Newt Gingrich has developed a reputation as the intellectual moderator of the Republican debates, and last night was no exception. In nearly every question he was asked, he made sure to provide some interesting esoteric detail to illustrate his point, almost falling into his past vocation as a history professor. For instance, when asked about the role of corporations in America:
What is amazing to me is the inability of much of our academic world and much of our news media and most of the people on Occupy Wall Street to have a clue about history. In this town, Henry Ford started as an Edison Electric supervisor who went home at night and built his first car in the garage. Now, was he in the 99 percent or the one percent?
Ever the historian, he responded to a health-care question by first noting that it is “a topic I’ve worked on since 1974, about which I wrote a book called Saving Lives and Saving Money in 2002.” His specifics in support of investment in groundbreaking research exceeded even those of Dr. Ron Paul:
I am for fixing our health rather than fixing our health bureaucracy, because the iron lung is the perfect model of saving people, you don’t need to pay for federal program of iron lung centers because the polio vaccine eliminated the problem.
When asked about student loans, he noted the obscure origins of the federal program, and gave a small Missouri college some very good publicity:
The student loan program began when Lyndon Johnson announced it, I think, with a $15 million program.
Now, let me give you a contrast that’s very startling. The College of the Ozarks is a work-study college. You cannot apply to it unless you need student aid, and they have no student aid.
You have to work 20 hours a week during the year to pay tuition and books. You work 40 hours a week during the summer to pay for room and board. Ninety-two percent of the students graduate owing no debt, the eight percent who owe debt owe $5,000 because they bought a car.
When queried about China, Newt noted that he didn’t have Jon Huntsman’s Mandarin fluency, but he is up on the latest local trends:
You’ve got to decide, how are we going to be more competitive and how are we going to be the lowest cost? And there’s a new Boston [Consulting Group report] that says, by 2015, South Carolina and Alabama will be cheaper than the Chinese coastal provinces to manufacturing.
Newt’s insistence on a serious and intellectual tone for the debates has been the most noteworthy aspect of his candidacy thus far — but his penchant for historical minutiae appears to have charmed voters, too.