Washington press/pundit coverage of the Republican Presidential race is all about the narratives told, sold and bought at cocktail parties inside the Beltway. You could pick any candidate and the arc would be the same: a narrative is formed, repeated, repeated again, and again until the fiction of the narrative trumps all facts. This is how Al Gore became fat and GW Bush became a Compassionate Conservative.
We are nine months away from the Caucus in Iowa and the GOP field is still sorting itself out. Over the next few weeks most folks will have to decide if they are in or out–and to help the process along, the media is busy creating über narratives about each of them. The other day Newt Gingrich formally entered the race and–almost as an unspoken rule–every time he is mentioned we need to be reminded that Newt is an idea man, an intellectual, a serious thinker and a serious man who just lacks “discipline”. Some have even taken to calling him “The Professor”.
As with almost any Republican, Newt’s flaws are almost always downplayed if mentioned at all. It is all wink, wink, nudge, nudge by folks who know that Newt doesn’t stand a chance in Hell of ever winning. Gingrich is just playing the game to keep his brand out there as a going concern and most of the Beltway media seems all too happy to help Newt pull off the con. Newt Gingrich is a liar, grifter, and hack and yet our failed media experiment has decided that he should be
presented sold as an eccentric and thoughtful “Professor” who lacks the discipline to stay on narrative.
It is of course total bullshit. And I’m pleased to see that more and more folks are calling Gingrich out as the liar, grifter and hack that he has been all of his life.
Glenn Kessler, The Fact Checker at the Washington Post, went so far as to fact-check Newt’s campaign roll out on Fox’s “Sean Hannity Show.” The headline said it all: Newt Gingrich’s Pinocchio-laden debut. To fact-check all the shit Newt has said and will say in the coming months is beyond a full-time job, so I’m glad his campaign roll out got some attention. To fact-check everything that falls out of Newt’s mouth would be a jobs program as you would need a staff of twenty or more folks working overtime to run every lie to ground.
Gingrich has been a bomb thrower all his political life from the moment he started running for office in the mid seventies. He is one of the founding fathers of our current state of political malfunction. It is amazing to contemplate all of the shit he has been involved in over the years and all the crazy he has brought to the table. One would need a small library to hold it all, but Mother Jones Magazine has collected some highlights of the last 33 years. Think of it as a way to help Newt celebrate the launch of his campaign and to counteract some of “The Professor” bullshit with facts.
The first item of the Mother Jones list was from a speech that Gingrich gave to College Republicans during his first successful campaign for Congress. In it he advised the people who would grow up to run the Republican Party and modern conservative movement that:
“I think one of the great problems we have in the Republican party is that we don’t encourage you to be nasty. We encourage you to be neat, obedient, and loyal and faithful and all those Boy Scout words.”
Gingrich went to Congress and when Jack Abramoff, Grover Norquist and Newt’s fellow Georgian Ralph Reed (who may have heard Gingrich’s speech) took over the College Republicans in 1980 they followed Newt’s advice. “Nasty” is about the best single word I can think of to describe Wingnutopia. Newt’s vision has become our political reality. Crafting a politics that celebrates nasty behavior has been his most successful (and profitable) idea. Too bad it is also an idea that is destroying America, but a grifter can’t be bothered by scam fall-out.
A transcript of the speech that the quote above came from is here. I encourage you to give it a read. It helps to explain what happened to the Conservative movement and the Republican Party–and how Gingrich shaped the race to the bottom. It helps to explain the staying power of grifters like Gingrich, Reed and Norquist. And it helps to explain why Jack Abramoff has more photos of himself with Newt than he has of himself with his wife.