Reading at the Crossroads

Reading at the Crossroads is an archive for columns and letters which appeared in the Terre Haute Tribune Star. I also blog here when my patience is exhausted by what I feel is irritating, irrational and/or ironic in life. --gary daily

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Location: Terre Haute, Indiana, United States

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

“Someone has to read his bullshit” file--Part 2

The Teachings of Speaker Gingrich
The New York Review of Books 
August 10, 1995
Joan Didion


1945
by Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen
Baen Books/distributed by Simon and Schuster, 382 pp.       
To Renew America
by Newt Gingrich
Harper Audio, 260 pp., $17.00 two cassettes (abridged, approximately three hours)

Go Here
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Way back in 1995 Joan Didion skewered Newton Leroy Gingrich’s stylistic formula: it’s made up of intellectual pretensions linked to self-help, make-a-million, step programs. Alas, some Americans uncritically embrace these qualities with a tenacity of spirit akin to those green and yellow greasers, naked to the waist, Green Bay Packer football fans we see on TV every mid-December. 

The  heroes Gingrich dances around but never quite understands or engage with on the intellectual pole of his puffed up resume include Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, Franklin Roosevelt, Isaac Asimov, Alexis de Tocqueville, Tom Clancy, Allen Drury’s Advise and Consent, Robert Walpole, William Gladstone, Gordon Wood, Peter Drucker, Arnold Toynbee and even, with qualifications, Gore Vidal for his Lincoln.
 
Ray Kroc’s Grinding It Out is high up the Newtster’s  How To Make the Big Bucks pole. And serendipity provides a name we all recognize in 2012, though it was new to Didion in 1995:

“‘the great leader of Coca-Cola for many years, Woodruff,’ an Omaha entrepreneur named Herman Cain (‘who’s the head of Godfather Pizza, he’s an African-American who was born in Atlanta and his father was Woodruff’s chauffeur’)”. [You heard it here: Herman Cain is in a great position to become Newton Leroy Gingrich’s running mate in 2012.  After all, does anyone really remember the Republican’s  Palin fiasco?]

Finally, still drawing on Didion’s perceptive reading of these two books (She is the masochist “Someone” in my “Someone has to read his bullshit” title.) we come to fully understand why no Republican Gingrich served with in Congress has much good to say about the man.

Forget stabs in the back, forget embarrassing conversations about family (you know, those “How’s the wife, Newt? stuff),  forget the pain of having to look into Newt’s sweaty, snarling, dough boy face for more than two minutes. In the final analysis, the man’s conversation must be the Mount Everest of verbose tediousness. Try listening to this stuff for very long:

[Didion on To Renew America]  There were “Seven key aspects” and “Nine vision-level principles” of “Personal Strength” (Pillar Two of American Civilization), there were “Five core principles” of “Quality as Defined by Deming” (Pillar Five), there were “Three Big Concepts” of “Entrepreneurial Free Enterprise” (Pillar Three). There were also, still under Pillar Three, “Five Enemies of Entrepreneurial Free Enterprise” (“Bureaucracy,” “Credentialing,” “Taxation,” “Litigation,” and “Regulation”), which would have been identical to Pillar Four’s “Seven welfare state cripplers of progress” had the latter not folded in “Centralization,” “Anti-progress Cultural Attitude,” and “Ignorance.”

The only thing I can imagine being worse than listening to this clap-trap is listening to it while Newton Leroy Gingrich is in control of a Power Point magic wand and Herman Cain is standing next to him smiling.

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