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By John Helmer, Moscow

Never before has the American electorate been given the opportunity to vote for a president whose first name gives away everything he stands for. And I’m not talking about Honest Abe — Abe meant nothing.

In the history of Newts the climax was first reached in 1934 by Augustus Fink-Nottle (left), one of England’s most distinguished researchers on the minor amphibian species, the Salamandridae (centre). These creatures distinguish themselves by a skin that is not only tough for a predator to bite into, but they secrete a toxin which in some species is strong enough to kill a man.

In 1934 Fink-Nottle gave a speech at Snodsbury Grammar School, not so much about newts, as about optimism for the future of the world. It was amusing. Newt Gingrich’s speeches are about pessimism, and are laughable.

The Newt’s committee of foreign policy advisors has yet to issue a white paper with his (i.e., their) views on Russia and other places. They are overweight in ex-Navy or Marine officers, so their expertise is in amphibious landings and several of the most disastrous foreign interventions of US history. For acquaintance with contemporary Russia, they have to go to the library.

It’s understandable that Newt has not said much (yet) about Russia, except this chestnut from 2009: “How do you mend relationships with somebody who hates your country, who actively calls for the destruction of your country and who wants to undermine you? [Q: But we certainly have mended relationships with countries that have hated us in the past. Russia comes to mind, China comes to mind.] But we didn’t rush over, smile, and greet Russian dictators. We understood who they were. ”

This was as factually accurate as Fink-Nottle’s charge of cheating in the award of the Scripture Knowledge prize to G.G. Simmons.

The candidate whose name is the short technical term for a glove to protect against extremes of heat and cold, has become more extreme as his election campaign wears on. In 2007, he said he favoured “a lot of cooperation” with Russia, as well as “frank and open discussions” about the state of democracy there. He also thought it was important at the time to assist the Kremlin to improve the security of “the vast amount of highly enriched nuclear material in their country.”

In November last, he released a position paper saying “Russia is a destabilizing force on the world stage. It needs to be tempered. [If elected he] will pursue policies that work to decrease the reliance of European nations on Russian sources of energy. He will explore increasing technical assistance to the Eastern European nations currently developing the Turkey-to-Austria Nabucco natural gas pipeline, which will supply Europe with a cheaper source of energy and options apart from Russian oil and gas. A Romney administration will also work with the private sector to spur access to untapped shale energy resources in Western Europe. And the United States should build stronger relationships with the states of Central Asian by enhancing diplomatic ties, increasing military training and assistance, and negotiating trade pacts and educational exchanges…A Romney administration will be forthright in confronting the Russian government over its authoritarian practices.”

Even if President Barack (blessing in Arabic, باراك ) Obama is increasingly likely to defeat either the Newt or the Mitt, Obama’s habit of betraying his election promises and adopting the extremes of his political rivals is bound to repeat itself. According to a recent history of Obama’s oedipal predecessors, his grandfather and father — two pathological liars suffering from status envy — this sorry condition is inherited, and he can’t help himself. His appears to be a case of the presidential first name which means its opposite.

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