I heard it mentioned the other day that Newt Gingrich has written 23 books, so I tried to find some information about them online and stumbled across this thorough summary:
Reading the Gingrich catalog, you get used to intimations — or are they threats? — of Armageddon. Windows are slamming shut, or are just about to, all over the place, all the time. “Time is running out,” he wrote toward the end of “Window of Opportunity,” 27 years ago. It’s no wonder that Washington thinks he’s so smart: Gingrich was panicky before panicky was cool. The political class runs on his kind of excitement, as one crisis of the century succeeds another, week by week. Politics on its own terms is so boring — decades of the same issues, the same interests, the same charges of heartlessness against Republicans and of profligacy against Democrats — that attention has to be stoked by artificial means.[….]
After escaping the crossroads through the window, the reader follows the first chapter of this first book as it rushes into a discussion of the sclerotic technology of the welfare state circa 1984, the lengthening American life span, the futurist Alvin Toffler, space tourism, newfangled telephones, organic farming, the exercise boom, the return of apprenticeships, the decentralization of higher education, the rise of Methodism in Britain and the Third Great Awakening in America, Disraeli’s kinky sexual arrangements before he cleaned up his act, the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, historical revisionism, Idi Amin, Jimmy Carter’s bungling of the Ayatollah, the future of Gabon and his, Gingrich’s, daughter’s year off in France.[….]
Gingrich’s vagueness was always a problem, but the books show something more: a near-total lack of interest in the political implementation of his grand ideas — a lack of interest, finally, in politics at its most mundane and consequential level.
What fascinates me about Newt is that his intellectual shtick, as poorly done as it is, worked so well on establishment media types, e.g. Joe Klein:
It’s almost always a joy listening to Gingrich when he’s on a tear. And he’s almost always on a tear of some sort. I caught up with Newt as he wandered around New Hampshire last week, which is what people who think they’re running for President do. Please, God, no, you say. Not that angry guy again. “He’s probably carrying too much baggage to be President,” said Peter Bergin, a Republican state representative from Amherst, N.H. “But he sure is a terrific idea man. He needs to be part of the debate.”
Absolutely. We might even create a new federal position to accommodate him, sort of like party ideologist in the old Soviet Union, except that the U.S. job would be the opposite of what it was in the U.S.S.R. Instead of imposing orthodoxy, the party idea-ologist—ideology is so un-American—would propose unorthodoxy. Gingrich was certainly wild with ideas last week, flicking them off at warp speed, like a dog shaking himself clean after romping through a pond.
Our public dialog is so far removed from anything with a shred of intellectual content that the delusional musings of a snake-oil salesman register as brilliant and exciting.