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Has Gingrich Ever Heard An Idea He Didn’t Like?

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 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.

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 U.S. 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 sharia law conflict with earlier statements praising immigration and the melting pot as great American strengths. But for Gingrich, the word contradiction has no meaning.

Gingrich’s debating technique is dogmatic insistence, rather than persuasion. His discourse knows no past and no future, just the glib opportunism of now.

 

By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, December 16, 2011

December 17, 2011 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Fictionalized History”: Steer Clear Of Newt’s Courses

Newt Gingrich raised some eyebrows recently when he said he intends, if elected president, to teach an online course. It’s worth pausing to appreciate the fact that Gingrich’s desire to teach while holding public office isn’t new.

In the 1990s, Gingrich taught “Renewing American Civilization” at Kennesaw State College in Georgia. The course became infamous because it was at the heart of a congressional ethics investigation that led to severe penalties for the disgraced former Speaker. But back in 1995,  before the ethics scandal broke in earnest, the Washington Monthly ran a piece by Allan Lichtman that scrutinized Gingrich’s skills as a history professor.

Wouldn’t you know it, Gingrich had a little trouble keeping his facts straight here, too. He taught what Lichtman described as “fictionalized history.”

The thesis of Gingrich’s course is that American history was an uninterrupted continuity of opportunity and progress from colonial times until what he calls the “breakdown” of 1965. If you read the papers, you know what comes next: That’s when the elite liberal state, aided by the counterculture, introduced the infections of dependency, bureaucracy, and failure. He’s teaching the course in part to balance out the liberal’s view of the world. Did you know, for example, that Thomas Edison “is almost never studied in the counterculture because all his values are exactly wrong? He was successful, and he was very work-oriented, he was highly creative.” […]

Gingrich’s historical selectivity and outright errors are, well, revealing. He manages to get through the entire Civil War without ever mentioning slavery. Of the Declaration of Independence, he says “They originally wrote, ‘We are endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of property.”’ Property? John Locke, yes. The Declaration of Independence, never.

Not surprisingly, much of Gingrich’s course is preoccupied with the history of the welfare state-the “actively destructive” welfare state, that is. He doesn’t acknowledge any of the good that government has done over the past 30 years, when federal investments in education, electrification, research, and facilities built Gingrich’s modern South.

If Freddie Mac paid Gingrich $1.8 million for to take advantage of his expertise as a “historian,” I’m afraid the mortgage giant paid too much.

If students paid anything at all to take one of one Gingrich’s courses, I’m afraid they were charged too much, too.

By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly, November 28, 2011

November 29, 2011 Posted by | Education | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inconvenient History: Proof Positive That Newt Gingrich Supported Healthcare Mandates

As Newt Gingrich takes his turn as the GOP flavor of the week, all that baggage he carries is beginning to be opened, unpacked and examined like a tourist going through customs on a slow day at the airport.

The past few days have shined a light on Newt’s relationship with Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, the quasi-governmental agencies that Gingrich has been hammering for their role in the nation’s mortgage meltdown. Yet, it turns out that Gingrich’s consulting firm accepted a sum well in excess of one million dollars from these same agencies to push their agenda with his Republican buddies on the Hill.

Now, the media is getting around to examining Gingrich’s record on healthcare reform and are finding themselves shocked to learn that, as Governor Romney accused during one the recent if endless GOP debates, Newt was a big supporter of mandated health insurance long before he was against it.

Anybody who is similarly surprised by this has simply not been paying attention. As I wrote in a Forbes piece back in May of this year, there is a fairly endless record of Gingrich’s commitment to health insurance mandates.

Newt’s explanation for his now inconvenient history is that he only adopted his pro-mandate position in the early 90’s for the purpose of derailing Hillarycare (the failed Clinton administration effort to reform our health care system.)

And yet, he has left a long trail of mandate laden bread crumbs that clearly proves otherwise.

Appearing earlier this year on Meet The Press, Gingrich stood up for his long-held position that mandates were a good idea. However, upon realizing that his statements were causing him big problems with the Republican base, Gingrich recorded and released a video just a few days later wherein he announced:

I am completely opposed to the Obamacare mandate on individuals. I fought it for two and half years at the Center for Health Transformation. I am against any effort to impose a federal mandate on anyone because it is fundamentally wrong and I believe unconstitutional.

Not only did Newt flip-flop on his position, he outright lied when he said that he has fought the notion of mandates at his Center for Health Transformation.

How do we know he is lying?

Just click on the link and you can visit the Insure All Americans section at Gingrich’s Center for Health Transformation website. Of course, should you take a little trip over to this smoking gun today, you will find that the relevant page has been removed. Go figure.

Fortunately, David Corn of Mother Jones and MSNBC, along with the Washington Post, got there before the page was taken down. As a result, courtesy of Corn, we have the screen image of the relevant proposal. You will want to note the highlighted section.

This, my friends, is unarguably a proposal that includes a health insurance mandate. And it gets even more interesting. According to the Washington Post article referenced above, Newt’s healthcare think tank raked in some $37 million from the healthcare industry by supporting the mandate concept.

Nice work if you can get it but not particularly useful if you are going to run for president on a platform that completely trashes what you had previously supported.

Now, one could argue that Newt’s proposal is somehow different from Obamacare because Gingrich exempts those who earn less than $50,000 from having to purchase coverage.

But that argument would fail miserably. In Newt’s book “Real Change”, published in 2008, Gingrich repeated his proposal that those making over $50,000 be required to purchase health insurance. But he also noted that those who earn below that level should receive tax credits or government subsidies to assist them in acquiring health care insurance coverage.

Sound familiar? It should. The proposal is pretty much Obamacare on the nose.

If GOP primary voters are paying attention, this should close the door on poor old Newt. After all, what’s the use of running a cranky old guy for President when he spends most of his time engaging in hypocrisy on steroids and running away from previously held positions for which he was paid magnificently to pursue.

And if this is the kind of candidate you’re looking for, why not choose Governor Romney? A pretty masterful flip-flopper himself, at least Romney made his money the old fashion way – buying companies, stripping them down, putting thousands out of work, and then reselling the pieces for a giant profit.

This has got to be preferable to a man who got rich peddling his influence with his Republican colleagues in Congress to the highest bidder…doesn’t it?

By: Rick Ungar, Contributing Writer, Forbes, November 18, 2011

November 21, 2011 Posted by | Health Reform | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Newt’s Freddie Mac Lobbying Whopper

At Wednesday night’s GOP presidential debate in Michigan, Newt Gingrich was asked by the mostly on-the-ball CNBC panel about his work on behalf of housing giant Freddie Mac. For the former Speaker of the House, it was a bit of a welcome-back moment; for the last few months, he’s been so much of an afterthought that moderators haven’t even bothered with his own personal history and resume.

But Gingrich had an answer ready. He denied the lobbying charge, and then, via Benjy Sarlin, offered this spirited defense:

I offered advice. My advice as an historian when they walked in and said we are now making loans to people that have no credit history and have no record of paying back anything but that’s what the government wants us to do. I said at the time, this is a bubble. This is insane. This is impossible. It turned out unfortunately I was right and the people who were doing exactly what Congresswoman Bachmann talked about were wrong.

It’s pretty self-evident, though, that Gingrich wasn’t hired as a consultant because he was an untenured history professor at North Georgia College in the late 1970s. He was hired because, as a former Speaker of the House, he had a lot of influence with a lot of imporant people. An AP investigative report from 2008 framed Gingrich’s role as that of a political operator, greasing the wheels on Capitol Hill. Key section

Efforts to tighten government regulation were gaining support on Capitol Hill, and Freddie Mac was fighting back.

According to internal Freddie Mac documents obtained by the AP, Reps. Bob Ney (R-Ohio), and Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.) spent the evening in hard-to-obtain seats near the Nationals dugout with Freddie Mac executive Hollis McLoughlin and four of Freddie Mac’s in-house lobbyists. Both were members of the House Financial Services Committee. The Nationals tickets were bargains for Freddie Mac, part of a well-orchestrated, multimillion-dollar campaign to preserve its largely regulatory-free environment, with particular pressure exerted on Republicans who controlled Congress at the time.

Internal Freddie Mac budget records show $11.7 million was paid to 52 outside lobbyists and consultants in 2006. Power brokers such as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich were recruited with six-figure contracts. Freddie Mac paid the following amounts to the firms of former Republican lawmakers or ex-GOP staffers in 2006…

Pushing back, Freddie Mac enlisted prominent conservatives, including Gingrich and former Justice Department official Viet Dinh, paying each $300,000 in 2006, according to internal records.

Gingrich talked and wrote about what he saw as the benefits of the Freddie Mac business model.

Gingrich made a pretty penny as a consultant in the 2000s. As CPI reported, the former Speaker’s consulting firm took in $312,000 from the ethanol lobby in 2009. Presumably, they weren’t paying him for his historical insights.

By: Tim Murphy, Mother Jones, November 11, 2011

November 11, 2011 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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