The Corner

Re: Has Gingrich Changed? et al

Since Ramesh, Mona, Yuval & Co have got out the tire irons, I figured I might as well pile on. But then a reader from the Cayman Islands reminded me that I’d said pretty much everything I have to say about Newt in November 1998 — in the London Spectator, upon his resignation as speaker. For those Newtroids who huff that I must be in the tank for Mitt (that’s some tank), November 1998 is 13 years ago, when I’m not sure I’d even heard of Mitt Romney.

Anyway, back then, after a brisk trot through his collected Brainstorms-of-the-Week — “The Triangle of American Progress,” “The Four Great Truths,” “The Four Pillars of American Civilization,” “The Five Pillars of the 21st Century,” “The Nine Zones of Creativity,” “The Fourteen Steps to Renewing American Civilization,” The Thirty-Nine Steps to the Five Year Plan of the Six Flags of the Seven Brides for Seven Brothers of the Nine-Inch Nails of Renewing Civilizational Progress for 21st Century America, etc, I concluded:

The Democrats demonised Newt as an extreme right-wing crazy. They were right — apart from the ‘extreme’ and ‘right-wing’, that is. Most of the above seem more like the burblings of a frustrated self-help guru than blueprints for conservative government. For example, Pillar No. 5 of the ‘Five Pillars of American Civilisation’ is: ‘Total quality management’. Unfortunately for Newt, the person who most needed a self-help manual was him — How to Win Friends and Influence People for a start. After last week’s election, Republicans have now embarked on the time-honoured ritual, well known to British Tories and Labour before them, of bickering over whether they did badly because they were too extreme or because they were too moderate. In Newt’s case, the answer is both. He spent the last year pre-emptively surrendering on anything of legislative consequence, but then, feeling bad at having abandoned another two or three of his ‘Fourteen Steps to Renewing American Civilisation’, he’d go on television and snarl at everybody in sight. . . . For Republicans it was the worst of all worlds: a lily-livered ninny whom everyone thinks is a ferocious right-wing bastard.

That’s how it would go this time round. We’d wind up with a cross between Teddy Roosevelt and Alvin Tofler who canoodled on the sofa with Nancy Pelosi demanding Big Government climate-change conventional-wisdom punitive liberalism just as the rest of the planet was finally getting off the bandwagon . . . but the media would still insist on dusting off their 1994 “The Gingrich Who Stole Christmas” graphics.

Mark Steyn — Mark Steyn is an international bestselling author, a Top 41 recording artist, and a leading Canadian human-rights activist. That’s to say, his latest book, After America (2011), is a top-five bestseller in ...

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