At some point, it’s not entirely clear when, the DC establishment decided that Newt Gingrich is an intellectual. He gained a reputation as a “big thinker.” He’s someone whose ideas are “outside the box.”
All of this is rather silly. The former Speaker can bloviate with the best of them, and he has opinions on everything under the sun, but the notion that Newt Gingrich is some kind of “visionary” — which is how David Broder described him last year — is ridiculous.
And yet, his advice is as sought out now as ever.
Newt Gingrich, who led the GOP takeover of the House in 1994, is now coaching Republicans on how to recapture the Senate.
The former House Speaker and icon of the right is quietly expanding his influence in the upper chamber, where he is selling ideas on refurbishing the GOP’s image. Facing the harshest climate for their party in over a decade, Senate Republicans are hungry for his counsel.
“He’s trying to identify a path to victory in the fall,” said Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), adding, “It would be wise for us to listen.”
“I refer to Newt Gingrich as the Mount Vesuvius of ideas. He’s got a lot of them — and many of them are very, very good,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the vice chairman of the Republican Conference.
It’s not altogether clear exactly what words of wisdom Gingrich is sharing with Senate Republicans. According to Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), a longtime Gingrich ally who heads the Senate GOP conference, “His general advice is: Be in touch, don’t be just repeating things you heard from the ’70s and the ’80s.”
That sounds reasonable enough, I suppose, but why would Senate Republicans consider Newt a reliable source in the first place?
Are Republicans’ memories really this short? In the late ’90s, Gingrich developed a well-deserved reputation for being something of a nut. He shut down the government (twice) and he pursued presidential impeachment over an adulterous affair (while carrying on an affair of his own).
Among the gems we heard from the Mt. Vesuvius of Ideas were the notion that the homeless should get laptops, the benefits of an old-school model of orphanages, and criticizing the notion of women serving in combat roles because “males are biologically driven to go out and hunt giraffes.”
And if we put aside some of his “big ideas,” wasn’t this the guy who led the Republican Party when it lost seats in the ‘98 midterms, and was forced from his leadership post when House Republicans decided they didn’t want to listen to his nonsense anymore?
I don’t doubt that the Senate GOP caucus is feeling nervous right now, maybe even a little desperate. But, really. Newt?