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Dowd on Gingrich

First George Will, now Maureen Dowd.

Some choice lines:

NEWT GINGRICH’S mind is in love with itself.

It has persuaded itself that it is brilliant when it is merely promiscuous. This is not a serious mind. Gingrich is not, to put it mildly, a systematic thinker.

His mind is a jumble, an amateurish mess lacking impulse control. He plays air guitar with ideas, producing air ideas. He ejaculates concepts, notions and theories that are as inconsistent as his behavior.

And, indeed:

He didn’t get whiplash being a serial adulterer while impeaching another serial adulterer, a lobbyist for Freddie Mac while attacking Freddie Mac, a self-professed fiscal conservative with a whopping Tiffany’s credit line, and an anti-Communist Army brat who supported the Vietnam War but dodged it.

Setting aside the snark, I do think that “Gingrich is not, to put it mildly, a systematic thinker” is an incredibly fair assessment.

Also:  her discussion of Newt’s pro- and anti- colonialism intellectual confusion is on target.

The simple version:

1.  In his doctoral thesis he writes sympathetically about Belgian colonialism in the Congo.

2.  But, he is markedly anti-colonialism when on the question of British colonial control of North America.

3.  But, he buys into the following:

Gingrich made one of his classic outrageous overreaches last year when he praised a Dinesh D’Souza article in Forbes, saying you could only understand how “fundamentally out of touch” and “outside our comprehension” President Obama is “if you understand Kenyan, anticolonial behavior.”

D’Souza’s absurd ad hominem theory tying Obama to his father goes like this: “This philandering, inebriated African socialist, who raged against the world for denying him the realization of his anticolonial ambitions, is now setting the nation’s agenda through the reincarnation of his dreams in his son.”

And yet, to use Dowd’s formulation:  no intellectual whiplash ensues.

All of this underscores to me the fact that while Newt sounds smart, he is not nearly an intellectual as people give him credit for (and he is frequently given a lot of credit in this arena).  It is one thing to have a lot of ideas.  It is yet another to have a coherent intellectual vision that is systematic in nature.  Gingrich just spouts off a panoply of notions without any seeming grounding in reality.  He is far more of an off-the-cuff pontificator than an actual intellectual.

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About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor and Chair of Political Science at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. He is the author of Voting Amid Violence: Electoral Democracy in Colombia and is currently working on a comparative study of the US to 29 other democracies. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging at PoliBlog since 2003. Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. michael reynolds says:

    I feel vindicated. I’ve been saying for something like 20 years that Gingrich is not a real intellectual, that he is not “brilliant,” and that he is in fact a mediocre mind afflicted with narcissistic personality disorder.

    But it doesn’t matter to GOP voters. He’s incoherent, incompetent, corrupt and above all a flaming assh-ole. So they’ll love him.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 18 Thumb down 4

  2. RAGGEDT says:

    While not a perfect model to follow, Paul Krugman’s description of Gingrich seems appropriate: He’s a stupid person’s idea of what a smart person should sound like.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 24 Thumb down 2

  3. Ron Beasley says:

    NEWT GINGRICH’S mind is in love with itself.

    It has persuaded itself that it is brilliant when it is merely promiscuous. This is not a serious mind. Gingrich is not, to put it mildly, a systematic thinker.

    His mind is a jumble, an amateurish mess lacking impulse control. He plays air guitar with ideas, producing air ideas. He ejaculates concepts, notions and theories that are as inconsistent as his behavior.

    Of course this is correct but the irony is Dowd could be describing herself.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 2

  4. Hey Norm says:

    If I believed in god I would pray for her to have Gingrich nominated.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 4

  5. ponce says:

    Gingrich is the candidate the Republican Party deserves.

    Let’s just hope America doesn’t deserve him as its president.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 4

  6. giantslor says:

    @Ron Beasley: Or Thomas Friedman.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  7. ponce says:

    I feel vindicated. I’ve been saying for something like 20 years that Gingrich is not a real intellectual, that he is not “brilliant,”

    Gingrich was denied tenure at West Georgia College.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

  8. Ron Beasley says:

    @giantslor: Even more so.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  9. @ponce: Which is why I think he has critiques the tenure system.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  10. Just a thought.

    The title “Dowd On Gingrich” brings up a lot of unpleasant images.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  11. jukeboxgrad says:

    Gingrich was denied tenure at West Georgia College.

    Investigate! Why is he still hiding all his transcripts, after all these years? Notice what was demanded from Obama (just a couple of months ago):

    his documents that even today remain concealed include his passport records, kindergarten records, Punahou school records, Occidental College records, Columbia University records, Columbia thesis, Harvard law School records, Harvard Law Review articles, University of Chicago articles, Illinois State Bar Association records, Illinois State Senate records and schedules, medical records, Obama/Dunham marriage license, Obama/Dunham divorce documents. Soetoro/Dunham marriage license and adoption records.

    Link. If it makes sense to see divorce records for Obama’s parents, then surely we need to see Newt’s own divorce records.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  12. ck says:

    Gingrich’s various views on “colonialism” are only inconsistent if you think they are about colonialism as such. They’re not. They’re ultimately about race and culture. Belgian and British colonialism of the Congo and Kenya are cases of white, Western nations dominating non-white, non-Western nations. This, in the mind of Gingrich and his ilk, is good. British colonialism of America was a case of a white, Western people as the colonial subjects. This, to Gingrich, is bad.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  13. When many of the people who served with Gingrich are speaking out publicly against him (i.e., Coburn and Scarborough) I would think that would say all that needs to be said.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  14. superdestroyer says:

    There have been plenty of conservative pundits who have written about what an idiot Gingrich is. Why quote a NY Times columnist who has probably never voted for a Republican in her life to make the point?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 4

  15. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Why do I look at that picture and think of the mime behind the invisible wall?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  16. Nora says:

    @jukeboxgrad: Many of the records they are demanding are hiding in plain sight. If they want to know what professional articles he has published, why don’t they go to any reasonably good university library and look it up? Heck, they could get a undergrad to do it for them.

    BTW, wouldn’t you love to see Bush’s kindergarten records? Some how I doubt he published any professional articles, though. How about Bachman’s school records or Perry’s? At least one of them had to have been the class clown.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  17. @Nora: Based on what I have found to this point, Newt didn’t publish anything scholarly.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  18. Just nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Ron Beasley: Take it from someone who knows, when you like the person you identify the Gingrich qualities as “being a non-linear thinker.” Because non-linearity is identified as a quality of Asian and Native-American thinking processes (among other ethnic identities), it becomes a positive trait.

    Newt just doesn’t go this direction for an explanation because it will make a rift with his constituency and because they go with “if I don’t understand it, then it must be profound (or idiotic if it’s from someone I don’t like).”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  19. steve says:

    Still not sure why a lobbyist would be a serious candidate for the office of president.

    Steve

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  20. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Why oh why did you have to there Doug? I really did not need that!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  21. MBunge says:

    @RAGGEDT: “Paul Krugman’s description of Gingrich seems appropriate: He’s a stupid person’s idea of what a smart person should sound like.”

    And how many people in politics can’t even pass for that? I mean, if you want to go after Gingrich for a lack of emotional maturity, that’s one thing. But smarts? By political standards, Newt is very, very bright. If he and Dowd sat down for an extended debate on the issues, who would get the better of it? Yeah, Maureed Dowd is a pretty low bar to get over but that’s the point.

    Mike

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1