Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: GOP Reform, History, Politics — Rick Moran @ 1:58 pm

I have written extensively on a man I consider one of the most brilliant conceptualists in the conservative movement, Newt Gingrich. There is little doubt that Newt drives both friends and enemies batty at times and, like all conceptualists is given to vagueness and a maddening circular logic when it comes to describing problems.

But those lefties unable to see any human being in more than one dimension fail to understand Gingrich, seeing him as some kind of partisan ogre rather than the political theorist and historian he can be when the mood strikes him. No doubt that when the partisan juices flow, Gingrich can and has been a lightening rod for liberal hate of conservatives. This was probably most true when Newt was a GOP backbencher in the early and mid 1980’s and Republicans in the House were nearly somnolent, allowing Democrats to run roughshod over them. Virtually accusing Speaker Tip O’Neil of being complicit in communist atrocities in Nicaragua did not endear him to the left and his subsequent role in Clinton’s impeachment while Speaker himself no doubt made him an inviting conservative punching bag for liberals.

That being said, there is no one who has a better grasp of “The Big Picture” among politicians right or left. But listening to Gingrich is dangerous because the threads of his logic are so clear and riff so easily from one to the next that he can hypnotize the listener with the power of his presentation. His grasp of history, his ability to weave a narrative that traverses the past, present, and future can leave one breathless - until you realize that his conceptualizations, while impeccably logical, don’t go anywhere. Ideas and observations have no purpose, no destination. He rarely offers solutions and when he does, they are high concept dissertations that are long on rhetoric but short on practical, real world applications.

One of his oldest friends, ex-Congressman Vin Weber:

“I never saw a lot of crackpot ideas. I saw a lot of good ideas. But there was difficulty in assessing a cost-benefit ratio. Even if every idea is good, resources are limited. With Newt, it didn’t matter if we were overreaching, we had to do everything.”

A staffer noted that “He would always get people started on a project or a vision, and we’re all slugging up the mountain to accomplish it. Newt’s nowhere to be found…He’s gone on to the next mountaintop.”

Gingrich is afflicted with the same disease that brought down another brilliant conceptualizer in politics Adlai Stevenson. Stevenson set liberals on fire with the suppleness and power of his intellect but his problems in taking the next step and putting those concepts into a framework that was politically actionable had the Kennedy’s dismissing Adlai as a lightweight. That feeling of disdain persisted right on up to the Cuban Missile Crisis when, after proposing the solution that inevitably became the basis of agreement between the Soviets and the US - removal of the Jupiter Missiles from Turkey and a “no-invasion” pledge for Cuba - Stevenson was lambasted by Bobby Kennedy as “an appeaser” and there was serious thought given to replacing him at the UN (Bobby calling anyone an appeaser was a joke dripping with irony considering his father was the world’s #1 appeaser of Hitler.).

In the end, Stevenson performed more than adequately at the UN and history has judged him correct with regard to the eventual concession on the Turkish missiles - a fact not revealed about the crisis until fairly recently due to the Kennedy’s fears that the luster would be lost on JFK’s “victory” over Khrushchev in the crisis if it became known we gave up the strategically relevant Jupiters for missiles in Cuba. There was also the immediate matter of the 1962 mid term elections where Kennedy did not wish it known he had folded on the Jupiters thus giving the Republicans a club to beat him with.

Gingrich and Stevenson are similar in that they could mesmerize an audience with their brilliance but when it came to offering solutions to the problems they so exquisitely described, they were already on to talking about the next problem that needed addressing. Such men do not make good executives which is why any talk of Newt in 2012 scares me. Still, this piece in The Hill today gives us some vintage Newt in a real tour d’horizon performance:

“The world is much more difficult than any American realizes, and it’s likely to get worse before it gets better,” Gingrich said at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor.

From an economic system in tatters to dangerous enemies abroad and a culture of corruption among politicians from coast to coast, Gingrich said President Obama faces truly mountainous tasks. The country, he said, will require “changes on a scale that is going to drive the establishment crazy.”

Gingrich voiced disappointment with the economic stimulus package moving through the Senate this week, saying any package should focus on boosting small businesses rather than on bailing out big corporations and banks.

“What they’re trying to do now is bail out the guys who failed, and I think that’s very dangerous,” Gingrich said, comparing the latest stimulus plan with bailout legislation signed by former President Bush. “That’s not change you can believe in. That’s more of the same.”

Facing increasingly well-educated generations of Indian and Chinese citizens, Gingrich also called for an overhaul in the nation’s education system. While high schoolers in India get four years of physics training, “this country is aggressively preparing for the 1956 Olympics,” Gingrich said.

Warning that foreign challenges are mounting just as quickly as domestic concerns, Gingrich pointed to Mexico, where violence fueled largely by drug cartels has exploded, and Pakistan, where terrorists roam freely in some parts of the country, as two of the nation’s top concerns.

“We are piling up risks, and one morning one of those risks is going to break loose,” he said.

Gingrich never concerns himself with solutions, believing that identifying the problems clearly and concisely is enough - at least for him. But if he wants to be a force in presidential politics, he is going to have to get used to the idea that most people prefer a candidate who can both articulate what’s wrong and propose common sense solutions to fix it. To date, Newt is more enamored with that “next mountaintop” rather than slogging along, doing the grunt work of pushing solutions forward.

It is perhaps less glamorous to labor to bring about change rather than simply announce that change is necessary as Obama is finding out. In the case of both men, their success or failure will depend on how each of them perceives the enormous challenges we are facing and goes beyond the atmospherics of electoral politics to enter the world of policy making where the power of one’s ideas count only as much as the viability of solutions those ideas bring forth.

So far, neither Obama or Gingrich has set forth any convincing solutions to the problems they both have so brilliantly defined.


  1. While there are plenty of differences between Gingrich & Obama, there’s one which (to me) cuts hard against Gingrich:

    Newt’s had plenty of opportunities to actually do something about the problems he identifies - enough to demonstrate he simply isn’t “executive” timber.

    As the staffer said - Gingrich plans the attack, sends the troops up the hill & then is nowhere to be found when the first reports of combat come in.

    Comment by BD57 — 2/2/2009 @ 2:14 pm

  2. Such men do not make good executives which is why any talk of Newt in 2012 scares me.

    I wouldn’t worry much, I don’t think the splenetics have much love for him.

    Comment by Chuck Tucson — 2/2/2009 @ 2:41 pm

  3. First, I don’t see how you can say that Gingrich “never concerns himself with solutions” when he has created an excellent website called, ironically enough, “American Solutions”.

    Second, I disagree with your premise that visionaries make poor executives. On the contrary, my 25 years in the workforce supports that the BEST executives are visionaries. Getting involved in the details of implementation is best left for your operations division, and the visionary must be smart enough to ensure that the ops team is accountable to a set of visionary goals.

    Even if I were to agree with you that he doesn’t follow through with solutions (which I don’t), I would say that he is miles ahead of any other politician in that regard. I think one would be hard-pressed to submit any candidate from any party that has done what you are criticising Newt for. In fact, most of them don’t even get the big picture, much less follow through with solutions.

    I do, however, agree that he is probably not the best candidate for 2012. He is (as you pointed out) a lightning rod of polarization, he has significant personal baggage (divorced his sick wife, lead the charge for impeachment while engaging in his own extra-marital affair, etc.).

    Is there a difference between “visionaries” and “conceptualizers?” A subtle one, yes. A visionary sees the future. A conceptualizer sees mostly the present and is able to break down what he sees into a clear, articulated concept - a way of looking at things that no one else can do.

    How vigorously is Newt pushing those “American solutions?” The point against him is that he is fine at proposing what needs to be done but lousy at actually doing it.


    Comment by lionheart — 2/2/2009 @ 2:51 pm

  4. Newt’s latest cause over at American Solutions is to identify things that all of us want to see happen, and then for all of us–liberal and conservative alike– to pressure Congress to execute the ideas, perhaps one at a time. Newt is good at prescribing a process to solve problems.

    I applaud the thought, but we still have the keepers of the parties and the elites in place that will defend their current positions to the death. There are those who believe that they are the deciders, not the public, and their agenda for us comes first.

    Overwhelming support for an idea is no guarantee that Congress will heed the message, or else we would have had far more forceful action on illegal immigrants, as a for instance, and I can think of a number of other examples where public support has been ignored or the idea buried in committee. Reducing spending across the board is one.

    Still, Newt does get people charged up and involved, and his Contract With America has had a surprisingly good run, even after Newt was long gone.

    Comment by mannning — 2/2/2009 @ 3:28 pm

  5. Newt is fine in his current role. I know he wants more, but he needs to stay far, far away from the campaign bus.

    To people like me, who cheered him on during the days of his contract with America - he represents a past generation of politicians who had their chance, and let us down, big time.

    If it’s true he’s brilliant at grasping the reality of a situation, I would think he would see that. But, sigh, right after the election, my phone rang with someone who wanted to play me a “recorded message from Newt”. I was, like, you’re kidding, right? Tell him, sorry, but no thanks.

    Comment by sara in va — 2/2/2009 @ 3:46 pm

  6. [...] can be attributed to Newt translate well to that of the Chief Executive of the United States?  Rick Moran at Right Wing Nut House doesn’t think so.  In a post today, he writes about how Newt is a great problem-identifier, has a great grasp of [...]

    Pingback by Reservations on Newt | Axis of Right — 2/2/2009 @ 3:59 pm

  7. I agree that Gingrich is a conceptualist, with all the positives and baggage that carries, but can the same really be said of Obama? Or did I misread you there? I have thought of Obama as a master of rhetoric but haven’t really heard him put forth “concepts” or “visions” or “theories” or however you want to describe it. Platitudes from Obama, yes. I apparently missed where these came together as concepts. I have read you long enough to know you don’t equate “hope” and “change” with a concept. I noticed you also used the term “descriptions” in relation to Obama so again there is a big chance I misread you above.

    Not on the same scale as Newt but Obama has articulated our problems (using platitudes at times) but in way that ordinary people can grasp them. Otherwise, I don’t think he could have been elected.


    Comment by jackson1234 — 2/2/2009 @ 4:38 pm

  8. I always thought that Newt could do a good talk, but, when he got taken in with the AGW nonsense, I saw that even he didn’t know when he was being played for the fool. Likewise Obama has the same problem.

    Most politicians aren’t very good at evaluating technical issues. Their strengths are putting together a political plan based on the problems at hand, but they are suckers for a good scientific theory, but have no idea when it is bunk.

    Eventually, the whole AGW thing will destroy the scientific community’s goodwill from the political community and the public at large.

    The greater problem though is that the political community, including both Newt and Obama, will themselves lose the goodwill of the public. Politicians with designs on the public treasury have now invested too much on AGW to let the issue, which has generated to date some of the best motivation for a “carbon power grab” by a political community that encircles the globe, go by the wayside. I’m not fool enough to believe this is a conspiracy, but rather a loosely couple group that channels the same language to push it in a mutually benefical direction.

    When the emperor is finally revealed to be wearing no clothes, the fortunes of this entire group will generate an opening for parties, yet to be determined, to minimize all players in the current political landscape.

    I see Newt on the wrong end of this eventual outcome.

    Comment by Neo — 2/2/2009 @ 5:52 pm

  9. Gingrich’s failure is proof that honest, sensible, and accountable government is not possible if there is not an honest, sensible and accountable press reporting on it. That leaves us with government by obstruction and confinement. Impose term limits on seats, chairmanships, party leader and the speaker’s gavel. Implement the line item veto. Require a 2/3 vote of both houses to increase the debt limit or to impose any tax in excess of 33% of net income. Penalize every budget deficit with a 33% cut in pay for the President, the Congress and their staff, but pay a bonus to same for every budget surplus. Limit the sessions of Congress to be 6 months per year. Switch to 2 year budgets. Empower citizens to sue under the takings clause for unfunded mandates. And just like the federal courts limit the pages and fonts in a lawyer brief, set a maximum page limit on each bill to be considered and require sponsors to fully and fairly summarize the contents so proposed laws can be read and understood by constituents and possibly even by journalists.

    Comment by Mark30339 — 2/2/2009 @ 6:54 pm

  10. I don’t think Newt as a Conseptualist is equivalent to Obama. Frankly, I don’t think Obama is even a conceptualist; rather, he’s an empty suit. Newt for all his flaws is brilliant, and he has a major role to play in the Conservative movement. I personally do not think that role is as a Presidential candidate, however.

    Comment by Sal — 2/2/2009 @ 7:19 pm

  11. Newt is a hewt!

    Comment by Steve — 2/2/2009 @ 9:38 pm

  12. Democrats won elections 2006 and 2008 without offering solutions. They basically bashed away at Bush and everything that was wrong. Obama offered very generalized ” Restore trust in Government” types of things.

    Newt should be the next President. America will look past his personal problems.

    Comment by Dennis D — 2/2/2009 @ 9:48 pm

  13. I have never before thought to compare Newt with Adlai Stevenson, but now you have me thinking that Mr. Gingrich was put into political exile for thinking too hard and for not playing the role of an American politician very well. Stevenson was never a terribly good politician either, but nearly everyone at the time respected him for his principled stands and intelligence. Even my most leftist friends have fewer harsh words for Newt than nearly any other conservative, which is certainly due to the fact that the man undoubtedly has brains. I wish there were more like him on either side of the aisle,.

    Comment by Surabaya Stew — 2/2/2009 @ 9:56 pm

  14. Thank you for your comments on Newt Gingrich. I must agree wholeheartedly with your assessment. Newt is a great conceptualist. I have found that his solutions are significantly less brilliant. Unfortunately, the balance just isn’t there… and often the judgement isn’t either. That said, Newt is an asset to the conservative movement.

    Obama on the other hand is not a great conceptualist. He is a great presenter of old leftist bromides. His skills are in communication.

    If I was to compare Newt to someone else, it would be Rush Limbaugh. Both men are entertainers, in very different ways. They have inciteful minds and do have a great grasp of the Big Picture of politics.

    Obama has a great grasp of leftist politics and is groping to find a way to co-opt as many in the center and on the right to find a way to make his presidency work.

    Comment by Owasm — 2/2/2009 @ 10:57 pm

  15. [...] I highly (***HIGHLY***) recommend, Rick Moran offers a similar view, calling the Georgian, “one of the most brilliant conceptualists in the conservative movement.” Despite his appreciation for Gingrich’s understanding of the sweep of history and the [...]

    Pingback by GayPatriot » Newt Gingrich: Long on Ideas, Short on Solutions — 2/3/2009 @ 12:31 am

  16. From Mark:

    “Penalize every budget deficit with a 33% cut in pay for the President, the Congress and their staff, but pay a bonus to same for every budget surplus.”

    I’ll vote for that right now.

    Comment by busboy33 — 2/3/2009 @ 2:46 am

  17. So far, neither Obama or Gingrich has set forth any convincing solutions to the problems they both have so brilliantly defined.

    I agreed with your thoughts completely, but that last sentence threw me. Maybe you could follow with a post examining which problems Obama brilliantly defined? It might enlighten some of us who were blind to his allure.

    Comment by John E. Howard — 2/3/2009 @ 5:45 am

  18. Newt is, absolutely, a brilliant conceptualizer and theoretician. He is wholly impractical as an actual executor of plans. Better he remains the eminence grise behind someone who has exceptional executive qualities - someone like Michael Steele or Sarah Palin - who can find a way to make Newt’s concepts a reality.

    And to the people who say Newt has too much baggage, that is absolutely spot on!

    Comment by Gayle Miller — 2/3/2009 @ 9:16 am

  19. Gingrich and Stevenson are similar in that they could mesmerize an audience with their brilliance but when it came to offering solutions to the problems they so exquisitely described, they were already on to talking about the next problem that needed addressing. Such men do not make good executives which is why any talk of Newt in 2012 scares me.

    It would me, too, if I thought for a moment that:

    1: It was the task of government to fix most of the problems he cites

    2: That he wouldn’t bring with him a brain trust that included people who actually fix things, and fill his administration with them.

    Neither of these two points should be minimized.

    Most of the issues I’ve heard him address involve the over-extension of government, the solution of which seems simple enough as Ronald Reagan found; Get government out of the way. It doesn’t take a master planner to accomplish that. the exact huts and bolts are best left to the feild op once the general params are laid out.

    I would remind the reader that’s exactly what Reagan did; He simply laid down basic operational ideas and let his people do their job within those boundries… no micromanager, he. And yet, can anyone suggest he was anything but wildly successful?

    Comment by Eric Florack — 2/3/2009 @ 11:51 am

  20. would you rather someone like Palin? talk about polarizing, even though I like her personally, she takes some very divisive stances. as for too much baggage, let him write a book about his improper actions, and then he can do as obama and clinton did and point the press and questioners to it, instead of answering. i mean really obama admitted to the marijuana, coke, and alluded to of all things heroine use, plus wright, plus cooky chicago terroists, plus…
    anyways, about your main presumption, do good presidents really slog it out in the mud, or do they assign the right person to the problems at hand? a president never stops dealing with new crisis’s if he did he would have peace or an impeachment coming. at least Newt has accomplished some things, Contract with America ring a bell…

    Comment by jambrowski — 2/3/2009 @ 12:27 pm

  21. I think Newt should run for President just because he is such a “lightning rod” for the Left.

    I don’t expect him to win the primaries or beyond, but having Newt in there for the press to beat up will draw fire and “lightning” from the other candidates and make them seem more moderate. The press have to have somebody to beat up, so why not Newt ?

    Comment by Neo — 2/3/2009 @ 1:18 pm

  22. I agree with Neo that Newt should run, but mainly to highlight the lack of brains of the majority of the Republican candidates. His presence at future debates would certainly grab everyone’s attention. In fact, he could possibly win the nomination if he starts early and campaigns hard! However, Newt winning the Presidency against an (hypothetically) average-performing Obama in 2012…hmmm…perhaps he should wait for 2016?

    Comment by Surabaya Stew — 2/3/2009 @ 5:42 pm

  23. Weds. political links…

    I hadn’t heard about the Hollywood stimulus. Does that mean the gummint cuts their pay, like it wants to with TARP? Related: Best stimulus idea ever, from Anchoress. Why not?
    Aliens from Planet Islam. Yes, they do view the world differently.

    Trackback by Maggie's Farm — 2/4/2009 @ 9:08 am

  24. [...] "Gingrinch Sees the Problems but Where are the Solutions?" Originally published:  2 February 2009 Submitted by:  U.S. Common Sense Summary:  Delving into the genius of Newt Gingrich and how solving the problems of the nation are harder than just identifying them. [...]

    Pingback by Political Blog Weekly: 6 February 2009 | U.S. Common Sense — 2/7/2009 @ 9:50 am

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