This is a continuation of this post from yesterday in which I commented on the recent Sunday New York Times Magazine profile of Baby Newton Leroy Gingrich by Matt Bai.
So, after the congressional House Repugs congratulated themselves for standing in complete and total opposition to the stimulus proposed by President Obama and the Democrats (doesn’t look like much of a winner based on this), Bai’s story then harks back to Gingrich’s dissolute days as House Speaker, and tells us that…
Even now, all these years later, when you ask Republicans from that era what went wrong — how it was that Gingrich resigned from Congress just four years after finally becoming speaker, having suffered a major defeat at the polls and having seen his approval rating fall to 11 percent — you get a lot of blank looks and tortured shrugs. It’s as if the thing exploded so quickly that no one ever had time to reassemble the parts and figure out where the malfunction was. But whether the igniter was impeachment or the budget shutdown, everyone agrees that it was probably as much an issue of temperament as of circumstance. Gingrich is a historian and a futurist; he’s comfortable looking backward or ahead, but he doesn’t actually do all that well with the present. Possessed of a chaotic mind that moves from one obsession to the next, Gingrich flailed from objective to objective, while his missteps came to dominate the news.There’s some truth in that, of course; people got sick of the impeachment circus, and Clinton hung the government shutdown due to the budget fiasco clearly around the collective necks of Gingrich, Dole and the congressional Repug “leadership.”
But I would argue that something else was in play here, not explained away so quickly by “blank looks and tortured shrugs.”
When someone’s approval rating falls to 11 percent, that’s pretty damn dramatic. And I think it was a reflection of the fact that people saw Gingrich and Dole in opposition to Clinton and realized that it was no contest in terms of who was trying to practice governance and who was engaged in “the politics of personal destruction” (even more amazing on Clinton’s part considering that all the stuff with Monica Whatsername was playing out at that time also).
And I would guess that it wasn’t much of a surprise, given the fact that Gingrich was forced into a spotlight and actually had to deliver something of consequence to the vast majority of this country, to find out that someone as egotistical as this “idea factory,” as Paul Ryan called him, forced terms of divorce on his first wife while she was recovering from surgery (that and a whole trove of other stuff is noted here, and it’s all sourced, including deferments which kept him out of military service during the Vietnam War).
Oh, and speaking of Gingrich’s ideas, Bai reports the following with an utterly straight face, as it were…
At our first meeting in November, Gingrich laid out for me his latest preoccupation, which, surprisingly, had nothing to do with stimulus or banking. “One of the projects I’m going to launch — we don’t have a name for it yet — is an air-traffic modernization project,” Gingrich told me excitedly. “You can do a space-based air-traffic-control system with half the current number of air-traffic controllers, increase the amount of air traffic in the northeast by 40 percent, allow point-to-point flights without the controllers having to have highways in the sky, and reduce the amount of aviation fuel by 10 percent. So it’s better for the environment, better for the economy. You have far fewer delays in New York, and by the way, you cut the number of unionized air-traffic controllers by 7,000.Always paying homage to “The Gipper,” aren’t they (re, the air traffic controllers thing...and speaking of which, I’m making my way through Will Bunch’s excellent book on Reagan here; it isn’t all negative, by the way – Reagan is actually portrayed sympathetically at times, and rightfully so as explained by Bunch – I’ll try to post about it when I’m done).
“Our thematic is going to be — you’re going to love this — that if you have an air-traffic delay that’s not caused by weather, take the extra time at the airport and call your two senators and your congressman and demand they pass the modernization act,” Gingrich enthused. “Now, notice what I’m doing,” he said, leaning back and smiling. “I’m offering you a better value.”And I’m sure the first contract for Newt’s wonderful new sky-based operation is going to be awarded to Spacely Sprockets (uh oh, George is walking Astro on the treadmill again; “Jane, how do you stop this crazy thing??!!”).
I honestly don’t know what to say about this bit of wingnut whimsy that I didn’t vent about already here, but I suppose all I can add is that it’s easy for the Repugs to come up with plans that are “in orbit,” since they have not a clue about how to resolve anything on the ground.
And I don’t know where on earth Gingrich got his statistic about “reducing aviation fuel by 10 percent,” but I should point out that it’s particularly amusing for him to pretend that he’s energy conscious given the fact that he fought funding of emerging technologies when he was speaker, as noted here.
Continuing, Bai tries to portray Gingrich as a peacemaker of sorts (please) by contrasting him as follows…
As a broad generalization, most of those talking the loudest about retrenchment and confrontation are in the activist wing of the party; they’re the death-before-taxes conservatives or the picket-abortion-clinics conservatives or the online conservatives who incline, like their liberal counterparts, toward ideological purity.Uh, yeah Matt, I’d call that just a bit of a “generalization” (yes, there are those on the left who are strident about their causes, including your humble narrator on occasion, but the difference is that we are interested in trying to build a consensus, as opposed to those who are ideologically opposed to us; I’m not going to say another word about them, but merely link back here and let their words and actions speak for themselves – try finding rhetoric like that at the next Yearly Kos or progressive gathering…hell, there are “Drinking Liberally” locations all over the place; try visiting one some time and do some actual reporting on it.)
I got a sense of what this kind of combative approach might sound like when I called Grover Norquist, the anti-tax zealot who convenes a weekly meeting of influential Republican operatives. Norquist was fuming that Obama, who had pledged not to raise taxes on anyone but the wealthy, had just signed a children’s health care bill that included a tax on cigarettes.As noted here, Grover Norquist laundered money from a casino-operating Indian tribe to Ralph Reed, founder of the Christian Coalition. He also compared the estate tax to the Holocaust. He also said we would have “bigger, safer cars” if the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFÉ) standards didn’t exist. He also said that a “carbon tax” (already enacted by Sweden, Finland, The Netherlands, Norway, Italy, The United Kingdom and New Zealand) was “nonsense” (and I’m sure you’re already aware of Norquist’s quote about drowning government in a bathtub, right?).
“He’s a liar,” Norquist said of the president. “He knew he was lying the whole time. Shame on him. He can no longer look us in the eye and say he won the election fair and square.” This seemed a little strong to me — it wasn’t as if Obama had just dumped nine million stolen votes out of a suitcase onto his desk — but Norquist was getting himself worked up now. “Rich people like him can afford an extra 61 cents,” he went on. “Poor people can’t. And he does not care.”
Basically, Grover Norquist has no moral standing to criticize anyone, particularly when he pretends to care about “poor” people.
To conclude (I’m going to wrap this up because the subject matter is starting to make me ill, and I sincerely hope I’m not inflicting that on anyone reading this), please let me communicate how genuinely tired I am of reading about how Gingrich is supposed to be some kind of a “savior” for the Republican Party. Some degree of literary success is not going to translate into any kind of electoral victory for him again; the majority of the voters of this country has already sized this guy up and decided that they want no part of what he’s selling. And notwithstanding this idiotic “will he, won’t he run again” fan dance, I suspect Gingrich knows that too (not enough to prevent this, though).
In a way, though, it would be fun if he didn’t. I’d never run out of posting material again.
Update 3/6/09: Guess our dear corporate media will just let this charade continue...
Update 3/13/09: Had to go "digging into the vault" for this one - can't wait to see what Newt blames liberals for this week (what a creep).