The Blog

What Newt Knows

2:34 PM, Jun 30, 2011 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

Andrew Ferguson reads all of Newt Gingrich's 21 books, so you don't have to

When his top campaign staff abandoned him not long ago, Newt Gingrich didn’t seem terribly surprised. “Philosophically, I am very different from normal politicians,” he said. “We have big ideas.”

The “we,” as Gingrich uses it here, is akin to the royal we — it’s what might be called the professorial we, employed when the intellectual and the ideas he generates merge to create an entity too large for a singular personal pronoun. “Over my years in public life,” he writes in his latest book about how to save America, “I have become known as an ‘ideas man.’ ” And we shouldn’t doubt it. As I write, a stack of books tilts Pisa-like on my desk, each volume written by Gingrich and various co-authors. I got out my tape measure the other day and discovered that the stack is precisely 15¼ inches high — a figure that does not include the various revised and expanded editions that I have had Whispernetted into my Kindle, along with the historical novels that Gingrich has published with a co-writer named William R. Forstchen: three fat books on the Civil War, three on World War II and a pair on the Revolutionary War. If I added these to my stack, it would be taller than the mayor of Munchkinland and much heavier.

The books taken together are evidence of mental exertions unimaginable in any other contemporary politician. Professorial affectations are not high on the list of tactics candidates like to use in this age of galloping populism. Within the politico-journalistic combine, Gingrich’s status as an intellectual is accepted as an article of faith — something that everybody just assumes to be true, like man-made climate change or Barack Obama’s stratospheric I.Q. Senator Tom Coburn, the Oklahoma Republican, says Gingrich is “undoubtedly the smartest man I’ve ever met.” Cokie Roberts calls him “a big thinker.” Without irony the Democratic consultant Paul Begala praises his “intellectual heft” and Howard Dean his “intellectual leadership.” Ted Nugent says Gingrich is probably the “smartest guy out there.” So that settles that.

Or does it?

Read the rest of Ferguson's piece in the New York Times Magazine.

Recent Blog Posts