I’ve always liked Newt Gingrich. Never met him, but I’ve always felt a bit of a kindred-nerd spirit with him.
He reads voraciously and writes alternative histories of the Civil War for fun. He’s probably one of the few hard core subscribers to magazines like Civil War Times Illustrated (I was given a subscription by my brother). When I was a boy, I used to go in for miniature war gaming–you know, the painted figures complete with flags and horses and little cannon. I used to go to weekends where we’d binge on enormous Civil War battles.
Newt seems like the kind of guy who would dig that.
But something seems to have gone a bit dodgy with his brain lately. Maybe a football concussion from his high school days.
JAMES “BUBBA” BALL, High School Football Coach: Newt was a boy that came in that had never played football and really wasn’t given a lot of athletic talent. But he came onto the field, wanted to play football. And we had a little trouble getting a helmet that would fit him. Auburn didn’t have one. Tech didn’t have one, Alabama, Troy State. So we had to call Rudell and they had to make up a special helmet.
LINDA TILTON: Newt has a large head and there were no helmets in Columbus that would fit Newt except for these 1940 football_ these leather things with the little earflaps, I gather. This is what Jim’s story always was, anyway.
So maybe he played without a helmet a bit too much. But from what I gather, he didn’t play much at all, so that can’t be it.
But something is wrong. Newt has impetuously fallen in love with Donald Trump. It’s a bromance for sure. As far back as March 12 (an eternity in the Tesseract known as primary season), Jonah Goldberg lamented of Newt’s–difference. Goldberg called it “Trumpodism.” (In the medical field, they call such things an Altered Mental Status.)
Driving home from the airport on Wednesday, I happened to hear part of Sean Hannity’s interview of Newt Gingrich on the radio. Gingrich, whom I like and respect, said something along the lines of “Trump’s waging a campaign of high policy” or “He’s winning voters over with policy at the highest level.” I can’t give you the exact quote because when I heard it, I almost crashed into a mailbox. Gingrich added, more plausibly, that Trump is running perhaps the most nationalist campaign since Andrew Jackson.
So maybe Newt ate the magic mushroom of Trumpodism. Maybe he swallowed the orange pill as a bespectacled Laurence Fishburne sat by in an overstuffed chair ready to answer a 1957 bakelite black telephone to transport him into the Great American Future of Trump. The place where Trump plays the Architect, the Oracle, and Neo all at once (or maybe he plays Agent Smith–still not sure about that one).
Maybe Newt is doing research on a novel about an alternate future if Ronald Reagan never won the presidency and instead Biff Tannen ran and won.
There has to be a reason, so I started digging and found this rather horrifying interview Newt gave to Slate with Isaac Chotiner.
So when Trump releases his list of foreign policy advisers and no one has ever heard of them, that doesn’t bother you?
Look, I would recommend, if you haven’t done it, that you read The Art of the Deal. And you follow that up by reading The Art of the Comeback.
Are you really telling me to read The Art of the Deal?
Yes, I am. I have a very simple rule, which applied to Obama, and Bill Clinton, which is that somebody smart enough to get millions of votes is somebody I should study. I have enough humility to believe that maybe they know things I don’t. Here was a guy on the cover of Time magazine in 1989, who had the No. 1 best-selling business book in the 1980s, had the No. 1 television show. There is a rumor that I cannot verify that NBC was offering him $12 million per episode.
He likes to mention that.
I know but per episode?!
Mr. Speaker, we are talking about a possible president here.
You are talking about a guy who was smart enough to build Trump Towers, build lots of hotels, build lots of casinos, and own the Miss Universe contest. He is not stupid. For many people, that seems to be inconceivable because they have a university Ph.D. theory of being smart.
Let’s stop here and note that Newt has a Ph.D.
And then the interview got weird(er). Newt had been flirting with comparing Trump to Reagan, and then he goes full in on the Reagan comparison.
I want to get back to what Trump is doing, and we both know he is playing on impulses—
No, no we don’t.
What we know is that Trump has had the nerve to raise questions in a clear language because he represents the millions of Americans who are sick and tired of being told that they have to be guilt-ridden and keep their mouth shut.
So why are Trump’s negatives so high, if he is giving a voice to the masses?
Look, Trump has been campaigning in a Republican primary with harsh language and has been routinely attacked by the elite media as much as they can. Reagan went through the same cycle. Do you know how many points Reagan was behind Carter in March?
Let’s stop here and note that Reagan was indeed polling 25 points behind Carter in the Gallup polls. But Gallup was the about only pollster in town in 1980–and that particular election is used as the poster child for bad polling. If they had a Ph.D. in polling, someone would write their thesis on how bad the 1980 polling was; how much of a complete and utter failure it was. It was so bad that they used it to justify the bad polling in 2012.
Newt knows this–or knew it before something went wrong in his big brain at least. But he continued down the dark road. It’s like Jeff Goldblum’s character built a DNA combinator in Trump’s office, and someone left Reagan’s toothpick in it when Trump was teleporting himself to a better hair day. It created The Treagan, as Trump slowly transforms into the Gipper.
Is there really nothing that worries you about this guy? The way he deals with reporters, his campaign manager, etc.? You are not at all worried he has authoritarian tendencies?
No. No. [Laughs.] Which part of that is supposed to bother me?
That his campaign manager may have assaulted a reporter?
Oh c’mon. Did you ever look at it?
There’s really no hope at this point. Newt is defending Corey Lewandowski, a man so repugnant that he would never have made it past the screening process as a junior staffer when Newt was Speaker of the House.
And with the Treagan monster, there’s really no plausible comparison. Ronald Reagan was a two term governor of California. He was a devoted supporter of the GOP, who never ever considered going third party.
Rather than a third party, we can have a new first party made up of people who share our principles. I have said before that if a formal change in name proves desirable, then so be it. But tonight, for purpose of discussion, I’m going to refer to it simply as the New Republican Party.
Not so for Trump, who regularly attacks the GOP when it suits him.
Reagan was an actor, but became a politician many years before he became president. Reagan was an obsessive note-taker, and carried note cards with him everywhere he went. His speeches were impeccably crafted and practiced to perfection, with occasional improvisation, but as a rarity.
Trump speaks from block-letter, handwritten with a Sharpie, one or two page outlines. He rarely finishes a sentence or speaks a complete thought with more than six words strung together.
But Newt knows all this. Newt knew Ronald Reagan personally. Newt knows Trump personally, and still compares the two. Either one of the theories–football concussion, magic mushroom, orange pill, DNA combinator–is true, or something is wrong with Newt’s brain.
What cannot be true is that Trump is equivalent to Reagan. Reagan didn’t attract the ugliest, most profane threats of violence in support of his candidacy. Reagan didn’t offer to pay supporters’ legal bills if they slugged a protester or demonstrator. Reagan’s detractors didn’t have to hire private security to protect their homes and families because they opposed him.
Reagan didn’t keep an enemies list.
But Newt knows all this. So one of two things has to be true.
(1) Something is wrong with Newt’s brain and he’s denying reality, history, and logic.
(2) Donald Trump is the biggest actor, liar, and douchebag ever to make it so close to the presidency. Ever.
I’ve covered possibility (1) pretty well. Possibility (2) would mean that Trump can sit in a room filled with political insiders in Washington, D.C. and convince them he’s not a vile racist, misogynist despot.
It means that Trump can freely admit, of sound mind, that everything he says, does, and engineers in his campaign is in fact a show. A show designed to attract voters for one purpose: to put him in the White House. No policy, no principle, no actual plan other than to do things that way Donald Trump would do them (something he’s admitted in interviews for years).
Isaac Chotiner: You were at a meeting on Monday with other Washington figures and Trump. What did you make of him?
Newt Gingrich: Well, Callista and I were both very impressed. In that kind of a setting he talks in a relatively low tone. He is very much somebody who has been good at business. And he listens well. He outlined the campaign as he saw it. I think he did a good job listening. He occasionally asked clarifying questions. He was very open to critical advice. I am not going to get into details, but I will say my overall impression was that in that setting he was totally under control as a guy who has done a ton of business and knows exactly how to operate in that kind of room.
Trump knows exactly how to operate, in front of cameras, in front of crowds, in front of Washington insiders. That would mean he’s a lying self-centered jerk who only cares about himself, and doesn’t care who gets hurt, disappointed, taken for every dime, or put in jail as long as Trump himself wins.
This is the man Newt Gingrich would defend and aspire to put in the White House. That has to be the most vicious, despicable act anyone in politics could ever perform. Such a man without a conscience or moral center would potentially be a monster as the leader of the free world.
Possibility (2) is simply too ghastly to consider, so I take it all back.
Something is wrong with Newt Gingrich’s brain. Perhaps it was a high school football concussion leading to a brain injury. That’s probably it.