It brought to mind days of old and the Newt Gingrich of old. It’s because of its name: Pledge to America. That sounds almost like Newt Gingrich’s 1994 Contract With America.
In a brilliant tactical move, the announcement of the Republican Pledge to America was not made by a bunch of politicians in a room in the capitol in Washington D.C. Instead it was made in a hardware store in Sterling Virginia by a bunch of politicians from Washington D.C. who had taken paid time off from work to make the 40 mile drive to the hardware store so as to avoid reminding people that the Pledge to America was being made by the same politicians who work in Washington D.C. everyday except when they’re on recess. And that brings us to Newt Gingrich, a man so busy reinventing himself he barely has time to get dressed in the morning.
To appreciate the new Newt it’s necessary to recall the old Newt. (The old Newt I am recalling is not the Newt who ditched his second wife whom he acquired while still married to his first wife, in favor of his third wife, whom he acquired while still married to his second wife but made it all alright by converting to Catholicism where all his sins were forgiven.) I am referring to Newt the Mouth.
Back in 1990 Newt controlled GOPAC, a Republican group that was devoted to defeating Democrats who were running for public office. Among its many activities was compiling a list of the most effective words to use when blasting one’s political opponents. The list was mailed out to Republican candidates. It suggested that candidates refer to their opponents as “sick, pathetic, liberal, incompetent, tax spending traitors.” And to themselves as: “humane visionary, confident, candid, hard-working reformer[s].” The mailing that accompanied the list said that candidates are often heard to say: “I wish I could speak like Newt.” Knowing the magical 133 words to describe one’s opponents was a big step in the right direction.
Following the 1994 Republican victory, Newt came up with some new words. He described the Clintons as “counterculture McGoverniks” and said the folks in the administration were a bunch of left-wing elitists. Shortly thereafter he embellished his comments saying that 25 percent of the left wing elitists had been drug users within the preceding three or four years. He also came out in favor of more orphanages in the District of Columbia saying that in 1994, 800 babies had been disposed of in dumpsters in the District. (He was only off by 796, 4 babies having been found in dumpsters that year.) In response to criticism for his wildly bizarre and hyperbolic comments, he said that he would have to “close down that part of my personality or I’ve got to be more careful, more specific, about what I say. . . . I don’t think you should ever pick a fight, if it’s avoidable.”
Newt has forgotten his promise of 1994. The summer of 2010 gave birth to his new book, modestly called “To Save America.” In the book he says that the current administration’s “secular-socialist machine represents as great a threat to America as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union once did.” On September 11 2010 he subscribed to the views expressed by Dinesh D’Souza in an article that appeared in Forbes. The article was an outrageous and mindless attack on the present president, but one in which the new Newt took great delight.
Following up on Dinesh’s tirade, Newt said that the president may follow a “Kenyan, anti-colonial” worldview. He said that Dinesh’s trashing of Obama provided the “most profound insight I have read in the last six years about Barack Obama.” Newt went on to say that the president “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. I think he worked very hard at being a person who is normal, reasonable, moderate, bipartisan, transparent, accommodating –none of which was true. . . . He was authentically dishonest.”
At least one of Newt’s wives would tell us that Newt is a man who “played a wonderful con” in connection with his marriages and is “authentically dishonest.” According to a story in Esquire in September, prior to dissolving his marriage to Second Wife Marianne because of an affair he was having with Soon To Be Third Wife Callista Bisek, he returned from Erie Pennsylvania where he’d given a speech on family values. He and Marianne were talking and she asked him: “How do you give that speech and do what you’re doing? “It doesn’t matter what I do,” he replied. “People need to hear what I have to say. There’s no one else who can say what I can say. It doesn’t matter what I live.” Actions, he believes, do not speak louder than words. Time will tell if he’s right.
CHRISTOPHER BRAUCHLI is a lawyer in Boulder, Colorado. He can be e-mailed at email@example.com.