Newt’s many faults are discussed everywhere.
So it’s impressive how little people get Newt. Even while talking about him ad nauseum.
Newt’s actually a chemist, of a sort. His favored (and necessary) efforts are to turn politics into their most gaseous state, that is to say radicalized and unpredictable. Amorphous. In this sense he truly is the anti-Romney and vice versa.
As a chemist, Newton Leroy Gingrich’s accelerant always is expediency. Look at the major events of his life. Expediency defines him from his first divorce through his calamitous years as Speaker to now running against LBOs and runaway judges. (An old acquaintance helped write that 52 page whackadoodle thing; if our experience writing for Newt is any guide he skimmed the intro then scrawled “Good effort, keep pushing. Newt.”)
“Keep pushing”. That drive to impart motion to politics is vital to his appeal and limitations. Newt is immersed in the Movement but not really part of it. Newt’s never even been a conservative. We don’t mean like recent (duh) denunciations by NRO, Santorum, etc. Newt’s on the Right because it’s expedient – they were and remain more pliable to his politics of expedient radicalism.
“Keep pushing” (we have that across our own papers somewhere, too). When politics are radicalized, when consensus boundaries and expectations are shattered, Newt finds his natural environment. He’s free. Whether you were for Paul Ryan’s budget or against it details for little minds. Nor whether you bashed a plutocrat for LBOs. Use a cable debate host like rag doll to mop the floor with a false narrative? All yesterday’s used tissues. “Keep pushing.”
Here’s a story. Republicans had just taken over the House. All of DC was in shock. Newt’s myth that he, Haley and the Contract had anything to do it another expedient fib. It was a last minute photo opp that gathered little attention. A famous pollster later got sanctioned by his professional association for claiming he did polling showing voters even knew about the Contract (trust us, we were there).
Still, Newt was Speaker. And it was a sweet ride for those tagging along. The Washington Post reporter covering X affairs called. He asked did the Speaker-elect really mean he would abolish X Department/Agency? Jack, then on Newt’s staff, passed the call to the Stiftung.
The Stiftung had no idea. There hadn’t even been a meeting on the subject. So we pulled a number out of thin air and said “Z function could be done by 28 people.” (28 sounded better than something round like 100). We laughed hanging up the phone.
And so across the WaPo the next day was “Gingrich Proposes Radical Slashing X to 28 people.” Newt was delighted. He didn’t care about the details. The *atmosphere* of radicalism is what he craved, keeping everyone off balance, preserving final options for him alone. Newt used to keep pestering Jack Reed, then the new Chair of the House Commerce Committee (it hadn’t been split by Tauzin’s ego yet). “Jack, of course we’re going to abolish the Commerce Department, and Education. So pick your own trophy. What ex-Department do you want over your fireplace?” (True quotes).
A gaseous maelstrom for the sake of preserving his expediency. Others — if they are honest — can regale you of countless times 1/2 staff would be pushing A legislation only to discover Newt personally cut a deal and promised interest groups B. *Everyone* is off balance but the most unbalanced of all.
The coup against Newt wasn’t just about some big egos ruffled. Reliance on expediency means Newt’s congenitally unable to govern – a staff, a majority or a House. It’s true he came up with 10 ideas a day, 7 looney, 2 iffy, one interesting. But all of that is symptomatic of his transcendent need to be unfettered by consequence, unbound by impact on others. Which also means his choice of Vice President should he be the nominee is critical — it’s almost guaranteed there will be something akin to a mutiny or coup in any Gingrich Administration. His final Gotterdammerung, perhaps.
When seen in this light, of course Newt in DC would call Marianne at home and tell her “I love you” while enduring the quiet ministrations of Callista. It’s not like there was a cigar, you know.
It’s tempting to say that Newton is essentially still an 11 year old boy. All of us and life itself are props for his fantasy narrative, in which he overcomes all dangers to save his People, slay evil (and thus redeem his expediency and win the (next) girl). Solopsism? We’ll leave the diagnosis to You Know Who. It was noteworthy to see him in South Carolina election night equating himself to Ronald Reagan, whom he demoted as ‘a B actor who starred with chimps’.
The Faustian bargain Newt seeks to close is different than 1994. There, as mentioned, his Speakership was an after thought, the Contract meaningless in the election. Here he wants the deal signed and sealed on the grandest possible American stage. His appeal to “keep pushing”, to “destroy”, “revolutionize”, “remake”, “dramatically overhaul” promises not just electoral victory.
Some supporting him don’t actually have a great deal of faith in pluralistic democracy or find caveats to render results ‘fraudulent’. What Newt’s selling is a dream. His siren call? “Imagine a future public theater (the election) *and* compelling hated institutions (the media Hollywood, etc) to document and concede their defeat.” Newt’s facility articulating this is because he’s asking them to join the joyride of his own 11 year old’s inner narrative.
“Keep pushing”. And together we will stand over the political corpses of hated psychological archetypes (an African American president of modest achievement, few convictions and little actual political will). That he will then turn on them hasn’t occurred to them at all.