Wednesday, November 16, 2016

A Very Long List of Dumb and Awful Things Newt Gingrich Has Said and Done

Trumpism is in many ways not a new political phenomenon. Notably, it is bringing back to the stage old, once-scandal-ridden politicians with checkered histories, including Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani. Gingrich, the former House speaker, in particular, has a long record of misdeeds and foul statements that Mother Jones has covered for decades. We were the first media outlet to dig into his early days, when Gingrich dumped the first of his (so far) three wives and brought her divorce papers to sign while she was in the hospital recovering from cancer surgery. We have explained the ethics scandals—note the plural—that ensnared him when he was in the House. During his 2012 presidential campaign, we published "Your Daily Newt," which featured bizarre episodes from his past. (One headline: "Your Daily Newt: Space Sex.") But despite his past imbroglios and his failed 2012 bid, Gingrich is back in the game. With Giuliani and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, he was part of Trump's top surrogate triumvirate. (What a coincidence—all of them have been socked by scandals involving the abuse of power.) Gingrich was mentioned as a possible secretary of state for Trump, though on Sunday he said he had no interest in that job. (The top candidates at the moment are Giuliani and John Bolton.) Gingrich has previously declared his desire, should Trump become president, to be a "senior planner for the entire federal government," whatever that means.

So with Gingrich back in play, we are revising a guide we assembled in 2011 that reviewed 33 years of Gingrich's rhetorical bomb throwing, such as when he encouraged his fellow Republicans to refer to Democrats as "traitors." There have been whoppers and beyond-the-pale statements from Gingrich since we compiled this, and we apologize if this list does not do him full justice. But it certainly provides a strong sense of a mean-spirited fellow overly impressed with his own intelligence who just might become the United States' ambassador to the world.


Newt Gingrich likes to present himself as an ideas man. He is a former college professor and the architect of the ideology-driven 1994 Republican Revolution. But for all his references to Camus and Clausewitz, there's another side to the former House speaker—a verbal bomb-thrower who's never met a political crisis he couldn't analogize to the annexation of the Sudetenland.

Gingrich was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1978. He learned quickly that a back-bencher in the minority party could distinguish himself and gain attention in Washington by employing extreme rhetoric. Ever in attack-mode, Gingrich swiftly moved up the ranks within the House GOP caucus. Democrats accused him of practicing "skinhead politics," and a 1989 Washington Post profile declared him "notorious" and "defiant." But his political thuggery worked, and he led the GOPers in their historic retaking of the House and became speaker. He did not last long in the post. After a rocky stint—marked by a government shutdown, his party's sex-and-lies impeachment crusade against President Bill Clinton, and several ethics controversies involving Gingrich—the GOP lost seats in the 1998 election, and Gingrich resigned as speaker and left the House. (During this time, he was having an extramarital affair with a congressional aide who would eventually become his third, and present, wife.)

In his post-House years, Gingrich, at times, toned down the rhetoric. He worked with Hillary Clinton on health care IT issues. He sat on a couch with Nancy Pelosi to highlight their joint support for climate change action. After the 2008 election, he called for policymaking that would unite Democrats, Republicans, and independents. He blasted a candidate for GOP chairman who circulated a parody song called "Barack the Magic Negro." Still, he wasn't able to escape the siren call of overheated oratory. He repeatedly bashed the "secular left" for attempting to destroy the country, and as he has moved closer to declaring a presidential bid, he increasingly has returned to the hooligan ways of his past.

So here's a rather incomplete guide to Gingrich's greatest (or worst) hits of the past 33 years. As he might say, it's the most accurate, predictive model for his future behavior.

1978 In an address to College Republicans before he was elected to the House, Gingrich says, "I think one of the great problems we have in the Republican party is that we don't encourage you to be nasty. We encourage you to be neat, obedient, and loyal and faithful and all those Boy Scout words." He added, "Richard Nixon…Gerald Ford…They have done a terrible job, a pathetic job. In my lifetime, in my lifetime—I was born in 1943—we have not had a competent national Republican leader. Not ever."

1980 On the House floor, Gingrich states, "The reality is that this country is in greater danger than at any time since 1939."

1980 Gingrich says, "We need a military four times the size of our present defense system." (See 1984.)

1983 A major milestone: Gingrich cites former British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain on the House floor: "If in fact we are to follow the Chamberlain liberal Democratic line of withdrawal from the planet," he explains, "we would truly have tyranny everywhere, and we in America could experience the joys of Soviet-style brutality and murdering of women and children."

1983 He compares Democratic Speaker Tip O'Neill to Chamberlain: "He may not know any better. He may not understand freedom versus slavery…in the tradition of [former British Prime Ministers] Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain, whose only weakness was they left their nation with war with Nazi Germany."

1984 "I am not a super hawk."

1984 Gingrich takes advantage of the arrival of C-Span to deliver scathing condemnations of his colleagues. He accuses Democrats of appeasement and distributing "communist propaganda," and threatens to press charges against them for writing a letter to Nicaraguan dictator Daniel Ortega. House Speaker Tip O'Neill calls it "the lowest thing that I've ever seen in my 32 years in Congress."

1984 Gingrich touts a study being compiled by conservative House Republicans, noting it "will argue that it is time to stop challenging or seeming to challenge the patriotism of Democrats and liberals. Enough historical evidence exists."

1984 "It used to be called socialism. It is now just sort of liberal Democratic platform pledges."

1985 Gingrich calls Reagan's upcoming meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev ''the most dangerous summit for the West since Adolf Hitler met with Chamberlain in 1938 at Munich.''

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