“I think there’s something going on here that’s very deep,” Gingrich said. “People want a leader who’s forceful… Part of it is, you know, if I’d said ‘The color is blue!’ — it’s the forcefulness… That delivery, that clearness is as important as the specific topic,” he explained.
Watching the interview, I had a disturbing thought: Has Newt Gingrich become self‐aware?
I’ve never heard a better explanation for the former speaker’s ability to cloud conservatives’ minds. How, after all, did a man who’s the very model of a Beltway‐consensus influence‐peddler convince Tea Party voters he represents “real change”? It’s the “forcefulness,” stupid!
Unfortunately, what’s going on here is not “very deep.” Gingrich’s rise represents the triumph of rhetorical style over substance. In a way, it’s the ultimate tribute to Barack Obama.
The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein asked a good question on Sunday: “What are Newt Gingrich’s big ideas?” “I’m at a loss to name even one,” he admitted.
Gingrich has an enviable rep as a one‐man think tank, but in his wilderness years, he made a sweet living as a “forceful” pitchman for utterly conventional center‐left policies: Medicaid expansion, the individual mandate, cap and trade, “clean energy” subsidies, and the like. Newt does a great impression of a red‐state firebrand, but when it comes to policy, “the color is blue.”
That’s not to say that Gingrich has never had an unconventional idea. This is a guy who bragged in a 2005 GQ interview that “I first talked about [saving civilization] in August of 1958” — when he was a rising sophomore in high school.
Some of Gingrich’s big ideas are charmingly batty. Given his worries about global warming, Newt has probably abandoned his 1984 plan for “a mirror system in space” that “could affect the earth’s climate by increasing the amount of sunlight.”
But the Trekkie zeal remains, judging by one of my favorite recent headlines: “Gingrich Said Freddie Mac Could Be Good Model for Mars Travel” (Bloomberg, Dec. 2, 2011).