For as long as anyone can remember -- which, given the current state of our attention spans, is probably "Tuesday" -- Newt Gingrich has been touted as a "man of ideas." In case you weren't aware of this, CNN helpfully reminded us at their CNN/Tea Party debate by anointing him "The Big Thinker." Indeed, there was a time where the distinction was well-earned, as Gingrich was the mind behind the original "Contract With America" -- which still rates as his most significant achievement, ranking just above his innovations in the adultery arts and sciences.
When Gingrich jumped into the 2012 race for president, the media quickly returned to this descriptor. The Washington Post's Dan Balz was at the head of the herd with a piece titled, "Newt Gingrich has ideas. Can he turn them into presidential appeal?" In it, Balz referred to Newt as "an idea-spewing machine, unlike anyone else in the Republican Party."
At the time, Matt Yglesias noted that the piece was "one of these bizarre Beltway articles where he writes over and over and over again about how Newt Gingrich is a huge ideas guy but doesn't actually name any of his ideas." But that's not entirely true. Balz noted that Gingrich's Twitter announcement "was something of a milestone in presidential politics -- the first such declaration via Twitter." I mean, if you're not counting earlier announcements made by Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney, sure, that's a milestone.
Of course, lately, it's been something of a stretch to call Gingrich a man of bold, new ideas. The biggest idea he's got is still the "Contract With America," which he's gussied up for this new race. The highlight of the new version is that it refers to the deficit reduction super committee as "stupid" -- you have to give him that. Beyond that, Gingrich mixes old stuff -- a hatred of the media and "activist judges" -- with new gloss. He likes the internet! He'll "hang out" with you on Google Plus! Also, he'll take a lot of vacations.
(It's also worth noting that the New Republic recently named Gingrich to their list of "over-rated thinkers," though, as Alex Pareene points out, that is sort of like Ronald McDonald naming you to a list of clowns.)
It's possible that in the current field of candidates -- where Gingrich has, at times, managed to be Top Dog of the Bottom Tier -- the former speaker's reputation will thicken the thin soup he's offered and he'll manage to rack up one or two third place finishes in primary races, enhancing his ability to sell his books and documentary films and keep his speaker's fee nice and high. Hopefully, that's the "idea" that led him to jump into the race in the first place, because as our own Samuel Wilkes has documented, his candidacy has not exactly been the return of the "idea-spewing machine."
[Video produced by Samuel Wilkes]