The sharpest point Matt Bai makes in his NYT Magazine profile today is to note that while Gingrich likes to place himself in the grand tradition of Republican progressives, he lacks their readiness to rethink party doctrine.
And yet, at the same time, Gingrich pointedly declines to do what
Roosevelt and La Follette did, which is to directly confront the
Republican orthodoxies of their day. Those reformers demanded their
fellow Republicans make a choice between ideas and ignorance. By
contrast, Gingrich doesn’t really challenge any core ideological
precept of the Bush era — only the strategy of “base mobilization” that
At a moment when the role of religious fundamentalism in the party is a
central question for reformers, Gingrich, rather than making any kind
of case for a new enlightenment, has in fact gone to great lengths to
placate Christian conservatives.
Underneath the bluster, Newt is still the chubby little myopic nerd who collects reptiles and wants to be loved by his peers. That’s why he was so successful at unifying the long-suffering GOP members of the House in the early 1990s, and also, I suspect, why he succumbed so readily to the charms of Bill Clinton.
In 1995, Reaganism was still relatively fresh and Gingrich was Speaker of the House. Can Think Tank Newt lead the GOP out of the much deeper wilderness in which it finds itself today? I doubt it.