Newt Gingrich: Speaker to America
a book by Judith Warner and Max Berley
(our site's book review)
Newt was Speaker of the House from 1995 to 1999. The 1998 election, in which the Democrats made substantial gains even though Clinton was facing impeachment woes, spelled the end to Gingrich’s speakership. He was apparently not leading the Republicans in a way the people found inspiring.
He is unusual in that he was the first futurist in Congress (although Al Gore of Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit fame is somewhat of a futurist as well), and the first Third Wave advocate (the Tofflers’ term). He has repeatedly called The Third Wave “one of the seminal works of our time.”
Newt the 'bomb thrower,' a player of hardball politics
In this book he is seen as a “bomb thrower,” a player of hardball politics. His Contract With America sounded more like pandering to the common folk and the right-wingers than it sounded like a futurist perspective. But his steady, enthusiastic support of Toffler’s books and ideas (he even foreworded the Tofflers’ Creating A New Civilization and recommended it to Congress as must reading) shows that part of his mind is perceptive about what America needs in the 21st century. Gingrich, the Tofflers agree, is “. . . a revolutionary and a conservative futurist.” The reason this latter two-word term isn’t an oxymoron is that the Democrats are no more known for futurist insight than are Republicans, and neither conservatives nor liberals have the upper hand when it comes to futurist ideals.
The Tofflers credit Gore for his futurist stance on the Information Highway, however. What it boils down to is that neither conservatives nor liberals like to risk the next election by giving the green light to a futurist stance—or doing anything else that their rivals can shove down their throats and make them choke on. Advocating big changes makes one a big target, and the Tofflers seem to respect the fact that Gingrich put himself out there—risking his career—for his futurist beliefs. Other Congresspersons seem only too willing to “go along in order to get along.” Futurists by their very nature tend to rock the boat—which is seen as a threat to entrenched institutions.
When Newt didn't go along in order to get along he was perceived as running amok
This book doesn’t respect much of anything about Gingrich. It sees him as a person made angry by an authoritarian upbringing at the hands of a military disciplinarian stepfather—like The Great Santini—and expressing this anger by being a resentful rebel, a revolutionary, a bomb thrower, and a bigoted player of dirty politics. The book questions whether we want such a person as speaker—an academic point since he resigned that position in late 1998. It credits him with much of the mean-spiritedness, polarization, and divisive rhetoric that has characterized the American political scene since 1993. It sees him as an expedient, amoral opportunist always out for himself; it even sees him as an empty megalomaniac without human connection because of his traumatic upbringing. Newt has more than one skeleton in the closet: having affairs when married, trying to get a wife with cancer to sign divorce documents right after surgery, attempted seduction of everything in a skirt, just to name a few.
Newt has many skeletons in the closet
Newt wrote some fiction in 1978 and sent it to Alvin Toffler who found it wanting and told Newt to stick with politics, according to Judith Warner and Max Berley, who wrote this book. When Reagan won in 1980, Newt saw how effective Reagan’s alliance with the “Bible thumpers” was, so he decided to make that same alignment himself to further his career. There was no evidence that he had gained any religious convictions. It was expediency again, say the authors. He even got Jerry Falwell to endorse him! “Newt was not so much a true believer in New Right dogma as he was an admirer of its tactics.” But their extreme effectiveness in using computer facilitated direct-mail lists for fund-raising is what excited him most of all.
On the other hand, he made the wise move of requiring his political staff to read The Third Wave.
Newt was for space-based defensive weapons to protect us from nuclear attacks
The book claims also that Newt was pro-“Star Wars,” the scientifically ridiculed attempt to build space-based defensive weapons to protect us from nuclear attacks—also called SDI. This Reagan-initiated fiasco turned out to be about pork, not protection: it channeled funds into various corporations who would pursue this goal tongue-in-cheek. For a futurist to back something so illogical seems foolish at best, as well as politically motivated. Carl Sagan laid out the physics and logic for why SDI is so silly in Sky and Telescope and in The Futurist magazine. If it costs 100 times as much to build a space-based defensive weapon to protect us from ICBMs as it does to build an offensive ICBM, then the economics of SDI are insane and it’s not worth following up on. The only good to come of SDI is from spin-off technology, jobs and maybe helping to unwrap the USSR’s political monolith, although now they're merely a kleptocracy in democratic clothing.
The book claims also that Newt was pro-“Star Wars,” the scientifically ridiculed attempt to build space-based defensive weapons to protect us from nuclear attacks—also called SDI. This Reagan-initiated fiasco turned out to be about pork, not protection
The authors discuss the undoing of the Clinton health care plan. Special interest money went to Republicans who killed not only Clinton’s plan but their own as well. The special interests that make out like bandits in this area wanted no one to cramp their style. So 120 million dollars of special interest money suddenly made all politicians in America have a great revelation: “there is no health care crisis.”
Special interest money suddenly made all politicians in America have a great revelation: 'there is no health care crisis.'
But Gingrich and the Republicans were probably right about one thing: the central planning and social engineering implications of Hillary’s 1,342-page bill were probably a bit more liberal than the country was willing to go along with. Big government as the solution simply wasn’t selling well in the early 90s. People by this time had almost all begun to see a larger truth (and the Republicans made sure we didn’t forget it) about big government: it wasn’t the solution; it was the problem. The Republicans also took the lead in tackling budget deficit problems, and by the late 90s, Clinton was announcing budget surpluses. Gingrich is among those that can take some credit for this.
The book contends that the Contract with America had virtually no effect on the 1994 election sweep by the Republicans. Voters didn’t care about Gingrich, the Contract, or its contents. All they knew is that they were angry at Washington and they wanted to spank the politicians for not representing their interests better, so voting out so many incumbents was simply corporal punishment—it was a message. The personal responsibility, anti-crime, truth-in-sentencing, budget balancing, tax reducing, family strengthening, incentive offers to small businesses, “loser pays” legal reform rules, and the term limits aspects of Newt’s contract all seem like good ideas, but Clinton’s objections seemed to make sense, too. He said the contract would lead to a trillion dollars of unfunded promises, higher deficits and job losses.
Who knows who was right? In the long run, the contract didn’t really have that much of an effect, except as a rallying point to unify Republicans. But the Republican landslide says much about the strength and effectiveness of the "stealth" campaigns of the religious and political right in which people represented themselves as one thing but were secretly another. And that, folks, is dirty politics—tricking votes out of people via misrepresentation, lying, fear-mongering, gay-baiting, intimidation, hiding their affiliations and true agendas, etc.
The stealth candidates of the religious and political right are wolves in sheep's clothing
At one point the book seems to be casting aspersions on the Tofflers, implying with words like “nonsensical,” “kooky” and “guru” that they are weirdos rather than great thinkers who’ve done more than anyone alive to clarify the chaos of the late 20th century and help the world make the correct adjustments to our changing civilization. The authors were referring to a newspaper article from January 11, 1995 in which New York Times writer Maureen Dowd wrote scathing criticisms of Gingrich and—by association—Toffler (which the authors had the bad taste to dignify by referring to them in their anti-Gingrich tome). If nothing else, the article proved the already-too-well-known point that yellow journalism with sensationalistic and outrageous charges sells copy more than thoughtful, insightful, wise articles. If it smells, it sells. This of course brings up the question: If the New York Times is a comic book, where’s the serious and thoughtful stuff?! (Let’s hope they stay out of the tabloid gutter in the future.)
After Newt became Speaker of the House, instead of news reporting, U.S. media kept lying to us that Newt was running a "revolution," and this was found in over 270 articles while reporting on Gingrich's wonderful (but untrue) new Republican revolution
Downpour Of Media Cliches Threatens To Flood Nation is a 1995 article that came out just after Newt Gingrich's takeover of the Speaker of the House position in Congress. It looks at media BS where instead of news reporting during the first 10 days of this year—U.S. newspapers kept telling us that Newt was running a "revolution", and this was found in over 270 articles while reporting on Gingrich's wonderful new Republican revolution. This was all just hype, of course, reported like it was gospel once they received Newt's press releases. It makes one seriously question if any political news then or now is or was really true or really news, since if politicians can get such hyperbole printed in all the newspapers just from sending out a biased press release pretending to be a story, just exactly how much BS have we been swallowing all these years?!
Perhaps the best way to avoid reading BS is to actually go out and do real investigative reporting, since the mainstream media isn't doing any
Perhaps the best way to avoid reading BS is to actually go out and do real investigative reporting, since the mainstream media isn't doing any. But we haven't the time or training, have we? But the alternative press have both. See alternet.org and 8 Reasons Young Americans Don't Fight Back: How the U.S. Crushed Youth Resistance.
A comic book character representing fiction of a quality precisely equal to Newt's 'revolution'!
When this book was written, Newt seemed on a journey that would someday end at the White House. Time magazine was calling him our “virtual President,” and others were calling him dangerous. But these days it’s more likely that the word newt will bring up images of a salamander.