If you've been watching cable television regularly, you've heard from many analysts who know Newt Gingrich personally. They either call him the smartest man in the room or they tell us Gingrich believes he's the smartest man in the room. Gingrich has always been a government ideas man, and whenever he says something odd, out of the ordinary or otherwise eyebrow raising or provocative, it's explained away as Newt being Newt. His ideas are, in fact, what get him in trouble.
When Gingrich called Palestinians an invented people, that wasn't a Rick Perry moment. There is a long academic debate behind the Palestinian question. Yasser Arafat, after all, was born in Cairo as a poor Egyptian, but died in Paris as a wealthy, corrupt Palestinian leader. There was never an independent state of Palestine, and the people now known as Palestinians were known simply as Arabs before the creation of the State of Israel. None of this, of course, is relevant to U.S. foreign policy, because none of it is relevant to U.S. national security interests. It is only relevant to politics.
When Gingrich mused that the federal government ought to hire poor children to work as janitors, that, too, was no Rick Perry moment. There is something to be said about instilling a sound work ethic in youth. Indeed, as Gingrich noted, most of this country's productively wealthy people started working at an early age, and he points to that as a primary driver of their successes later in life. But is there a role for the federal government in micromanaging how the nation's youth are imbued with a work ethic? No, there is not. The government can't deliver the mail.
Perhaps the most telling of Gingrich's ideas is that the federal government ought to expand its presence in space, up to and including mining the moon for minerals. It's a pie in the sky idea, literally, and scientifically absurd. But it, too, is not a Rick Perry moment. It's not like Dennis Kucinich admitting he believes in UFOs. It's just Newt being an ideas man.
Yet, all of his out-of-the-box ideas have a common thread: He wants to expand the government.
Gingrich doesn't belong in government, because government isn't subject to the forces of the free market. Because it's not subject to the free market, it becomes difficult for government to filter bad ideas from good ones. After all, Gingrich may have a good idea in trying to instill work ethic in troubled youth. But he also had the idea to use the death penalty when it comes to marijuana, a substance that's only been banned by the federal government in the past 40 years and is less harmful than alcohol.