finally said okay, and Gingrich, realized he could take advantage of House rules to give long speeches at the end of the day attacking Democrats.
Best lines: A two-hour televised fight in which O'Neill shouted, "My personal opinion is that you deliberately stood in that [speaker's] well before an empty House and challenged these people [Democrats]. And you challenged their Americanism... It's the lowest thing I've seen in my 32 years in Congress." Gingrich later told CBS, "Let me tell you, it feels pretty darn scary," Gingrich said, referring to being yelled at by O'Neill. "I felt a little bit like [Gen. George Armstrong] Custer at the Little Bighorn."
The bitterest Newt feud we know the best appears to be thawing. Clinton and Gingrich can't stop saying nice things about each other!