Gingrich in his first act

By Jonathan Bradley in Sydney, Australia

13 December 2011


For those of us who were still in primary school in 1994 when current GOP presidential contender Newt Gingrich announced the Contract With America and lead the Republican takeover of the House, contemporary articles from that time are always illuminating. In that vein, I strongly recommend checking out the New York Review of Books's March 1995 profile of Gingrich (h/t Longform.org) published less than two months into his Speakership. Some of it is wryly quaint — the horror at Republican partisanship, for instance, or the apparently plentiful Republican moderates. Some of it is just weird — particularly the Tofflers, whom the article refers to as Gingrich's "gurus." Much of it is damning.

The best lines come from Congressman Barney Frank, and though they should be read while keeping in mind that Frank is a political opponent of Gingrich's, the panache with which their delivered is delicious. This bon mot is particularly cutting — and, I suspect, accurate:

Newt does not have ideas, he has ideas about ideas. He keeps saying what a good idea it is to have ideas.

Or this:

“He is the least substantive major political figure I’ve ever seen. When I think of Henry Hyde, I think of abortion. When I think of Jack Kemp, I think of economic opportunity. When I think of most conservatives, something of content comes to mind. Even when I think of wacky Dornan, I think of his military views. But Gingrich in seventeen years has never got into substantive stuff. And, frankly, Democrats are having trouble working with him because he just knows so little about issues. If you do not understand the issues, you can’t predict people’s responses. He made a concession on setting up a commission to oversee enforcement on the Mexican loans, and his own people went berserk. He didn’t realize what it all meant in the context of NAFTA.”

For more on the larger than life curio that is Newt Gingrich, try this 1984 Mother Jones profile.

Tags: Barney Frank, Contract With America, New York Review Of Books, Newt Gingrich, The 90s

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