Newt Deciphered

Lots of great Corner analyses on the Aspiring President. I’d like to add this throwback: Andy Ferguson’s amazing 1997 essay, “The Collected Works of Newt Gingrich, Vol. 1,” from The Weekly Standard. We pick up where Andy reports on a 1997 House Ethics Committe report on Gingrich:

The appendix features more than 1,000 pages of speech drafts, personal notes, letters, memos, and charts that Gingrich and his allies provided as exhibits during the committee’s investigation.

It is a remarkable document. Read in its entirety, it establishes a kind of narrative, a step-by-step recounting of the evolution of Gingrich’s public and private thinking. The appendix is the most compelling portrait yet of the current leader of the Republican party.

And he is leader of even more than that. “Gingrich — primary mission,” reads one of Gingrich’s handwritten notes from December 1992. “Advocate of civilization. Definer of civilization. Teacher of the rules of civilization . . . Leader (possibly) of the civilizing forces.”

By the time he wrote this note, Gingrich had already hit on the verbal formula RENEWING AMERICAN CIVILIZATION to summarize the scope of his work (RAC for short). RAC was a successor to the earlier CONSERVATIVE OPPORTUNITY SOCIETY (COS for short), which would emerge, Gingrich theorized, from the CITIZENS’ OPPORTUNITIES MOVEMENT. But before COS became RAC, there was THE AMERICA THAT CAN BE, an offspring of the CARING HUMANITARIAN REFORM MOVEMENT. That movement was in turn based on the TRIANGLE OF AMERICAN SUCCESS, also known as the TRIANGLE OF AMERICAN PROGRESS.

Confused? As Gingrich explained in a 1990 speech, “We summarize the Triangle of American Progress with one sentence: Common sense focused on opportunities and success. It’s a very radical sentence.” So radical, indeed, that it isn’t even a sentence.

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