Newt Gingrich

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I’m still unconvinced that an Obama victory in November, even a deep one, will move the GOP back toward the center. I don’t believe that the Republican stalwarts (William Kristol, Peggy Noonan, Charles Krauthammer, etc.) realize that it’s not only the messenger who’s flawed but the message. Tax cuts for the wealthy, causing racial division, supply-side economics and voter suppression may seem like good ideas in conservative think-tanks, but the people aren’t buying it anymore. The Gingrich-Rove playbook, the one that says you can sell Americans anything provided you use the exact right phrasing, is dead. In a time of unfettered media, there are too many fact-checkers. And nostalgia for an America that never existed isn’t appealing to a changing population. It really is morning in America now, not because of the past but because of the future. And a lot of GOP bigwigs are trying to turn back a broken clock. From Andrew Sullivan in Newsweek:

“If Obama wins, to put it bluntly, he will become the Democrats’ Reagan. The narrative writes itself. He will emerge as an iconic figure who struggled through a recession and a terrorized world, reshaping the economy within it, passing universal health care, strafing the ranks of al -Qaeda, presiding over a civil-rights revolution, and then enjoying the fruits of the recovery. To be sure, the Obama recovery isn’t likely to have the same oomph as the one associated with Reagan—who benefited from a once-in-a-century cut of top income tax rates (from 70 percent to, at first, 50 percent, and then to 28 percent) as well as a huge jump in defense spending at a time when the national debt was much, much less of a burden. But Obama’s potential for Reagan status (maybe minus the airport-naming) is real. Yes, Bill Clinton won two terms and is a brilliant pol bar none, as he showed in Charlotte in the best speech of both conventions. But the crisis Obama faced on his first day—like the one Reagan faced—was far deeper than anything Clinton confronted, and the future upside therefore is much greater. And unlike Clinton’s constant triangulating improvisation, Obama has been playing a long, strategic game from the very start—a long game that will only truly pay off if he gets eight full years to see it through. That game is not only changing America. It may also bring his opposition, the GOP, back to the center, just as Reagan indelibly moved the Democrats away from the far left.”

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“Why not aspire to build a real Jurassic Park?”

In a 1995 New York Review of Books analysis of then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, Joan Didion reveals, unsurprisngly, a petty man with grandiose notions. It’s not that he never argues for interesting ideas but that he instantly cheapens them with a crassness and a lack of intelligence. An excerpt:

“Even Mr. Gingrich’s most unexceptionable arguments can take these unpredictable detours. The ‘Third Wave Information Age’ offers ‘potential for enormous improvement in the lifestyle choices of most Americans,’ opportunities for ‘continuous, lifelong learning’ that can enable the displaced or downsized to operate ‘outside corporate structures and hierarchies in the nooks and crannies that the Information Revolution creates’ (so far so good), but here is the particular cranny of the Information Revolution into which Mr. Gingrich skids:

Say you want to learn batik because a new craft shop has opened at the mall and the owner has told you she will sell some of your work. First, you check in at the ‘batik station’ on the Internet, which gives you a list of recommendations. … You may get a list of recommended video or audio tapes that can be delivered to your door the next day by Federal Express. You may prefer a more personal learning system and seek an apprenticeship with the nearest batik master. … In less than twenty-four hours, you have launched yourself on a new profession.

Similarly, what begins in To Renew America as a rational if predictable discussion of ‘New Frontiers in Science, Space, and the Oceans’ takes this sudden turn: ‘Why not aspire to build a real Jurassic Park? … Wouldn’t that be one of the most spectacular accomplishments of human history? What if we could bring back extinct species?’ A few pages further into ‘New Frontiers in Science, Space, and the Oceans,’ we are careering into ‘honeymoons in space’ (‘imagine weightlessness and its effects and you will understand some of the attractions’), a notion first floated in Window of Opportunity, in that instance as an illustration of how entrepreneurial enterprise could lead to job creation in one’s own district: ‘One reason I am convinced space travel will be a growth industry is because I represent the Atlanta airport, which provides 35,000 aviation-related jobs in the Atlanta area.’

The packaging of space honeymoons and recycled two-liter Coca-Cola bottles is the kind of specific that actually engages Mr. Gingrich: absent an idea that can be sold at Disney World, he has tended to lose interest.

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I would assume after last night’s embarrassing debate performance, Newt Gingrich is consigned to runner-up status, a sad, pompous buffoon who was only seriously considered because of the dearth of GOP options. But perhaps conservatives view things differently than I do? At any rate, the New York Times’ Timothy Egan righteously undresses the overstuffed hypocrite in “Deconstructing a Demogogue.” An excerpt:

Back in 1994, while plotting his takeover of the House, Gingrich circulated a memo on how to use words as a weapon. It was called ‘Language: A Key Mechanism of Control.’ Republicans were advised to use certain words in describing opponents — sick, pathetic, lie, decay, failure, destroy. That was the year, of course, when Gingrich showed there was no floor to his descent into a dignity-free zone, equating Democratic Party values with the drowning of two young children by their mother, Susan Smith, in South Carolina.

Today, if you listen carefully to any Gingrich takedown, you’ll usually hear words from the control memo.

He even used them, as former Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams wrote in National Review Online this week, in going after President Reagan, calling him ‘pathetically incompetent,’ as Abrams reported. And he compared Reagan’s meeting with the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to ‘the most dangerous summit for the West since Adolf Hitler met with Neville Chamberlain in 1938 in Munich.”

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The full Gingrich memo about the use of language:

Language: A Key Mechanism of Control

   As you know, one of the key points in the GOPAC tapes is that “language matters.” In the video “We are a Majority,” Language is listed as a key mechanism of control used by a majority party, along with Agenda, Rules, Attitude and Learning. As the tapes have been used in training sessions across the country and mailed to candidates we have heard a plaintive plea: “I wish I could speak like Newt.”

   That takes years of practice. But, we believe that you could have a significant impact on your campaign and the way you communicate if we help a little. That is why we have created this list of words and phrases.

   This list is prepared so that you might have a directory of words to use in writing literature and mail, in preparing speeches, and in producing electronic media. The words and phrases are powerful. Read them. Memorize as many as possible. And remember that like any tool, these words will not help if they are not used.

   While the list could be the size of the latest “College Edition” dictionary, we have attempted to keep it small enough to be readily useful yet large enough to be broadly functional. The list is divided into two sections: Optimistic Positive Governing words and phrases to help describe your vision for the future of your community (your message) and Contrasting words to help you clearly define the policies and record of your opponent and the Democratic party.

   Please let us know if you have any other suggestions or additions. We would also like to know how you use the list. Call us at GOPAC or write with your suggestions and comments. We may include them in the next tape mailing so that others can benefit from your knowledge and experience.

Optimistic Positive Governing Words

   Use the list below to help define your campaign and your vision of public service. These words can help give extra power to your message. In addition, these words help develop the positive side of the contrast you should create with your opponent, giving your community something to vote for!

  • active(ly)
  • activist
  • building
  • candid(ly)
  • care(ing)
  • challenge
  • change
  • children
  • choice/choose
  • citizen
  • commitment
  • common sense
  • compete
  • confident
  • conflict
  • control
  • courage
  • crusade
  • debate
  • dream
  • duty
  • eliminate good-time in prison
  • empower(ment)
  • fair
  • family
  • freedom
  • hard work
  • help
  • humane
  • incentive
  • initiative
  • lead
  • learn
  • legacy
  • liberty
  • light
  • listen
  • mobilize
  • moral
  • movement
  • opportunity
  • passionate
  • peace
  • pioneer
  • precious
  • premise
  • preserve
  • principle(d)
  • pristine
  • pro- (issue): flag, children, environment, reform
  • prosperity
  • protect
  • proud/pride
  • provide
  • reform
  • rights
  • share
  • strength
  • success
  • tough
  • truth
  • unique
  • vision
  • we/us/our

Contrasting Words

   Often we search hard for words to define our opponents. Sometimes we are hesitant to use contrast. Remember that creating a difference helps you. These are powerful words that can create a clear and easily understood contrast. Apply these to the opponent, their record, proposals and their party.

  • abuse of power
  • anti- (issue): flag, family, child, jobs
  • betray
  • bizarre
  • bosses
  • bureaucracy
  • cheat
  • coercion
  • “compassion” is not enough
  • collapse(ing)
  • consequences
  • corrupt
  • corruption
  • criminal rights
  • crisis
  • cynicism
  • decay
  • deeper
  • destroy
  • destructive
  • devour
  • disgrace
  • endanger
  • excuses
  • failure (fail)
  • greed
  • hypocrisy
  • ideological
  • impose
  • incompetent
  • insecure
  • insensitive
  • intolerant
  • liberal
  • lie
  • limit(s)
  • machine
  • mandate(s)
  • obsolete
  • pathetic
  • patronage
  • permissive attitude
  • pessimistic
  • punish (poor …)
  • radical
  • red tape
  • self-serving
  • selfish
  • sensationalists
  • shallow
  • shame
  • sick
  • spend(ing)
  • stagnation
  • status quo
  • steal
  • taxes
  • they/them
  • threaten
  • traitors
  • unionized
  • urgent (cy)
  • waste
  • welfare

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'I am frankly astounded that CNN would take trash like that and use it to open a presidential debate." (Image by Gage Skidmore.)

Newt Gingrich, 2012:

“I think the destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country, harder to attract decent people to run for public office. And I am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that.

Every person in here knows personal pain.

Every person in here has had someone close to them go through painful things. To take an ex-wife and make it two days before the primary a significant question in a presidential campaign is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine. (Cheers, applause.)

My — my two daughters, my two daughters wrote the head of ABC, and made the point that it was wrong, that they should pull it. And I am frankly astounded that CNN would take trash like that and use it to open a presidential debate.”

Newt Gingrich, 1998:

“Around the world today, the institution of the presidency has been degraded to the point that it is viewed as the rough equivalent of the Jerry Springer show — a level of disrespect and decadence that should appall every American.”

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Boo fucking hoo. (Image by Gage Skidmore.)

It would have been hugely satisfying if even one journalist had the temerity to ask Newt Gingrich the most obvious question when he was in mid-whine over Mitt Romney’s negative ads in Iowa: Didn’t you behave far more shamelessly when you pilloried Bill Clinton over his marital infidelities while you yourself were philandering? That nobody called him out on the ridiculousness of his indignation and late-life conversion to fair play is really sad.

Please do not say mean things about Newt.

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Newt Gingrich: Stole his head from an owl. (Image by Pete Souza.)

Newt Gingrich: What if [Obama] is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together [his actions]? That is the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior.

Decoder: I’m mentioning the word “Kenyan” to feed the paranoia displayed by the Birthers. I’ve also just oddly criticized someone for being anti-colonial. In this day and age, who exactly believes that colonialism is a good thing?

Newt Gingrich: This is a person who is fundamentally out of touch with how the world works, who happened to have played a wonderful con, as a result of which he is now President.

Decoder: My con–the one where I pretended to be an expert on family values despite my many marriages and extramarital affairs–didn’t go quite as well.

Newt Gingrich: I think he worked very hard at being a person who is normal, reasonable, moderate, bipartisan, transparent, accommodating–none of which was true. In the Alinksy tradition, he was being the person he needed to be in order to achieve the position he needed to achieve…He was authentically dishonest.

Decoder: No matter how hard I try to paint Obama as some sort of scary black radical, it will never stick because he is so obviously a very middle-of-the-road guy.

Newt Gingrich: [Obama] is in the great tradition of Edison, Ford, the Wright Brothers, Bill Gates–he saw his opportunity and he took it.

It looked better on me. (Image by Resident Professor.)

Decoder: I’ve just compared Obama to some of the biggest capitalists in American history, which really muddles my argument. Also: What’s wrong with someone seizing an opportunity? That’s sort of the American way.

Newt Gingrich: I think Obama gets up every morning with a worldview that is fundamentally wrong about reality. If you look at the continuous denial of reality, there has got to be a point where someone stands up and says that this is just factually insane.

Decoder: You know what really was factually insane? Prior to Obama, we had eight years of a President who thought that Jesus rode around on a dinosaur. That never seemed to bother me then, so maybe I should shut the fuck up now.

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Sarah Palin: Dr. Laura's wingwoman. (Image by David Shankbone.)

Sarah Palin tweet: Mr. President, why are they so set on marking an area w/ mosque steps from what you described, in agreement with many, as “hallowed ground”?

Decoder: It’s amusing that I suddenly think New York has hallowed ground. Since gaining national recognition, I’ve made it clear time and again that I have only disdain for New York City, that I think it’s less American than other places in the country. But the second it became politically expedient to think New York City contains hallowed ground, I was happy to play my cards from that end of the deck.

Sarah Palin: Nobody argues that the freedom of religion that the Muslims have [permits them] to build that mosque somewhere.

Decoder: Yes, the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion “somewhere.” Maybe in Trenton or someplace like that. Secaucus–that’s a good place for religious freedom.

Newt Gingrich: You know, Nazis don’t have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust Museum in Washington. We would never accept the Japanese putting up a site next to Pearl Harbor. There’s no reason for us to accept a mosque next to the World Trade Center.

Decoder: I’ve just compared Muslim-Americans who haven’t broken any laws to Nazis. Abridging the rights of Muslim-Americans today because we are at war with Al-Qaeda is no different in principle than Japanese-Americans being denied rights during WWII.

Terrorists want you to eat this delicious, delicious sandwich.

Newt Gingrich: America is experiencing an Islamist cultural-political offensive designed to undermine and destroy our civilization.

Decoder: Some guy just opened a falafel stand not four miles from where I live. It’s like Pearl Harbor with chickpeas.

Rep. Peter King: There are too many mosques in America.

Decoder: I have already tried to say this comment was taken out of context, but the unedited video makes it clear that it wasn’t. I am a sad and prejudiced man.

President Obama: I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there. I was commenting very specifically on the right people have that dates back to our founding. That’s what our country is about.

Decoder: I was being more honest and accurate when I said, “Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. And that includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America. And our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable.” But then some Democrats who are running for reelection this fall gave Rahm Emmanuel an earful, so I had to backtrack somewhat. I should stick to defending the Constitution.

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Newt Gingrich: Moonlights as a scarecrow. (Image by Pete Souza.)

Newt Gingrich: [President Obama] is not like Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton was an Arkansas, Southern Baptist, sort of understood middle Americans. While he had some Yale overtones of being liberal, the truth is Bill Clinton was quite happy to move to the right.

Decoder: What’s funny is during the 1990s, I called Bill Clinton an “enemy of normal” and painted him as a radical, a socialist and an extremist. So I was either lying about him then or I’m lying now. Also: If I thought Bill Clinton was really a middle-of-the road guy, why did I spend so much time trying to force him out of office? That kind of makes it look  like I’m a partisan windbag who’s not to be trusted.

Newt Gingrich: The people [Obama] appoints are more radical than he is and less competent.

Decoder: Hillary Clinton, Janet Napolitano, Kathleen Sebelius and Sonia Sotomayor all seem like competent and reasonable people, but I disagree with them philosophically so I have to label them as radical rather than intelligently argue the issues.

Newt Gingrich: [President Obama] is a disaster. His principles are fundamentally wrong.

Decoder: My principles are the right ones. Like, remember how I used to lecture everyone about family values? All three of my wives agree that it was the right thing to do.

Corncobs: Newt keeps us safe.

Newt Gingrich: It’s fair to say that by February the groundwork will have been laid to consider seriously whether or not to run [for President]. I’ve never been so serious.

Decoder: It’s fair to say that I threaten to run for President every six months or so because I love my ego very, very much.

Newt Gingrich: I think likable is a word you have to think about a lot. If people believe their country is in trouble, they want a captain of the lifeboat, they don’t want a fraternity brother.

Decoder: Even I know that I’m a hateful, hypocritical, lying sack of crap. I’m just hoping things get so bad that it won’t matter. Maybe if there’s a plague of frogs or an apocalypse.

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Like a human duffel bag. (Photo by Pete Souza.)

Newt Gingrich: Obama is the most radical President in American history.

Decoder: Obama is actually a lot less radical than Ronald Reagan, but I’m not of the same political persuasion as Obama, so I will label him an extremist, whereas Reagan’s radicalism made him a “great leader.”

Newt Gingrich: Elections have consequences.

Decoder: It turns out that the person who garners the majority of the votes has the ability to govern in a way that is not afforded to the losing candidate. I must make a note of this fact on parchment with my quill pen and the blood of a small child.

Newt Gingrich: What we need is a President, not an athlete. Shooting three-point shots may be clever, but it doesn’t put anybody to work.

Decoder: Except for that guy Wayne who polishes the court. He’s the one with the small scar on his right cheek. You’ve probably seen him. He’s always around the Rec. Center somewhere. You go, Wayne!

Newt Gingrich: The longer Obama talks, the less the American people believe him.

Decoder: I speak from experience. America’s been tuning out my bullshit since 1996.

Newt Gingrich: Quite frankly, I’m tired of finding new ways to help [Americans] who aren’t working,

Decoder: These unemployed pigs should die in the streets. We can use their entrails as jump ropes. Maybe Wayne can paint the Rec. Center with their blood. Just thinking out loud, people.

Newt Gingrich: We will have a Republican Congress in January which will refuse to fund any of the radical efforts.

Decoder: Except that a large number of Americans don’t think Obama’s efforts are so radical. And if we stall funding based on partisanship, it will make us even less popular than we already are. If you recall, that time I shut down the government in 1995 didn’t turn out so well for us.

Newt Gingrich: Stage two of the end of Obamaism is that we must be prepared to offer in a positive way positive solutions that fit the values of the American people.

Decoder: Hypocritically judging the morality of others during my three marriages and numerous extramarital affairs has taught me a great deal about values.

Newt Gingrich: A Republican President and a Republican Congress in 2012 and 2013 will repeal every radical bill passed by this machine.

Decoder: Except for the ones that turn out to be popular. We’ll leave those alone to ensure our own careers. Just like we did with Medicare.

Newt Gingrich: Obama has now thrown down the gauntlet to the American people. He has said, “I run a machine, I own Washington and there’s nothing that you can do about it.”

Decoder: Though he might have just been talking to me. People talk to me that way sometimes because I am such a lying, hypocritical sack of shit.

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