Newt Gingrich thinks he’s a pretty smart guy and he wants everyone to know it. He used to think he was smarter than everyone beneath him in the Republican party in the House of Representatives and that attitude, among other things, got him booted out as Speaker of the House in 1998. Since that time, he’s been drifting around, making millions, buying jewelry at Tiffany’s, co-authoring books, making speeches, doing lobbying work that wasn’t, technically, lobbying and, now, thinking he can show all of us how smart he is by becoming president.
A lot of people think that he will manage to say about forty really dumb, out of touch things between now and the nominating convention that will either, one, get him knocked out of the race or, two, have him nominated as a dramatically weakened candidate with little or no chance of being elected president. He is well on his way to those possibilities with his remarks about putting poor kids to work as janitors in their schools and his really stupid plan to have Donald Trump pick ten kids and give them starter jobs so they can learn the world of work. Gingrich went to meet with The Donald in New York, mind you, to show that his earlier remarks about poor kids not seeing examples of working life in front of them to follow were not so stupid after all. This is amazing. He does one even dumber thing to try to prove that his earlier statements were not dumb at all. If Trump wanted to pick my kid to do anything, I would call the police and have him thrown out of the school. Immediately.
Gingrich has been noted throughout his career in Washington, DC, for this kind of thing. He tries to say something intelligent and insightful, but it winds up being something that can either be easily misunderstood or insulting to one major group or another. What he is trying to do is to send coded messages to certain interest groups (like those, in this case, who think that the reason minorities are poor is mainly their own fault) and, as always, make himself sound smart in the process. He really, really wants to sound smart, more than anything else. He wants us to surrender to his smartness and then turn everything over to him to run.
Here is a question I haven’t seen raised previously about Gingrich: is he intellectually stable? Is this a person who has some firm grounding in his views
Right wing columnist David Brooks, who writes for the NY Times, listed a number of deep problems he and others have with Gingrich in a recent column. It made an excellent critique of what is wrong with Newt and, with the qualifiers removed, would read as a virtual bill of indictment. One of the more disturbing phrases was this one:
"...a tendency to see everything as a cataclysmic clash requiring a radical response."
Gingrich came to Washington with this attitude completely formed, determined to use the energy behind it to transform himself into a philosopher-king. He seems a man permanently stuck in adolescent rebellion, that period of the early teen years when the mind awakens to find that not all is well with the world and, indeed, it might be filled with evil. There is not only no Santa Claus, but dad is no longer a saint and might be the source of some wrongs himself. Gingrich is now nearly three score and ten years, an old man, but he clings to the childish repulsion with the world of one newly acquainted with truth.
His essential problem is that he is trying to be a revolutionary in conservative clothes while aspiring to public and administrative leadership of the entire nation. These roles are in dramatic conflict, but they are easily reconciled inside a chaotic mental landscape that knows no bounds and little apparent discipline. It works because Newt says it must and his brain has been sufficiently jumbled by decades of self congratulation that there is no insight available to him into the contradictions.
I don't believe that Gingrich has any core beliefs, though he can provide vivid recollections of what they once were. His brain is stuck in permanent, cat-5 storminess, searching for a way into harbor like a tiny boat in a raging sea. Any path will do, as long as it leads to the goal. He tries on political identities with less care than one would use putting on a rain coat in a downpour. He has so many objectives: to please those who call themselves conservatives, destroy the Democrats, build a lasting majority and transform America and the world. He is confused, confounded, lost.
Doug Terry, 12.9.11