The New York Sunday Times Magazine yesterday published a major - an 8,000 word - update on the State of Newt Gringrich.
I have known Newt since 1982 when I went to work for the National Republican Congressional Committee - the political arm of the House GOP. Our relationship has rocked from unswerving loyalty (in both directions) to not speaking to each other for five years and back again.
He was elected in 1978 and was, in his own words, a "backbencher" during what was known as the post-Watergate era. Even after a 15 seat pick-up by the GOP in that election, the Democrats still held a 119 seat majority. To give you some context, Nancy Pelosi's current squad has a 76 seat majority.
The Clinton-Gingrich wars began on the day that Newt was sworn in as Speaker in January of 1995 and continued until Newt announced, following the elections of 1998 when the GOP lost five seats, that he would not take his seat when the new Congress convened in January 1999.
The writer of the NY Times piece, Matt Bai, said "Whatever else you think of Gingrich, he has always been considered a prospector in bold and counterintuitive thinking - floating ideas, throughout his career."
I have always held that Newt, with a PhD in history from Tulane University, is at base, a teacher. He tests ideas aloud which has led to no small number of misunderstandings over the years depending upon who left which room at what point in one of Newt's lectures.
In a piece which appeared about a week earlier in "Mother Jones" magazine, David Corn quoted me as suggesting Newt is "the Republican intellect-in-chief." He then went on to write:
Gingrich can come up with 15 ideas a day, Galen notes, realizing that only one is any good and that "over the course of a month, maybe one of them is actionable and you can build a project on it."
That drew a cranky-gram from Newt suggesting that my giving him an idea win-ratio of "1 in 450" was not terribly helpful. I reminded him that the test was an actionable idea around which a project could be built. It is a percentage no other single person the public arena can even come close to.
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