If you have not seen it, “Cinderella Man” is wonderful and powerfully moving movie. Directed by Ron Howard, it stars Russell Crowe, who plays James J. Braddock, the boxer who was a contender for the 1929 heavyweight world championship.
During the prosperous late 1920s, Braddock was on top of the world until the stock market crash of 1929. Like many Americans, Braddock lost his home and his fortune and almost his family.
With a broken hand and a revoked boxing license, Braddock was pronounced “down for the count” by the boxing world. Forced to sell everything they had, Braddock and his family ended up living in root cellar.
Desperate to keep his family together, Braddock did find sporadic work as stevedore on the docks of New York, but he was eventually forced to go on public assistance.
Then at his darkest hour, lighting struck when—on a day’s notice—Braddock was given a “one time” chance—a last-minute substitution to fight on the heavyweight card at Madison Square Garden.
To the surprise of all the prognosticators, Braddock won. He went on to fight in a round-robin elimination that earned him the right to fight for the championship.
The rest, as they as they say, is history.
Nicknamed in 1935 “The Cinderella Man” by Damon Runyon, Braddock was a 10-1 underdog and thought to have little or no chance to defeating the champion Max Baer. His victory, in a 15-round decision, ranks as one of the biggest upsets in sports history. (Braddock gave the government back every dime he’d received while on public assistance.)
Which bring me to Newt Gingrich. Like Braddock, Newt Gingrich was written off and on to the list of political “has beens.” The Washington “political elite” pronounced him “down for the count.”
Gingrich, who had led the GOP out of the wilderness in 1994 and into the majority in Congress for the first time in 40 years, was supposed to be “finished.”
Well as Mark Twain once said (and I paraphrase) the reports of Newt’s political death have been greatly exaggerated.
Newt is back.
Once most political leaders leave office, they rapidly fade away—but not Newt. He is in high demand, speaking to a wide range of audiences whose interest varies from healthcare to global trade, to science, to education, to national security. People, whose interest may be piqued because of his celebrity status, are listening to what he is saying and it is often not what they expected. He recently spoke to the liberal New School in New York City’s Greenwich Village. His topic was a “new birth of freedom” for the poor. He appeared earlier this year with former Sen. John Edwards at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles on the same topic. Edwards should have owned this event, but it was Newt who won them over.
Newt has also been busy writing, not just opinion pieces but, since leaving office he has published five books, including three Civil War novels, and is about to release a book from an historian’s perspective of God in America, a book on transformation and large-scale change, and a book on the environment (as a professor he taught environmental studies).
But, while Newt is changing the minds of those who did not think they could find themselves in agreement with him, he is also having a conversation with the conservative base who are longing for a reconvening of the conservative movement, and he is communicating in a way no one else is. Gifted with clarity, Newt and his message to the GOP has been tough.
Most recently, he penned a piece offering his unvarnished opinion on what is not working in what he calls an emerging Third World War and what we should do about it. He also wrote his own version of a 2006 “Contract with America” for the GOP called “the American Eleven,” which details eleven issue for the GOP to champion from English as the official language of government, to eliminating the death tax to winning the war on terrorism. His on-target advice is designed to save what could rightly be called his majority. In a year when the “Inside the Beltway” crowd is defending the status quo, Newt Gingrich is driving the issue agenda for conservatives and the GOP
While many in the establishment may not appreciate Newt’s tough love, he is turning out record numbers at GOP fundraising events for candidates across the country. He is a frequent guest on the Fox News Channel, he shows up on the nation’s top conservative talk radio shows, he has a 90-second radio commentary the airs on more than 400 talk-radio stations, he writes a weekly newsletter for this very publication, and his book “Winning the Future” serves as a conservative handbook for renewing the conservative movement.
But the mainstream press also sees him as a serious opinion leader. Newt has appeared on “Meet the Press” twice this year, as well as numerous other public affairs shows of record.
Through shear force of will and physical endurance, James Braddock fought his way back to the top. Similarly, Newt Gingrich is defining the way forward, not just for himself, but for the conservative movement with his intellectually creative solutions to what he calls “win the future.” Like Braddock, Gingrich will not be counted out. Whether he runs of not, Newt is likely to lead in setting the agenda.
Believe it, Newt Gingrich is up and off the canvas, more mature but in top condition to help forge a Reagan center-right coalition for the GOP. Stay tuned for the next round in this “Cinerellaman” story.
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