Newt Gingrich, who wrote his doctoral dissertation on “Belgian Education Policy in the Congo, 1945–1960,” but gave up his academic career 34 years ago when he left West Georgia College to run for congress, is playing professor once again.
This week at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, the former speaker of the House and a 2012 presidential candidate is presiding over “Newt University,” which he describes as an effort to educate delegates and activists on, first, “creating a fact-based campaign” and, second, “developing a new generation of solutions.”
All to prevail in the ongoing debate with those diabolical Democrats.
On Monday in a crowded ballroom at the downtown Hyatt Regency, Professor Gingrich explained to his students: “Lincoln once said you can’t win an argument if your opponent won’t agree that 2 plus 2 equals 4—because then facts make no difference … The great failure of Republicans, candidly, is that we tell the truth less effectively than Democrats lie. And we are so startled by their dishonesty that we are sort of tongue-tied.”
It’s probably not worth noting that during the nasty Florida primary campaign that occurred so long ago that hardly anyone can remember it (that is, in January), Gingrich repeatedly called Mitt Romney a liar and used the same reasoning—that he was dumbstruck into shocked silence by the Republican frontrunner’s prevarications—to explain his poor performance during a televised debate.
Indeed, now that Gingrich has been thanking the Romney campaign at every opportunity for making Newt U an official event at the convention, it seems rather churlish to bring it up.
“They have been very generous and very supportive. You saw it today,” Gingrich told me, pointing out that not only did Romney’s policy director, Lanhee Chen, show up to deliver an issues briefing to Newt U’s budding scholars, but so did the governors of Utah and Wisconsin, Gary Herbert and Scott Walker, as well as the late Jack Kemp’s son Jimmy, Rep. Aaron Schock of Illinois, CNBC host Larry Kudlow, and Republican health-care ideologist Betsy McCaughey.
The most impassioned lecturer was the 63-year-old McCaughey, a striking blonde in a tight blue dress, who two decades ago parlayed a New Republic article attacking Hillary Clinton’s health-care plan into a brief stint as lieutenant governor of New York. McCaughey fairly shouted her presentation on the evils of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, slamming a thick sheaf of papers on the lectern (which she said was the law itself) and occasionally pounding her fist.
McCaughey told the delegates, many of whom were over 60, that Obamacare will destroy Medicare, robbing $716 billion from old folks to underwrite health care for younger people, grievously reduce the quality of treatment for seniors, and result in as many as 40,000 additional deaths among old people annually due to “stingy” medicine.
“I remember before Medicare was created,” she declared. “Medicare has transformed the experience of aging in this country. Before Medicare, older people were trapped in wheelchairs, crippled by arthritis. They languished in nursing homes, too out of breath from congestive heart failure to get up and move around. But because of the golden era of medical science, and access to it provided by Medicare, seniors lead active lives now, enjoying their grandchildren, traveling, and coming to political conventions.”
Thank heavens it was a Republican president, Barry Goldwater, who beat Democrat Lyndon Johnson in the election of 1964, pushed the legislation through Congress, and signed it into law. Oh, wait.
Professor Gingrich, meanwhile, tried his best to muster enthusiasm for his party’s leader of the moment.
“I’m glad to campaign for Romney for a very practical reason,” he said after Monday’s two-hour Newt U session ended and he headed over to talk to the Ohio delegation. “I think the reelection of Barack Obama is a disaster for my children, my grandchildren, and my country. I’ll do anything I can from now till Election Day to make sure that Romney wins.”
But wouldn’t it have been better for the country and the planet if instead of Newt U, “Mitt U” was being staged in Tampa?
“Of course,” Gingrich agreed with a grin. “If you’re saying to me, don’t I wish I’d become the nominee—of course!”