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.
Newt is not, as too many in the GOP appear to be, hoping President Obama will fail. In his article, Matt Bai wrote that shortly after the November election Newt suggested to Congressional Republicans:
"If the president of the United States walks in with a rational, moderate proposal which has his left wing up in arms and you don't help him, you look like you're a nihilistic party of reactionary opposition."
I looked up "nihilism" for you. It's on the Secret Decoder Ring page.
When the article was posted on-line Saturday night I e-mailed Newt to congratulate him on a very positive article - especially given it was in the NY Times. I asked him what Republicans should do moving forward.
This is what he e-mailed back:
1. Cooperate whenever possible;
2. Create better solutions when they are wrong;
3. Fight when it is unavoidable;
We should always approach every question in that order. We should win the argument that our solutions are better for you as a person and for the country as a whole.
The problem with being around Newt is that he says (or writes) things like that - 15 times a day - and then gets in the elevator and leaves it to you to figure out how to put it into practice.
The next problem with being around Newt is, when he comes back from wherever he's just been and you haven't figured it out he'll go to the whiteboard and show you how to do it.
Between Mother Jones, the New York Times and others there is a growing attitude that "Newt is back."
Newt once said this:
This ought to be the goal:
That there will be a Monday morning when for the entire weekend not a single child was killed anywhere in America;
That there will be a Monday morning when every child in the country went to a school that they and their parents thought prepared them as citizens and prepared them to compete in the world market;
That there will be a Monday morning where it was easy to find a job or create a job, and your own Government did not punish you if you tried.
That was from Newt's first address as Speaker of the House on January 4, 1995.
Newt Gingrich isn't back. He never left.