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The Last Appeal

The Last Appeal

Bill Blum

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Been There, Thought That

Posted on Dec 16, 2011
Gage Skidmore (CC-BY-SA)

By Eugene Robinson

Can we please bury the notion that Newt Gingrich is some kind of deep thinker? His intellect may be as broad as the sea, but it’s about as deep as a birdbath.

I’m not saying the Republican presidential front-runner is unacquainted with ideas. Quite the contrary: Ideas rain through his brain like confetti, escaping at random as definitive pronouncements about this or that. But they are other people’s ideas, and Gingrich doesn’t bother to curate them into anything resembling a consistent philosophy. Given enough time, I’m convinced, he will take every position on every issue.

The week’s most vivid example of Gingrich’s intellectual promiscuity sent principled conservatives into apoplexy. Mitt Romney, his chief opponent for the GOP nomination, had called on Gingrich to return the $1.6 million in consulting fees he received from housing giant Freddie Mac. Gingrich replied that he would “be glad to listen” if Romney would first “give back all the money he’s earned from bankrupting companies and laying off employees” during his time as head of the investment firm Bain Capital.

If this were a column about Gingrich’s hypocrisy, the point would be that he has been scorchingly critical of Freddie Mac while at the same time accepting tons of the firm’s money. But this is about his shallowness—and the fact that in blasting Romney he adopted the ideas and rhetoric of Occupy Wall Street.

Republicans are supposed to believe that “bankrupting companies and laying off employees” is something to celebrate, not bemoan, because this is seen as the way capitalism works. Even in the heat of a campaign, no one who has thought deeply about economics and adopted the conservative viewpoint—which Gingrich wants us to believe he has done—could possibly commit such heresy.


Square, Site wide

Gingrich doesn’t just borrow ideas from the protesters he once advised to “get a job, right after you take a bath.” He’s as indiscriminate as a vacuum cleaner, except for a bias toward the highfalutin and trendy.

Take his solution for making the federal government so efficient that we could save $500 billion a year: a management system called Lean Six Sigma. There’s no way Gingrich could resist such a shiny bauble of jargon. Why, the name even includes a letter of the Greek alphabet—the sort of erudite touch that a distinguished professor of history, such as Gingrich, could not fail to appreciate.

I won’t argue with the corporate executives who say that Lean Six Sigma works wonders for their firms. But is a technique developed by Motorola to reduce the number of defects in its electronic gear really applicable to government? There’s no reason to think it would be, unless you somehow restructured government to introduce competition and a genuine, not simulated, profit motive. I guess Professor Gingrich will get back to us on that; at the moment, he’s too busy playing with his new piece of management-speak.

Another example is Gingrich’s bizarre claim last year that “Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior” was the key to understanding President Obama. Aside from being one of the stranger, least comprehensible utterances by a prominent American politician in recent memory—and that’s saying something—it was also completely unoriginal. Gingrich was citing and endorsing a hallucinatory piece in Forbes by Dinesh D’Souza. It was merely the idea du jour.

Gingrich finds it hard to watch an intellectual fad pass by without becoming infatuated. Do you remember Second Life, the digital realm? In 2007, he told us it was “an example of how we can rethink learning” and potentially “one of the great breakthroughs of the next 10 years.” I know Second Life still exists, but have you heard a lot about it recently? Has it changed your world?

Gingrich didn’t originate the idea of solving the health insurance problem through an individual mandate, but he supported it—before bitterly opposing it. Nor was he saying anything new last week when he made the offensive claim that Palestinians are an “invented people.” His xenophobic views about the alleged threat to the United States from Islam and Shariah law are in conflict with earlier statements praising immigration and the melting pot as great American strengths. But for Gingrich, the word “contradiction” has no meaning. His discourse knows no past and no future, just the glib opportunism of now.

Gingrich’s debating technique is dogmatic insistence, rather than persuasion. I guess he realizes that to convince someone of an idea, first he would have to understand it.

Eugene Robinson’s e-mail address is eugenerobinson(at)
© 2011, Washington Post Writers Group

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examinator's avatar

By examinator, December 18, 2011 at 7:20 pm Link to this comment

deep as a bird bath? Strewth I’ve seen chickens that can poop deeper than his thoughts.
How deep are the word’s ‘me first’ and ‘anything to get elected’(in 10 pt New Roman Times).

Jokes aside,
I find it impossible to find anything remotely   redeeming about him enough to feel comfortable to invite him over for dinner, politics aside, let alone presidential.

He so lacking in any sense of authority, skill, integrity,enough to serve *ALL* if elected, the idea of him being president is frightening. His sole ambition will be ‘his power’, ‘his legacy’.

There is a flaw in the system that an ex politician like him is even eligible for the job especially given the voting exclusions of some Republican states…  Forgiveness (Christian or otherwise), paid the debt to society certainly aren’t in   their legal lexicon. He has neither paid (proportionately) for his past lack of moral fibre nor has he shown any potential for change in the future. 

The unmitigated tragedy is that he’s the ‘best(?)‘they’ve got? (surely not!) if so no wonder America has problems.

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By litlpeep, December 17, 2011 at 3:53 pm Link to this comment

There is a very wide gap between “thoughtful” and “sleazy.”

Sleaze never was thoughtful in any way; thoughtfulness never was sleazy in any way.

In politics many of those who confuse the two do so from vulgar understandings of Machiavelli.  In Newt’s case, no one ever even said Newt had read Machiavelli.

Newt did claim to have read de Tocqueville; but everything he ever said about de Tocqueville was so nonsensical that no scholar of de Tocqueville could have possibly accepted it as being in any way a possible and also meaningful reading of de Tocqueville.

But, alas, the New Yorker also published a supposed “review” of de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America when the newt was Speaker of the House.  Guess what?  It read like it might have been ghost written by the slithering newt.  The author wrote as if he had never even read one page in that brilliant two volumes.

Nice to see the newt slithering in rhythm to the reactionary party as that party collapses into political oblivion.

It will be even nicer to see the other sleazy party go with them.

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By bpawk, December 17, 2011 at 2:50 pm Link to this comment

The press have been giving eye of Newt a lot of coverage because they want the Republicans to think crazy Newt is a viable leader for them - this would ensure an Obama victory! The Dems are really afraid of Romney as Romney is so much like Obama it will be too close to call.

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By balkas, December 17, 2011 at 9:46 am Link to this comment

i also do not approve of praising any human. to me, it represents
a manipulation, paternalizing, flattery, leading by nose, etc.
it is definitely not educational and neither is blaming an
individual; while bypassing to blame our way of life to which we
all have to adjust if we want to join the [wrong] unimentality that
prevails in some lands.

i cld never adjust to it and i never will. thanks for your comment!

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By larkohio, December 17, 2011 at 9:00 am Link to this comment

Thank you for saying this, Mr. Robinson.  Talking about the Northwest Ordinance does not make you a grand intellect.  I know about it, and I am under no illusions regarding my own.  I am concerned about his character.  When he was dogging Clinton about Monica he was married and had his Calista.  That makes him a huge hypocrite. If he really thinks that poor kids should work, what about his own?  Did they work in grade school, or did he think they were better served being educated?

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By Revshock, December 17, 2011 at 8:20 am Link to this comment

THANK YOU MR. ROBINSON, for saying out loud what I have
been thinking (and saying) for years now. Newt Gingrich is
not smart.

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By jeandavid, December 17, 2011 at 6:20 am Link to this comment

Deep thinker? I never thought of him as such. To me, he is an extremely little man.

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James M. Martin's avatar

By James M. Martin, December 16, 2011 at 5:00 pm Link to this comment

Hear!  Hear!  I posted a comment elsewhere about Newt’s false reputation for having brains.  When confronted with a question about atheism, for example, he said he did not understand how a person with no faith could possibly show judgment.  As an attorney, I wonder how any judgment could be reached if the only thing we had to go by is mythology and superstition. Judgment is only reached after complete, logical examination of facts, not will-o’-the-wisps and fatas morganas.

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By johndot, December 16, 2011 at 4:34 pm Link to this comment

“Lean Six Sigma” ?  Who does he think he is?...Jack

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By John Poole, December 16, 2011 at 4:20 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Ever feel like the tiny minority of citizens of Rome circa 300AD who sensed they
needed to flee to get away from the madness they sensed was becoming lethal for
all?  As a citizen of this decession (somewhere between a depression and
recession) I’m seeking solace and joy with a few like minded family members and
friends. Most of the time tapping into Truthdig feels like I have an extended
family around the pixel fireplace. Stay positive!

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By Tobysgirl, December 16, 2011 at 3:06 pm Link to this comment

I’ll engage in personal attacks, no problem. Actually, I don’t think speaking the truth about someone is a personal attack. A personal attack consists of calling voters and asking them if they know that so-and-so fathered a biracial child out of wedlock, which I believe was done in one of our excellent Southern states.

What outrages me about Gingrich and what amazes me that no one has said is:

This piece of human waste talked about reversing child labor laws and that poor children don’t have a work ethic. When has this man ever ever ever done an honest day’s work? When has he ever contributed anything of worth to human society? I wish I believed in a God who would immediately banish Newt to toilet detail in a ward of people with C.dif.

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By Joseph Couture, December 16, 2011 at 2:40 pm Link to this comment

Frankly, I have other things on my mind than which puppet ends up in power.

Really, how can anyone truly be surprised by snatch and grab indefinite detention?  I couldn’t go to karaoke last night without them searching my bag.  Worried?  You should be.

Read:  “Closer By the Minute” at

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Blueokie's avatar

By Blueokie, December 16, 2011 at 1:04 pm Link to this comment

The shelf life of the non-Willard front runner of the Dog and Pony show has been approximately 7 weeks per geek. Dough Boy is already showing signs of his impending wane.  The only real reason to pay attention to what they say is to learn the policies Obama will embrace, enhance, and expand in his possible second term.

Of course there’s the fun of anticipating the rationalizations and justifications of his worshiping apologist Obamaniacs.  Here, let me start, “I’m voting for Kettle, Pot is just way too black.”, “Not voting for a candidate you don’t agree with is like voting for the ‘bad guy’”, “Not voting for one of the Plutocratically approved candidates is ‘wasting’ your vote”.

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mrfreeze's avatar

By mrfreeze, December 16, 2011 at 12:41 pm Link to this comment

balkas - I’m afraid you do not understand politics if you’re turned-off by personal attacks. Americans LOVE and ENCOURAGE personal attacks…....whether true or not….

And here’s where you’re missing the whole point: Newt Gingrich “is” a disgusting human being and Mitt Romney “is pretending” to be a human being (due to his religious background he actually thinks he’s going to be a god someday) and IT MATTERS.

The rest of the republicans are nothing but a bunch of entitled, wealthy, nasty pond scum (I would dearly like to say what I really think but I’ve been spanked by the moderator for doing that).

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By balkas, December 16, 2011 at 11:36 am Link to this comment

i stopped reading robinson’s piece as soon as he
got personal with gingrich.
i think it is dishonest to list people’s positive or
negative traits.
i for one wld not approve of ad hominem praise or
blame.  tnx

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JimBob's avatar

By JimBob, December 16, 2011 at 11:13 am Link to this comment

Of course, Gene, you’re right.  But remember, America
elected (well, sort of) George W. Bush and unquestionably
re-elected him after he was proven to be a stumble-bum in
the employ of the wealthy and the MIC.  So, laugh all you
want, I’m holding off until the election is over.

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mrfreeze's avatar

By mrfreeze, December 16, 2011 at 8:31 am Link to this comment

Clearly, the fact that the “republican debates” are being taken seriously and that their bankrupt “ideas” are taken seriously, proves, yet again, that Americans are imbeciles. What is it about white, rich, never-worked-an-honest-day-in-their-lives, elitists that regular people are so attracted to…so much so that they’d actually vote for them?

Anarcissie, you raise a good point, but I suspect most Americans are too stupid to understand Newt’s point…..everyone already knows how all these jerks made their money….and they won’t care at election time.

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By Anarcissie, December 16, 2011 at 6:48 am Link to this comment

Gingrich’s head may fizz with discordant ideas, but his criticism of Romney quoted here was both accurate and relevant in that it will certainly be part of the Democratic Party’s campaign armament in the coming year if Romney is nominated.

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