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Dead Poet’s Society
As his presidential campaign sags, Newt Gingrich plays professor.

By Robert Costa

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Millersville, Pa. — Newt Gingrich doesn’t have a stump speech; he has a stump lecture. And on a rainy Wednesday morning, on the leafy campus of Millersville University, the former speaker relished a chance to return to the classroom, decades after he left his teaching post at West Georgia College.

Gingrich’s presidential campaign may be an exercise in futility, but here in Lancaster County, surrounded by sleepy students, he was mostly cheerful.

Last year, when he was leading the polls, Gingrich amused the political class by promising to teach a digital course from the White House. That dream, along with his chances of winning the GOP nomination, has long since faded.

Yet Gingrich continues to plod ahead, discussing futurism, the sclerotic federal bureaucracy, and the inability of both major parties to enact “real change.”


So what’s it like to attend a class taught by Professor Newt? Well, it’s a lively, blurry experience. He has the quirky, frustrated manner of an associate professor who missed tenure and openly despises the administration. As with most things Gingrich, it can be thrilling, but also quite long-winded.

A few minutes after 10 a.m., Gingrich strolls in, shadowed by his Secret Service detail. His blue tie is askew, his white hair droops over his forehead, and his face is grim. He does not carry any books or papers. He folds his hands as the course’s usual lecturer introduces him. He looks exhausted.

But then, a moment later, he lights up. “I like being in classrooms, so this is fun,” Gingrich tells the group of 20-plus undergraduates as he moves to the lectern. “It’s a good excuse for me to actually talk about ideas.”

After that quick aside, Gingrich dives right into his extemporaneous presentation, first citing his book, The Art of Transformation, which was released a few years ago. “It was about how to think about very large-scale change,” he says. He spends a wistful minute or two lamenting how the political establishment has been unreceptive to his way of thinking.

He then senses that the students, though curious, are losing interest, so he steps toward the blackboard, picks up a piece of white chalk, and draws three upward-facing arrows. “I describe transformations as watersheds,” he says. “If you look at really big cycles of change, it becomes a mountain range.” He points to the three scribbled arrows — the “waves of change.”

For those in the room who don’t believe that big changes can happen in America, Gingrich says, just think about the evolution of the cell phone within the last century, from the “radio phone” in the 1954 film Sabrina, to Gordon Gekko’s clunky phone in the 1987 film Wall Street, to the Apple iPhones used by many students today. “Imagine 2037 and what it’d be like, the rhythm of life,” he says, a glint in his eye. The students nod and murmur.

Gingrich continues on this 2037 riff for a bit, asking questions about whether America is thinking too small, not only about its challenges, but also about its potential. Brain science, technology, and health care, he says, are only being explored by politicians at the surface level, with little serious thought about how the government could adapt to future developments and the rapidly changing private sector.

He warns the younger generation that if they do not prod their leaders to “transform” the public sector, they’ll be repeatedly robbed by “crooks” who know how to manipulate a “paper-based bureaucracy,” especially Medicaid and Medicare. “This isn’t funny money,” he says, talking about the billions wasted each year by the government via fraud. “It’s real cash.”

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   04/18/12 18:25

If they truly think his campaign is an exercise in futility, why do they feel the need to continue to undermine it with such an obvious hit piece? Note all the unnecessary negative remarks about his appearance, all the strategic words put in quotes, and the unmistakable attempt to paint him as nothing but big ideas only in his head.

This is no objective reporting and we have seen it before. You fool no one.

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   04/18/12 19:14

That's Newt, my hero - seriously.

We're starting a school that seeks to ignite children's natural appetite for "ideas" and here we have a treasure trove of big ones. Men like Newt grow old and die but ideas...they can last forever.

I wish the primary had been about "big ideas" like saving The Union. Alas, we will probably just postpone the inevitable repeat of August 24th A.D. 410.

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   04/18/12 20:43

The day Newt gives up his bid for the Presidency is the day I quit the GOP. After 30 years of faithful support, the Party and conservative media has finally betrayed everything I believe in by boosting Mitt Romney.

What if you held a political Party and nobody showed up?

Time for a once-in-a-hundred-years political realignment. Funny thing is, I always thought it was the Democrat Party that would disappear, but at least they believe in something that they keep fighting for. The old guard GOP just wants to negotiate their core beliefs away, so they can be liked in DC's social circle.

Spoiler: In politics, nobody likes a looser. Bye-bye GOP.

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   04/19/12 05:45

There's a lot I like about Newt, but I've never been able to take him seriously as President of the United States; nor can most of America, I am afraid.

This is the reality of his candidacy; and he knows it.

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   04/19/12 09:53

I'm in total agreement with you, Mswalnut.

Yep... the author of this piece fools no one.

You too, Triarii! Yep... betrayal. That's pretty much the modus operendi of the GOP establishment and their "conservative" media supporters.

(Hey... folks... question: Did federal spending increase during the year Republicans controlled the House as compared to when Democrats controlled it - and the Senate - the year before? Answer: Yes.)

TnNC - Thanks for the optimism! Yep... you're right; we've gotta keep trying!

Finally... @ Busterthepug:

Yeah... I hear ya. But imagine if Romney had been willing to wage a campaign of ideas? Imagine if the media - both "conservative" and mainstream - had demanded truth and reported falsehood? Imagine if the media had DEMANDED the sort of one-on-one debates between the candidates (think a sports playoff) that Newt had wanted?

The game was rigged for Romney from the start and as Triarii pointed out, the "conservative" media was a key player on Team Romney.

Bottom line... most people are malleable. Just as your average lib is swayed by the NYT, so too is your average conservative swayed by NRO and Fox News.


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   04/19/12 14:29

Also-rans and losers polling in single digits don't determine campaign strategies and debate formats for front-runners now, or ever. No organization, no money, and support you can count on your fingers and toes, that's Newt. BTW, how's that moon colony coming along?

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   04/19/12 18:43

Good luck with your front-runner's campaign strategies and debate format in November.

Last I heard, Newt is still in the race despite the GOP establishment (NRO is a proud member) wanting him out so badly.

BTW, a moon base/colony might just be in your future; if you live long enough, that is.

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80s COSer
   04/19/12 10:23

Costa you look like you're about the same age as me. It's a shame you feel compelled to write a piece like this, because I have to assume you weren't paying attention from about 1983 to 1995 when Newt was Reagan's and Conservatism's bulldog.

To some of us - well, maybe just to me but I have to assume not - he earned his right to not be denigrated as such, long before you were writing at NRO or anywhere for that matter. Pelosi-couch notwithstanding.

CAPTCHA: Identity Theft - kinda like what NRO did to Newt...

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   04/19/12 11:27

I read a good deal of disappointment, bitterness and even sorrow in these posts.

But the Party and Conservative Media didn't conspire to betray either Newt or Conservative values. And whatever bias they may have shown was not out of spite. They simply feel that Romney has a much better chance of beating Obama than did Newt.

And they are right, I am afraid.

I am sure that Newt still has an honorable and useful role to fill in the campaign and beyond.

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   04/19/12 19:10

I see a good deal of disappointment, bitterness and even sorrow in America's future if Newt is out of the race.

So at least you admit they have been unfairly pushing Romney on us, though the attempt is not necessarily against Newt.

The Party has been wrong many times before with Dole, McCain, etc., I am afraid.

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   04/19/12 15:29

Yeah, Buster, the GOP establishment and their pilot fish in the "conservative" media DID "conspire" to shut down Newt and boost Romney.

You want some examples? OK. Recall right before the Florida primary when Gov. Palin got so disgusted by Romney's tactics and the general anti-Gingrich meme coming out of the likes of NRO and the WSJ that she wrote a FB/Blog posting just SLAMMING Romney and sticking up for Gingrich?

Notice I ended that last with a question mark; there's a reason. You actually MAY not recall this! Why...? Because there was basically a news blackout of it.

Imagine... JUST IMAGINE... if the Palin blast had been against Newt (or Santorum) and for Romney. It would have been the major "political story" of the day... and of every day leading up to that Florida primary. (Heck... I remember watching O'Reilly on Monday - Palin's post had come out over the weekend - and he didn't even MENTION it.)

More examples? Sure. Art Laffer endorsing Newt. Very little "echo." BOTH Perry and Cain endorsing Newt. Hardly a ripple. But... had those endorsements all been for Romney... just imagine... they would have been trumpeted.

Allowing Romney to get away with the lies about Gingrich's "scandals" - going so far as to "compress" the story as to make it look as if Newt had been forced to resign over a financial scandal when in fact his ouster was purely political - a typical political as opposed to ideological coup - and in any case it happened two years after Newt "settled" and furthermore after that the IRS cleared Gingrich of any wrongdoing...


Nah.. no "betrayal" there, Buster.

Right... and I've got a bridge in Brooklyn on the market... cheap!

The problem isn't us, Buster. The problem is that you - like most Republicans - are only slightly more honorable that your average Democrat. Romney waged a lying, deceitful campaign. You're clearly fine with that. I find it reprehensible.

80's CONser is right.


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   04/19/12 17:43

OK, Newt may not be the best choice to actually beat Obama this fall, but if the mainstream GOP doesn't start listening to people like Newt, who, unlike, say, Romney, clearly understand the big picture and are aware that the US and the world are about to experience not one but several tectonic technological revolutions and that it'll require a lot of creative and visionary thinking to manage the change, it'll be time to start seriously worrying about the future. And, yeah, Mark 2, the only thing that's wrong with the moonbase is the ignorance, triviality and short-sightedness of people like you... Otherwise, the best answers to most economic and environmental problems down here are still up there.

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   04/20/12 00:44

Why is it that Newt's remaining supporters sound like bitter-enders? Have a hot tati and try to cheer up a bit.

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   04/24/12 01:24

"bitter-enders"? You mean like people with a core set of beliefs that we are not willing to set aside for a chance to attend the coronation of someone who is the antithesis of our beliefs and the death of the Party we worked to build over a generation?

Mitt Romney wouldn't know what core beliefs were if he had a herd of elephants trampling all over them.

Hey, but good to see the next generation of the GOP doesn't believe in anything and will casually toss away everything we've built and believe in because of the results of some ABC news poll. You're a real winner.

It's good to show contempt for your electorate!

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   04/20/12 01:57

So Newt spoke to twenty 'sleepy' students, accompanied by secret service and NRO.

Ron Paul spoke NRO-less and secret service free to 4500 today, after 2000+ yesterday and so forth.

Ludicrous imbalance there.

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   08/05/12 00:33

You are a sad, sad little peorsn. We are not, nor is any country, the police of the world. All people, indigenous to their particular region of the world, have the right to live as they see fit, without outside intervention. America would be better and stronger if we got out of a lot of areas and used the money to enhance our own infrastructure and invest in America. Stop taxing the American people to the hilt and allow them to use that money to open and operate businesses. Militarily being in almost every country in the world, is not so much policing or managing peace, as it is telling those countries, they only have the right to live as we tell them. And if that is how you believe, then you are somewhat less than human. Every country has the right to live as they see fit, not as we see fit. Israel has more nukes than the whole arab world combined. If they were so inclined, they could control that whole region. They have advanced weaponry and very accurate guidance systems. They don't need our help to defend against such a formidable opponent like Iran. They are more than capable. But once again, the globalist warmongers in this country want to instill fear that the whole world would attack us if we weren't there. They use repetitive speech to get you to believe these things. Simple adverse psychology, if they say it enough, people will believe them. Believe as you wish, that is your right. But it is also untrue.

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