Monday, April 28, 2008

What's Newt Been Up To?

There was very little in the late 90's that made me happier than Newt Gingrich's precipitous fall from public power. His rabid campaign against Bill Clinton in the wake of the Monica Lewinsky trial displayed his basic misunderstanding of the priorities then emerging in our nation. Additionally it exposed Gingrich as a vile hypocrite. His personal life had been filled with adultery and self-serving missteps. He was so callous with one soon-to-be ex that he actually tried to discuss divorce terms with her while she was attempting to recover from an operation for cancer. In public life Gingrich was a man constantly on the wrong side of history. He built his reputation with the 'Contract with America', which had a single enduring legacy- helping consolidate the most loyal support base for George W. Bush.

Gingrich's plan was really just a front to empower corporations to profit at the expense of the environment and the working class. When President Bill Clinton stood in his way, Gingrich engineered a shutdown of the federal government and was consequently exposed as the petulant tyrant that he actually was. His entire strategy backfired, and not only led to the virtual end of his 'Contract', but also resulted in a second Clinton presidential term. Not content to lick his wounds gracefully, he began to seek other ways to hurt Clinton. He found his opening in the gutter with folks like Linda Tripp and Kenneth Starr. After he failed in his bid for retribution via impeachment, Gingrich's popularity was at an all-time low.

After the 1998 congressional elections (during which the Republican Party failed to take advantage of the tumult inspired by the Lewinsky scandal) Gingrich stepped down as Speaker of the House and resigned his seat in Congress. One would think that the man would be a pariah in political circles given his shoddy record as leader of the party. But instead he was made a senior fellow of the American Enterprise Institute, and was reportedly active in the efforts to convince George W. Bush to invade Iraq. He also joined the Hoover Institute- a conservative think tank that reflects the misguided philosophies of its namesake. In his spare time Gingrich played author, collaborating on 'alternative histories' in which he imagined the Nazis winning WWII and the Confederacy prevailing at Gettysburg.

As objectionable a man as Gingrich is, you'd think we could find a nice quiet closet where he could be contained and kept harmlessly away from the media. Still old habits die hard, and Gingrich apparently overestimates his own allure. In fact he's a frequent contributor to FOX News, and appears to be attracted to the limelight like a mosquito drawn to a bug zapper. The former Speaker actually considered a run for the 2008 presidency, but there was enough of his lingering stink left behind from the 90's to effectively stifle any enthusiasm for his candidacy. So how exactly does the guy plan to worm his way back into the hearts and minds of the movers-and-shakers? To what lengths will he go to be loved?

Well, I got a clue about what Gingrich is up to while listening to NPR the other day. Nowadays he is using his own daughter (Jackie Cushman) in his insidious schemes. Cushman is attempting to realize her father's dreams of improving the nation's schools. Gingrich has been vocal about his belief that the public school system is a failed experiment. His solution? Pay low-income students to improve their grades! A group of Fulton County students in Georgia are participating in after school study sessions that earn them $8 per hour. It seems that Gingrich missed the memo about the inadequacy of external motivation. The most interesting aspect of this program is that it pays more than Republicans were ever willing to offer in minimum wage. No one ever accused Newt Gingrich of consistency.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Hoover Institution is much more conservative than Hoover ever was.

One former fellow was Milton Freidman who proposed the idea of school choice over 4 decades ago and later produced a great show on the subject. Here are links to the first three short You Tube segments.

3:14 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

I despise Milton Friedman's legacy, and everything he represents.

9:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like human freedom and competition?

1:30 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

"human freedom" and "competition"?

What planet are you living on? The game was always rigged, is rigged presently, and always will be rigged.

Friedman's forte was obfuscation.

10:23 PM  

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