Those who corrupt the public mind are just as evil as those who steal from the public purse--Adlai Stevenson
DC talking heads have come close, but have not quite grasped the disgraced Newt Gingrich's essential character.
George Will referred to him as the ultimate politician for rent. Paul Krugman responded that he is the type whom stupid people consider smart. Supporters have called him a visionary, a man of ideas, a bold crusader, a brilliant man laid low by his sordid personal life... and so forth. Those who oppose him point to his corruption, his shady business practices, his wives-and-religions swapping, his verbal bomb-throwing, the sheer looniness of his ideas... and so forth.
They all miss who Gingrich really is -- a thug, a petty tyrant.
All tyrants are petty tyrants. Their patterns of behavior reveal themselves in a variety of circumstances, but until they achieve power, no one connects those actions with that character.
When they do achieve power, removing the qualifier "petty," it is already too late.
This is written to sound the alarm, hopefully before it is too late.
Those who know Berthold Brecht's The Resistible Rise of Artuo Ui need read no further. They know the Newt Gingrich. There are many petty tyrants and thugs -- who follow the same pattern, but do not commit genocide
Recently exposed as a shill for Freddie Mac, defending the very activities that helped caused the financial and economic meltdown, earning himself $1.6M while the country suffers grievously because of it -- a role that itself ought to doom any hopes he would have of getting the Republican nomination, especially since he lied about it all -- this thug attacked the Congressional Budget Office, an operation so dear to DC-insiders that they rushed to defend it, interrupting the "Gingrich as $1.6M shill who aided and abetted those who ruined the lives of 99% of Americans" story.
And, of course, the attack on the CBO included those Frank Luntz-tested manipulative words -- "socialist," "bureaucratic," "reactionary" -- applied to an organization whose integrity the disgraced Gingrich himself heavily relied upon when it served his needs.
Like petty tyrants before him, all Gingrich needs is for the angry, the insecure, the fearful, the frustrated to rush to his side, not because what he says is true or helpful to their lives, but because he satisfies their more basic need to "stick it to the man".
Like petty tyrants before him, that is where Gingrich shines.
Gingrich, who should be the target of the dispossessed because of his role as Freddie Mac shill, instead becomes their voice.
The others running for the extreme right-wing mantle for the Republican presidential nomination are either dumb (Perry), whacko (Bachmann), unprepared (Cain), in fantasyland (Ron Paul) or obsessed with other peoples' sex (Santorum), so that the disgraced Newt Gingrich has crawled out from under a Tiffany's rock to make himself relevant.
To describe Gingrich's thuggery, one can begin anywhere. As with all other thugs, it is not just political, it pervades his life, his very being.
Gingrich's behavior toward his wives and mistresses is of interest only as an insight into his personal character, not the sanctimonious statements Gingrich himself would make if it were about anyone else.
A Thug to his Wives. Gingrich presented his first wife with divorce papers as she was just recovering from cancer surgery, and still in the hospital. He fought her so hard in the divorce that she had to get a court order just to pay her utility bills. He begged his second wife to allow him to continue his 6-year affair with his mistress (now wife #3), telling wife #2 that she was a Jaguar, his mistress was a Chevrolet and that he could not handle a Jaguar, he needed a Chevrolet. Wife #2 was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. When asked by the Christian Broadcasting Network to explain his affairs, he said that it was because he was so concerned about his country.
Note the pattern -- manipulating others, false flattery, phony neediness, total lack of concern even for those he professed to love, and a (lame) attempt to link it all to love of country for justification and forgiveness.
That is the behavior pattern of petty tyrants. That is Newt Gingrich.
He now exposes his 3rd wife to a potential torrent of criticism as a home-wrecker for their 6-year affair. After all, it takes two to tango.
An autocrat, not a democrat. Although he will tell us repeatedly he is running to save our democracy, the disgraced Newt Gingrich is no democrat (small "d"). He is a petty tyrant. He has a long history of asserting that courts that do not agree with his view of the Constitution or interpretation of laws be abolished. He does not like the decisions of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. His solution is to abolish the court.
Today, he attacks the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). In the 1990s, it was the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), a small Congressional office that provided Members explanations about scientific matters. Gingrich did not like all of the analysis they provided... after all, it was science and, as C. Everett Koop, Ronald Reagan's Surgeon-General, showed when the rightwing asked him to study the relationship of abortions to breast cancer (to their great dismay, there was none, and Koop had the integrity to publish the data), science may not always provide the answers Gingrich wants.
So, what to do? For a petty tyrant, it's simple: as Speaker, he abolished the OTA. Why, pray tell? Trying to save money for the American people! Unlike the courts, the OTA was totally under the radar -- even the DC-insiders hardly knew them -- so there was no public pressure to resist.
So now corporate lobbyists are Members' major source of scientific information on the key issues that effect the American people. Want to find out about global warming? Just call Exxon-Mobil backed "Heritage Foundation," and they will provide the truth.... honest-to-god they will.
A Machiavellian Blueprint. Listen carefully, as Gingrich revealedhow he would approach running the country:
• Determine what the country has to do to be successful.
• Figure out how to communicate that to the American people so they would let him do it.
• And then determine how he'd actually implement it if they gave him permission to do it.
On first reading, this seems fairly benign. But, for Gingrich, the first is very clearly what he thinks the country needs. One of his proposals, for example, was to have Federal Express keep tab on immigrants because "they know how to track packages". Get it -- immigrants are not people, they are just objects.
Orwellian Language. But it is the second that requires more scrutiny. No American politician has used Orwellian techniques more than the disgraced Gingrich to "communicate" to the American people so they would let him do what he thinks they need. I do not know whether he made Frank Luntz, or Frank Luntz made him, but together they invented new vocabularies.
He will get the American people to do what he wants by lying and by manipulating language.
For example, the Inheritance, or Estate, tax became "the death tax," "they tax you when you die."
No, "they" (actually, it is "we," the American people, "they" is itself manipulative, implying some alien force) do not. We tax estates at a time when the owner does not need it anymore, and the children can be rightly asked to compete on their merits in society like everyone else. Neither the living spouse nor the deceased is affected. Only the top 0.1% of inheritances incurs any tax at all. But, because of the disgraced Gingrich, the "death tax" it became, and the 0.1% had enough support to get their way.
As the disgraced Gingrich revealed in 1995, he wanted Medicare and Social Security to "die slowly on the vine." In an Orwellian world Gingrich created, he dubbed his proposals "Strengthening Medicare" and "Saving Social Security."
Gingrich compiled a list of words that he told his troops to use when describing the opposition. Frank Luntz tested them for effect, and off they went attacking opponents and opposition as "pathetic," "lazy," "bureaucratic," "weak," "dangerous" and, of course, he also had his good words that he associated first with himself and then with people and causes he finds useful.
Gingrich lies, misleads, and viciously attacks with ease, and he is never bothered.
Gingrich knows that Mark Twain was correct when he said that "a lie is halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes," and he exploits that inefficiency with a steady stream of lies and attacks.
When in trouble, thugs reflexively attack. After dissing the Ryan budget on Meet the Press as "rightwing social engineering," he claimed to have spoken to Ryan, made up, and, get this, "if you quote what I said, you are lying." Note, not him, You! Attacking your questioner is Thuggery 101.
It is typical thuggery -- accuse the other side of doing what you yourself are actually doing. No one has been more of a divider and promoted the ugliness of politics more than Gingrich -- and he now accuses supporters of the 99% movement to be "un-American" and divisive.
Remember his positions on Libya. Was he for US participation before he was against it? Initially, he wanted the President, "tonight", to start bombing. No concern for the Americans who could have been held hostage or killed, just start "tonight." When the President did intervene -- smartly, prudently and deliberately -- the disgraced Gingrich opposed it.
Why the about face? The key missed by the pundits was the word "tonight." Petty tyrants do not acknowledge any constraints or limitations. For Gingrich, Libya and the potentially-killed American civilians did not matter. He wanted to demonstrate that the UN, the Arab League and allies did not matter. Once the President received UN Security Council and Arab League support -- exactly what a prudent operator would do -- Gingrich was no longer interested. That is what policy means to a thug.
Another favorite manipulation: paint a future vision so appealing that the issue of the moment seems irrelevant. It is like the appeal of "heaven" to the suffering. In the 1990s, for example, he tried to make people ignore Medicare cuts by conjuring Toffler's ("Megatrends") vision of a patient sitting in a "diagnostic chair" to provide accurate diagnoses -- simple, quick, accurate, early detection enabling effective treatments that reduce costs.
Sounds good -- except, just where is that "diagnostic chair" that is to do all of this? In the meantime, the purpose of painting that vision is so that you will agree happily to reduce your benefits by convincing you they will no longer be needed. A thug, who has no concern for real consequences to you.
It seems that the right-wing electorate may allow Gingrich to get away with all his past "sins" (in their eyes) of multiple wives and mistresses, promoting the individual mandate and cap-and-trade and allowing aid to Mexico during its debt crisis in the '90s because, unlike the other miscreants, he soothes them with his balm of verbal bombs -- his verbal reichstag fires -- directed at President Obama, liberals, secularists, the press. He also conjures up demons that do not even exist for them to rise up against -- such as sharia law being applied by our courts -- just as other petty tyrants have used the weak and vulnerable minorities in the past.
Of course, no right-wing attack against President Obama is complete without racial attacks, both overt and subtle. Gingrich was the first to conjure the image of our President as heavily influenced by an anti-colonialist Kenyan father (whom Obama saw twice in his entire life), linked him to the Mau-Mau rebellion in Kenya, and accused him of being an "anti-colonialist." What prompted this hateful verbal molotov cocktail? The President had moved a statue of Winston Churchill from the oval office to the bedroom. [Just like our Founders, I am an anti-colonialist too. Newt just told you that he is not, a confession of a strong tyrannical streak from his own lips.]
Gingrich laces his speeches with references to the President's basketball prowess. The point he makes -- about how much money the trip cost to sink a three-pointer -- is totally disingenuous and he knows it. But, when one is being disingenuous, adding a dose of racism helps his cause -- exactly what petty tyrants do to gain and exercise power.
In the classic "Twilight Zone" episode, "He's Alive," Rod Serling concludes:
Where will he go next, this phantom from another time, this resurrected ghost of a previous nightmare -- Chicago; Los Angeles; Miami, Florida; Vincennes, Indiana; Syracuse, New York? Anyplace, everyplace, where there's hate, where there's prejudice, where there's bigotry.
He's alive. He's alive so long as these evils exist. Remember that when he comes to your town. Remember it when you hear his voice speaking out through others. Remember it when you hear a name called, a minority attacked, any blind, unreasoning assault on a people or any human being. He's alive because through these things we keep him alive.
He is alive in Newt Gingrich who cleverly affirms birther racism by inverting it, criticizing President Obama as not knowing "which country he is running."
What about Gingrich's so-called "solutions" to our nation's problems? Read some of them. He makes grandiose claims about what their impact that have no evidence to support them. For example, he claims his healthcare proposal would lower costs and expand coverage. What evidence is there for that? Would it cover 26-year-olds on their parents' insurance? Outlaw prior illnesses as a reason for exclusion? Eliminate lifetime caps on insurance payments? How many of the uninsured would it cover? Who has vouched for those assertions?
A Gingrich candidacy poses challenges to American principles and ideals and reason and decency and community spirit as they have never been challenged before -- from the inside, by an insider, employing orwellian techniques he has perfected over decades, against his perfect foil -- our first president from an (and in their eyes, rightfully) oppressed racial minority, and in terrible economic times he did not create but whom they love to blame.
Those who believe that unemployment, wealth inequality, the Ryan budget and the Boehner-McConnell debt-ceiling crises made the stakes of the 2012 election as high as they could be are wrong.
The specter of a Gingrich presidency makes those stakes as high as they can be. It would be the end of the American experiment.