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Newt “Hollywood” Gingrich

January 26, 2012 Leave a comment

I’m not a trained historian, at least in the sense of one current presidential candidate. I do not hold a PhD or even a Masters in the subject. But I do consider myself something of an amateur historian and do possess some historical training and experience, as a former schoolteacher and museum employee. I read quite a bit on a number of historical topics. One particular interest of mine is the Cold War era. I particularly enjoy viewing this through the contemporary media and pop culture of the period.

In the 1980s there were a number of films that considered the after-effects or on-set of a nuclear exchange between the superpowers. Some were primarily focused on the aftermath: Threads and The Day After are two infamous films that look at the toll on society and individuals that would ensue after such an exchange. These films also looked at the conditions that might lead to such an exchange. They tended to have a largely anti-nuclear, left-leaning message.

One film focused more on the lead-up and did so in a fascinating way. The 1984 Canadian produced Countdown to Looking Glass, which originally aired on HBO on October 14th of that year, considers the scenario of an economic collapse leading to Soviet puppet states springing up in the Middle East, particularly Oman. The U.S. sends troops to Saudi Arabia and Oman responds with a blockcade in the Strait of Hormuz. Soviets deploy submarines in the region as shots are exchanged on a variety of fronts. Things come to a head when the Omanis and the US exchange fire, resulting in the loss of an Omani gunboat. A Soviet sub is tracked under the Nimitz, and eventually nukes are exchanged. We’re left with the President and his closest advisors boarding the Looking Glass, an airborne command center and the very real possibility of an all-out strategic nuclear exchange.

What makes the film so compelling is that the events are portrayed through a mock newscast. The producers purposely added dramatic scenes and used compressed time (i.e. several days of events presented over the 1 hour 26 minutes of the film), but the newscast aspect lends a great deal of authenticity and really captures the paranoia and anxiety of the era. They also used real pundits and politicians, such as Eric Sevareid and Senator Eugene McCarthy. It does a fairly good job of staying somewhat neutral while still capturing the immensity of the potential situation.

Also appearing in the film is a young, telegenic Congressman from the state of Georgia. At the time he was a right-wing back-bench bomb thrower who was quickly making a name for himself. A committed Cold Warrior, he makes numerous references to past history and hails Winston Churchill.

You might know him. It’s former Speaker and current GOP Presidential candidate Newton Leroy Gingrich.

It’s been a while since I viewed the film, but I believe Newt appears twice from what I remember He appears at around 6:20 in this clip from the first third:

And at about 6:42 in this clip from the last third:

Newt isn’t exactly a Hollywood star like, say, former Senator Fred Thompson. But he has appeared in a variety of films, mostly documentaries. But in 1995 he did have a cameo appearance in an episode of Murphy Brown. Check out the former Speaker’s full Hollywood credits here.

As an aside, I strongly suggest you check out Countdown to Looking Glass. It may not have the power it once did, but it still pulls up a whole lot of emotions.

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Reagan on Newt, Romney

January 20, 2012 Leave a comment

In last night’s CNN debate in South Carolina, Mitt Romney made mention that both Newt Gingrich and George Romney, Mitt’s father, were mentioned in The Reagan Diaries and claimed that Newt was mentioned only once and that Reagan thought he had a bad idea. Welp, I happen to have a copy of the Diaries, so here for you to judge for yourself is both the entry on Newt from 1983:

Monday, January 3rd
[Staff and NSC meetings; calls from congressional leadership.]
A tough budget meeting & how to announce the deficits we’ll have–they are horrendous and yet the Dems. in Cong. are saying there is no room for budgett cuts. Met with a group of young Repub. Congressmen. Newt Gingrich has a proposal for freezing the budget at the 1983 level. It’s a tempting idea except that it would cripple our defense program. And if we make an exception on that every special interest group will be asking for the same.

And actually TWO mentions on George Romney in 1984:

Friday, June 22
…..
In the Rose Garden after lunch I met with representatives of the Internation Youth Year Commission. Then a meeting with Sec. Schultz, mainly on the Soviet situation. No break through but further evidence that they aren’t quite sure which way they want to go. George Romney came by, he is heading up a part of our Pvt. Sector Initiative called “Volunteer.” He’s interested in possibly a special medal for outstanding volunteers. I’m rather inclined to think maybe they should be formally included in the presentation of Medals of Freedom. Did a portrait session with mike Evans & then off to  Camp David. Got there in time for a swim.

And on June 1986, there’s a mention that Reagan attended a luncheon for volunteer action group led by George Romney. Note that I only own the abridged edition edited by Douglas Brinkley–the Reagan Library sells the unabridged edition. There’s likely more on Romney there. In this edition, Ron Paul was not mentioned, nor was Rick Santorum, naturally, as Santorum was not elected to Congress until 1990, after the end of Reagan’s term.

I’m not going to go now and track down everything Ronald Reagan ever said about these four, if anything. Just wanted to clarify the historical record to the best of my ability.

As Goes Virginia…..

December 27, 2011 1 comment

UPDATE: Via Bearing Drift, it has been learned that Rick Perry has launched his own legal challenge. Actually, it’s beyond launched–the suit has already been filed in the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Virginia. Their argument seems to be that the requirement that voters be registered to vote or eligible to register in Virginia unconstitutionally restricted his ability to recruit signature gatherers. (Focus on seems to be–I’m not a lawyer) They cite a number of other cases in which registration requirements were struck down. We seem to finally have a number for Perry–6k signatures. This isn’t even close to the 10,000 valid required. We’ll see how this pans out–he may get relief from the court, but I imagine the jeers will be even louder from the blogosphere than they were before. Also, one correction–any legislative fix will require 80 delegates, not 60 as I wrote earlier. That means they’ll need 13 Dems to cross over (12 if Putney votes with the GOP).

This is a Virginia-centric blog, so of course, one would expect me to view the entire political landscape through the prism of the Old Dominion. And sometimes, that can be a rather jaundiced view. However, a funny thing happened over the weekend….Virginia became kinda important. Or at least we think we did, or maybe we became less important….at any rate, people were talking about us.

That came when, in the early hours of Christmas Eve, it became known that the ballot for the March 6th Republican Presidential Primary would feature only former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and Texas Congressman Ron Paul. Volunteers at RPV’s Obenshain Center had been working since the morning of December 23rd. Paul and Romney got through easily, but on that evening it was discovered that Texas Governor Rick Perry wouldn’t make it. That pretty much left Gingrich for those who don’t much care for either candidate, and the supporters of those two to root for Gingrich to fail. Facebook and Twitter lit up with conversation rivaling election night itself. Granted, some of this was likely due to the fact that “Ron Paul” is something of a fighting word for both Ron Paul detractors and supporters, but it was still pretty amazing for the night before Christmas Eve. Ultimately, around 3 a.m., word came out that Gingrich had indeed fallen short. Huzzahs rang out from those who don’t much care for Gingrich, while everyone else who doesn’t much care for Romney or Paul found themselves rather disgruntled. To add tragedy to all of this, one volunteer died in an automobile accident after a day of working to verify signatures.

So what now? Well, let’s first look at this close to home. The very first reaction to this was the first thing that comes to the mind of any loser (or to the mind of any candidate too lazy/principled to fill out paperwork *cough*AlAsbury*cough*): Write-in Time! However, despite the fact that it is discussed every time a primary comes up, write-ins are not allowed in Virginia primaries. Newt Gingrinch, a Virginia voter, was out of the loop on this, along with Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who suggested such a thing in his post-Christmas newsletter. What’s left for Gingrich? Well, there could be a legal challenge, but the Washington Post talked to observers who suggest this as unlikely. The other possibility would be an emergency change in election law that would allow write-ins. But the RTD notes this too is a problem: the GA doesn’t convene until Jan 11th, and ballots must be printed by Jan 21st. Emergency legislation requires a supermajority of (updated) four fifths–32 Senators, and 60 80 Delegates. Those are high barriers, and with a very slim Republican majority based solely on the fact we hold the LG’s chair, very unlikely to be reached.

Read more…

Books and the Ballotbox (Poll Included)

December 8, 2011 Leave a comment

Ah, the joys of campaigning. There’s many things to love about it….meeting new people, the rush of contacting voters, putting up signs and handing out bumperstickers. There’s one thing, though, I’ve never really loved: the quaddrenial rush of books from presidential contenders. There’s a few reasons I’ve come to loathe this. Largely, I feel bad for not reading them, even though most of them are just filled with ghostwritten pablum that differs little from the candidate’s stump speeches. I don’t read as quick as I used to, but with all these candidates, even if you are a fast reader, that’s still alot of time. Then there’s the whole thing of actually shelling out $30 if you want to read them before their author is little more than an afterthought in the race…..(I’m not on the Kindle train yet)

Apparently, somebody reads them, though. There was much ballyhooing about Cain’s book a little bit ago, how it appeared his campaign was more book tour than campaign. Now, the New York Times notes the same thing about Newt:

Even as he widens his lead in the polls, Newt Gingrich spends substantial time on an activity that raised questions about his ultimate motive when he was a back-of-the-pack candidate: selling and signing $25 copies of his books.

As his primary foe, Mitt Romney, and the White House intensify their efforts to negatively define Mr. Gingrich, his sole public event on Friday is at a bookstore in Washington. On Saturday he flies to Des Moines for a Republican debate but plans to squeeze in an afternoon book-signing.

Experienced campaign strategists cannot recall a top-tier contender devoting so much time to pitching products while seeking the White House. Mitt Romney, who also has a book out, has never sold it while stumping, his campaign said. President Obama, a best-selling author in 2007, did not incorporate sales events into campaign appearances, according to a spokesman for his re-election committee.

Mr. Gingrich’s devotion to book-selling, Republican strategists said, raises questions about the propriety of a candidate who is generating personal income while seeking the White House, as well as whether he is making the optimum use of limited campaign time.

There’s certainly plenty to talk about here, but let’s face it–Newt has spent the last twelve years or so as a political entrprenuer, starting organizations here, shilling a book there, appearing on this or that news network. I’m sure its a hard habit to break. And of course, Newt has always been a prolific writer (or the one whose name is on the jacket, at least), having written 21 some odd books throughout his career (some of which one intrepid New York Times Magazine author dared to read).

But what about candidates that are new to the writing game? Well, not so hot for Michele Bachmann (h/t Political Wire):

Michele Bachmann’s weak poll numbers may be showing up in slow sales of her memoir, Core of Conviction. In the two weeks since the book was released, it’s sold just 3,000 copies despite a media blitz and numerous book-signing events by Bachmann.

Those numbers come from Nielsen BookScan, which gets the information directly from Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and most other retailers. The company estimates its sales numbers capture 75 percent of the book market although it currently does not get information from discount retailers Wal-Mart or Sam’s Club.

As of 5 PM ET on Wednesday, the book ranked 4,200 on Amazon’s bestseller list, although it ranked 62 on the site’s political bestseller list.

Ouch. It’s hard to judge how well her book is doing–sooooo many books are published in America that the average per book is around 500 copies (keep in mind that we’re talking about a really wide range of numbers here, so the average isn’t all that great of a statistic). But the fact that its not even intriguing readers of political books indicates that Bachmann’s book is not breaking through.

Honestly, not only is it not that important (trot out old “x’s don’t vote” trope here), but its not all that uncommon. If you really want to read any of these books after their shelf-life, I suggest in about nine months you head down to the Green Valley Book Fair, where they’ll be available for about $5/pound (ok, so they don’t sell them by the pound, but on average you’ll be paying about $3-5 per title)

Basically, there’s five kinds of political books

  • The reporting/history book–usually written by a third party shortly after or around the time of the events in question (“What It Takes”). A subset of these books may fall more in line with the history genre (The Last Campaign, about either the 1948 Election or RFK’s 1968 campaign, depending on which one of these same titled books you pick up) but still are plenty interesting for politicos
  • The kiss-off/tell all–written by an ex-administration official or someone who played a pivotal role in the events in question–you know, your Scott McCllellans of the world. Some my be polite, like Christie Todd Whitman, but even she had a critique in there
  • The campaign book–written by people who are actively running for office or considering it. Most are ghostwritten (see above)
  • The policy book–closely related to the campaign book, but written by someone who may not be seeking higher office in the near future but is trying to build support for their policies (Think “Young Guns” here)
  • The memoir–written by former officeholders. Usually written by the subject, but likely polished by a professional author (“Decision Points”, “My Life”)

Again, very few of these books have a very long shelf life. Probably the ones that last the longest are the memoirs and the history books, because they’ll be of interest long after the fact. The others, however, don’t tend to lend too much to either political professionals or historians, so don’t be surprised if they don’t see additional print runs.

So what say you, dear readers? Add categories in the comments, and chime in with the polls below about your political reading habits.

The Road to Des Moines runs through Richmond

March 31, 2009 1 comment

We noted last week that Mitt Romney will be speaking at the RPV Commonwealth Gala on May 29th, which is being held in conjunction with the State Convention. While as of right now no other potential 2012 candidates are slated to appear at the convention, a number will be making swings through Virginia in support of our ticket. 

Bobby Jindal has already endorsed and helped raise money for the man he hopes to join him in the Republican Governor’s Association, and today Mike Huckabee did the same, focusing on the rural Virginia strongholds that he carried in the primary last year. Meanwhile, Newt Gingrich will be joining Bill Bolling at his official campaign kickoff on April 17th.

Being one of only two games in town for potential 2012 candidates to show off their political muscle and test their networks, plus given the fact that it may very well find a key place in the calendar once again (recall that in 2008, while being the site of Huckabee’s death throes, was a key post-Super Tuesday victory for Senator Obama that carried him through the Jeremiah Wright controversy and showed momentum was on his side), Virginia is sure to see alot of the potential contenders this year.