There’s no question at times of my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate.
Newton Leroy Gingrich (2011)
Any American would be proud to honor service to our country. We generally agree with Rich Galen’s take on why the wheels came off. You may have noticed on Twitter my one quibble is over whose fault. Unless we learn something dramatically new, we believe (a) the staff deluded themselves into thinking they could impose a campaign structure on Newt; (b) blaming everything on Callista is not only inaccurate but shows lack of class; and (c) the mass exodus a CYA drama queen move.
Long time readers know our cant. He was Clinton’s coeval partner in one other respect: both congenitally undisciplined. It’s apparent within 15 minutes meeting him.
Anyone who has worked in his environment or reported on it knows this to be true. It was so in the late 1980s. In 1993-94. When he got fired in 1998. And 2011. To be ‘long time staffers’ and suddenly ‘discover’ this character facet in June 2011? Either mentally handicapped or venally dishonest.
Rick Tyler of insane press release fame has been on Newt’s payroll for 10 years. You make that call.
Newt is not like Ross Perot. We know. We were down in Texas in 1992 talking with John White. Nobody had a clue who Perot really was. All that mattered was he was not Bush.
Until Rollins and Jordan had that presser. And told everyone the guy’s batshit crazy. Newt, by contast, is one the most documented, media saturated personalities in America.
We’ll give the field staff an undeserved pass. They’re not in proximity – but that’s a D.C. conceit. The most kind explanation? Remaining staff indulged in self-delusion and ambition to impose somehow, rigid, structural order on character trait set in stone. The real explanation? See the title.
Rich Galen’s excellent piece observed that Newt shunned retail dialing and solicitation. Hello? There was no way Newt would ever do that. Rich we are sure knows that well, too. Not just because of focus and discipline. That’s given. He expends *enormous* energies to avoid risks of rejection not on his terms. To cold/warm call and be a salesman (in the professional sense)? Of sensing hesitation, identifying the source, overcoming it and making the close? For $2,500 at time? No way. Ever. Oh, did we say ever?
These ‘professional’ staffers running to the Weekly Standard claiming they suddenly just discovered they worked for Newt are not only dishonest. Their lack of class in how they left says more about them than the Newt we already know. Are these ‘pros’ so self-involved they think no one will see they blew up the campaign to escape from a 3% embarrassment? While they ride the shock wave with Rob Johnson to a potential Perry campaign or go elsewhere? At worst they manufactured their own excuse for their resume.
Too abstract? Let’s walk through just one hypothetical day. To see how obvious it all always was.
Let’s pretend it’s Day One of the first Republican Retreat since winning the majority. Republicans hadn’t run the House in 40 years. 230 congressmen plus select staff find their seats, excited. Also relieved their leader is the man who toppled Jim Wright and made that Contract photo op happen.
Newt prepared ahead of time an ambitious agenda. He’s running the ultimate grad school seminar.
Newt sets the stage with an overview of how historic they all are. A pollster kicks off with a Power Point slide show. In 1994 this is hip. Everyone squints to see screens with the same words being read to them. Hi-tech. Then back to Newt.
With the casual assurance of a real college professor, Newt asks everyone to open a black three ringed tabbed binder. Each is the size of a telephone book and feels like it’s made of depleted uranium.
Newt proclaims that Republican control is more than just power. All ‘liberals’ cared about is power. (Back then, that was epithet enough; Fox TV didn’t exist). Republicans would instead reform the House. Nods and cheers. Go reform. Echoing his controversial college course, he says their destiny is to renew American civilization. More cheers.
And so it begins. At 10:15 AM Newt introduces everyone to the wonders of TQM (total quality of management). Newt doesn’t just talk TQM. He explains who Deming was. Newt brings it alive by illustrating how the Japanese use Deming’s concepts to produce the Sega Saturn. Republicans will run Congress on TQM. With practiced art, Newt concludes by citing the binder’s tab AA. There are listed Deming’s 14 points, which, he notes, bear an interesting parallel to Woodrow Wilson.
People literally gasp at Newt’s vision and intellect. They’re learning so much. Every day is like a beer bong of free education. They have a genius leading them. Dick Gephardt? Exactly.
Over lunch, Newt’s table is interrupted. One of his kitchen cabinet members stops by. To Newt’s real staff they’re like czars without portfolio. And already a ginormous pain in the ass.
This particular czar owns a Midwestern media property. He whispers to Newt that TQM isn’t cutting edge. Newt nods, looking at his unfinished sandwich. Newt hears him say to another czar, a history professor friend of Newt’s, that everyone knows it’s Six Sigma or fail.
Tony starts to double up on his cigarettes. Through the smoke curls he watches Newt. And his mind wanders to the waiting mini bar.
At 1:30 PM everyone re-assembles. Still buzzing like a co-ed slumber party. Some even clutch their black phone books.
Newt gets up. Disregarding the agenda, he wants to elaborate on the morning’s proceedings. It’s come to his attention that some might have misheard him. His point in the morning was that only Democrats would think about using TQM. Precision is important. Democrats will try every trick to defeat change. He wanted everyone to study the 14 points to know that was not enough. Their Republican majority will create a modern Congress based on Six Sigma! Six Sigma will usher in a new, permanent Republican majority.
Some eyes squint a bit. A few share covert puzzled looks. Still, hey, Contract With America, right? Clap. Yeah. We can do this.
Newt’s leadership team then announce some basics. Bob Walker is Newt’s Lt. here. He gives a folksy tone to the morning’s technology vibe. Alvin Toffler follows with a presentation his wife wrote and did all the work on. Newt then gets a cell call (then a rarity and on his honking big Motorola AMPS analog). Newt discovers from a technology company czar that scientifically, Six Sigma sucks eggs. Newt’s smile is now a rictus.
CSPAN cameras arrive at 5:00 PM for the Potemkin Village set piece. This is the moment to show Republican solidarity and energy. Suddenly Newt goes off script. He begins to proclaim that the Republican retreat is already a huge success. Puzzled members all look at Tony. Across the room, Joe Gaylord begins to use the Sith choke hold. Newt goes on, oblivious. Republicans, he says, evaded the trap set by unscrupulous Democratic notions of TQM and Six Sigma. Newt triumphantly declares Republicans and Americans with common sense all know that the Contract With America specifically spelt out the solution. By electing a Republican majority, the American people demand reforms based on Tom Peters’ critique of TQM.
Brian Lamb stares, fascinated. Behind Newt the new majority is learning a soon familiar routine of just smiling and nodding. Some fail. Dick Armey looks gassy. DeLay? Like he wants it all to work. Somehow. But even Denny Hastert (‘Coach’ then and a loyalist’s loyalist) has a blank WTF. Signs and portents.
And that’s just The First Day. Over a thousand more. If anything we under played it. Imagine trying to get legislation done in that environment. Imagine the staff running hither and yon, colliding with themselves like some bad Sports Machine ™ highlight reel. All around chasing down the foul balls even knowing their going foul — from their own side. Now add Connie Chung, shutdowns, book deals, etc., etc.
Someone working for him for 10 years just discovers this now? Please.
One thing we can tell you is this: if social media had existed back then, the first coup attempt would have been launched in early ’96.