2/26/2005

Oh, joy! Newt Gingrich has a new book out!

It's called "Winning the Future: A 21st Century Contract for America" (like the 20th century one was such a rousing success). It's published by Regnery (of course!).
From the New Republic's review:    
History may regard Newt Gingrich as a failed firebrand-a man who promised to burn down the House and ended up burning out first. But the former speaker is more accurately seen as a philosopher-legislator, a rare and historically significant American who has had "the unusual experience of being an academic, a leader at the center of government power, and now a student of Washington."
Or at least that's Gingrich's not-so-modest message in the opening pages of his new book, Winning the Future: A 21st Century Contract for America. In Gingrich's words, he's "someone who spent twenty years in the United States House of Representatives" but also someone "who has made a lifelong study-including a Ph.D.-of history." Unfortunately none of that unique perspective comes through in this impassioned, incoherent manifesto. Certainly Gingrich's basic thesis is understandable enough. He argues that there are five central challenges Americans must meet: the threat of terrorism, the alarming growth of secularism, the decline of patriotism, the economic potential of new technology, and the financial solvency of social services. Yet from these broad ideas flow the details of Gingrich's new contract with America, and it is in the details that he stumbles. Every serious issue Gingrich takes up he solves with a sweeping, controversial, and ultimately impractical proposal. The solution to judges who do not follow the will of the Republican majority? Get rid of them or their judgeships. Gingrich argues for impeaching the members of the Ninth Circuit appeals court or, if that proves too difficult, doing away with the court all together. Yet he sidesteps the constitutional questions that the abolishment of a court by the legislative branch would raise. The solution to America's seemingly intractable intelligence shortcomings? Triple the size of the intelligence agencies. Gingrich observes that we need more linguists and more field agents. Yet he ducks the hard questions about how to finance, organize, and manage a larger intelligence community. Even when Gingrich stumbles onto a topic ripe for serious discussion-such as the role of foreign jurisprudence in American law-he is unable to avoid the temptation to throw bombs at the elite, effete left (or, as he insists, "Left").
Thus the broad topics Gingrich sets out at the beginning of his book quickly devolve into a series of glib proposals and easy attacks. To be fair, glimmers of a more scholarly Gingrich occasionally shine through-such as when he moves past red meat topics like religion to discuss technology, innovation, and education. Gingrich's futurism-a trait that allies and critics alike considered one of his quirkiest in the 1990s-is still visible in his ideas about maintaining American economic leadership. Still, after 200-plus pages, one begins to sense that the former speaker is not offering a book so much as a platform. And in fact each chapter ends with an exhortation to visit Gingrich's website, where he invites readers to do their part to "win the future." The book thus has sparked understandable speculation about a presidential bid in 2008.
Setting aside the promises of Gingrich's introduction, no reasonable person could expect scholarly inquiry from a man with a history of indulging in bombastic intellectual pretension and outrageous historical analogies: Gingrich once compiled a "required reading list" for fellow members of Congress; and on the eve of his great electoral victory ten years ago, the speaker-to-be told a reporter he was leading a "slave rebellion" against the Democrats who "run the plantation." One might have expected Gingrich to grow up a bit in the years since his fall from grace. But Winning the Future suggests that he's just waiting to launch another rebellion.

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