Gingrich Decries ‘Game Show’ Presidential Campaign

Newt Gingrich is disgusted with the pathetic, bizarre, and shallow manner in which the current crop of Republican candidates are conducting the campaign.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich says the 2008 White House candidates are “demeaning the presidency” by focusing on the race rather than ideas. “We have shrunk our political process to this pathetic dance in which people spend an entire year raising money in order to offer non-answers, so they can memorize what their consultants and focus groups said would work,” Gingrich said.


“This idea of demeaning the presidency by reducing it to being a game show contest … is wrong for America, and I would never participate in it,” he said.

Gingrich told reporters there is room for a him in the race. “There’s a tremendous vacuum of leadership willing to stand up and talk to the country in clear ways about what we have to get done to create a generation of opportunity and what we have to do to avoid a generation for bureaucracy and problems,” Gingrich said.

The irony, of course, is that the Contract With America, Gingrich’s claim to fame, was itself a product of consultants and focus groups and he rose to power partly through the use of deliberately chosen buzz words that cast Democrats are evil and anti-family and Republicans as protectors of all that’s good and holy. Shortly after assuming the Speakership in 1995, he circulated a memo called “Language: A Key Mechanism of Control” to incoming GOP freshman. Here’s an excerpt:

Often we search hard for words to define our opponents. Sometimes we are hesitant to use contrast. Remember that creating a difference helps you. These are powerful words that can create a clear and easily understood contrast. Apply these to the opponent, their record, proposals and their party.

  • abuse of power
  • anti- (issue): flag, family, child, jobs
  • betray
  • bizarre
  • bosses
  • bureaucracy
  • cheat
  • coercion
  • "compassion" is not enough
  • collapse(ing)
  • consequences
  • corrupt
  • corruption
  • criminal rights
  • crisis
  • cynicism
  • decay
  • deeper
  • destroy
  • destructive
  • devour
  • disgrace
  • endanger
  • excuses
  • failure (fail)
  • greed
  • hypocrisy
  • ideological
  • impose
  • incompetent
  • insecure
  • insensitive
  • intolerant
  • liberal
  • lie
  • limit(s)
  • machine
  • mandate(s)
  • obsolete
  • pathetic
  • patronage
  • permissive attitude
  • pessimistic
  • punish (poor …)
  • radical
  • red tape
  • self-serving
  • selfish
  • sensationalists
  • shallow
  • shame
  • sick
  • spend(ing)
  • stagnation
  • status quo
  • steal
  • taxes
  • they/them
  • threaten
  • traitors
  • unionized
  • urgent (cy)
  • waste
  • welfare

This tactic worked brilliantly and, like all successful tactics, was quickly copied by the opposition. While by no means the only cause, it has helped create the current atmosphere of extreme polarization that characterizes the American political landscape.

Hypocrisy aside, though, Gingrich is right. I’d certainly prefer to see the candidates spend more time discussing issues and outlining their vision for the country. Then again, like Gingrich, I’m a policy wonk with an academic inclination; a debate focusing on the finer points of public policy would likely bore most people to tears.

While I’m not a fan of Gingrich the man, he’s a compelling figure and he would add a lot to the debate. He’s in the mold of H. Ross Perot, Jerry Brown, and Ralph Nader. You can forget, for a while at least, that they’re kooks and would make lousy presidents because they’re charismatic, smart, and refreshingly candid.

via Political Wire

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Triumph says:

    Then again, like Gingrich, I’m a policy wonk with an academic inclination; a debate focusing on the finer points of public policy would likely bore most people to tears.

    I never quite understood how Gingrich ever got this “intellectual” reputation. Other than the fact that he was a mediocre academic at a fourth-tier community college, there is very little evidence that he was some pathbreaking thinker.

    It is true that there is little in the way of intellectualism in the conservative movement–mostly because the two are incompatible–but Gingrich’s claim to fame–The Contract on America–is, as you said, nothing than focus-group platitudes.

  2. James Joyner says:

    West Georgia College had been a four year institution for years by the time Gingrich joined the faculty in 1971. Indeed, it was awarding master’s degrees, making it a university in all but name. It’s not a research university in any meaningful sense, to be sure, but a solid regional teaching institution.

    Gingrich is a bright, interesting guy with a lot more intellectual curiosity than most politicians, even at the highest levels. He’s not exactly Daniel Patrick Moynihan but there aren’t many national leaders that readily come to mind in his class as an “idea guy.”

    The Contract was a series of substantive policy ideas. They were focus grouped in the sense of picking several from a longer list to highlight and, presumably, in terms of wordsmithing.

  3. yetanotherjohn says:

    Fred Thompson seems to be doing more discussion about issues via the internet than the rest of the candidates combined.

  4. mannning says:

    Newt a kook? Really now, that is unkind and uncalled for. What, in your knowledge, makes Newt a kook? I’d very much like to see your facts on this.

  5. James Joyner says:

    Newt a kook? Really now, that is unkind and uncalled for.

    Read the man’s bio.

    “Kook” is probably too kind. “Creepy” or “scummy” might be more accurate.

  6. In response to your column, Gingrich Decries ‘Game Show’ Presidential Campaign, I would best describe his behavior in which he delivered divorce papers to his ailing ex-wife who was battling cancer as a bad made-for-TV movie that would have been shown on the Lifetime or WE channels. As he spouts family values, I find that to be a laugh-riot using the example above. Had a Democrat behaved that badly, they would have been tarred and feathered by the media.

    Also when he came into power through his ‘Contract with America’ what he succeeded in doing was creating the most polarizing atmosphere in Washington, D.C. Through these actions, he led his Republican brethren on their witch hunt against former President Clinton during the impeachment process which I believe derailed the nation’s business. Had he and his Republican brethren let President Clinton do his job, perhaps Osama bin Laden would have been captured long before 9/11 occurred. He along with his Republican brethren in their mob-mentality made me run for the hills and leave the Republican Party since I no longer saw it as the party of Lincoln.

    A Gingrich campaign is probably the ultimate punch line to a very bad joke.


    Mary MacElveen

  7. mannning says:

    So there is a bio that has all the facts that I haven’t read. OK. I am no better informed till I track down a copy. We do need his kind of thinking in our leadership and policy formation, however.

    As for the Clinton impeachment, Mary M., Slick Willie deserved it by his own words and actions. As long as we are speculating, I will speculate that had investigators probed his presidency deeply enough, they would have found far more impeachable acts, which would have set the nation’s business further off track, and put Gore temporarily in the WH until his parts in the affairs were found out. A twofer. You want the details?