Newt Gingrich takes on Chris Wallace — taking his cue from Bill Clinton

I’ve always seen similarities between Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton: the white fluffy hair, the out-there philandering, the lack of discipline, the big appetites, the lies, the hypocrisy — and, yes, the brilliance: the off-the-charts IQ, the love of history and ideas, the hyper-articulateness.

During the Fox News-sponsored Republican debate last night in Ames, Iowa, when former Speaker Gingrich blasted Chris Wallace, it brought me back to a day five years ago when former President Clinton set the stage for attacking the Fox News anchorman.

Wallace was left a sputtering puddle by Clinton; he did better in his tense exchange with Gingrich, but still, I think, came out the loser.

When Wallace asked Gingrich, in essence, how he could run the country when he couldn’t run his campaign, referring to the en-masse resignation of his campaign staff and his campaign’s $1 million debt, Gingrich was ready, blasting Wallace for his “gotcha!” questions: “I took seriously [moderator Bret Baier’s] injunction to put aside the talking points. And I wish you would put aside the gotcha questions.” Gingrich bitterly accused Wallace of “playing Mickey Mouse games instead of focusing on the important issues facing the country.” Gingrich pledged that he would “run on ideas,” leaving the impression that, in his opinion, Wallace wasn’t capable of rising above process questions about “campaign minutiae.”

Here’s the video of their exchange.

Compare that to Bill Clinton’s finger-wagging go-round with Chris Wallace in September 2006.

Wallace’s opening question that day, “Why didn’t you do more to put bin Laden and al Qaeda out of business when you were president?” made Clinton see red and turn red (in the face). “So you did Fox’s bidding on this show,” he said. “You did your nice little conservative hit job on me.” Later Clinton added, “And you’ve got that little smirk on your face and you think you’re so clever.”

Last March, it was Bret Baier who announced that Fox News was suspending its “contributor arrangement” with Gingrich because of his plans to run for president. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when Gingrich drops out of the race for the Republican nomination, as he certainly will. Gingrich will then, presumably, want to re-up on his deal with Fox News. Chris Wallace might find that rather awkward. Gingrich probably won’t because of another trait he shares with Bill Clinton: He’s incapable of embarrassment.