Just got out of a breakfast with Newt Gingrich and a bunch of conservative journalists. If anything struck me, it was Gingrich's Aristotelian sense of the relationship between leaders and the governed. Bear with me. One of Gingrich's main points, emphasized whenever he was asked about a presidential bid, was that the presidential process was stupid, small, limiting. The word "pygmies" was tossed around, as was the phrase "trained seals," when he talked about presidential debates.
Read Lincoln at Cooper Union where he gave a 7200 word, two-hour speech, which he spent three months composing, and then go back and watch the Las Vegas debate. Compare leadership with patheticness.
But Gingrich was frustrated at Republicans' inability to win arguments about taxes, the economy, and trade. Democrats were actually gaining ground in those debates; the failure of the GOP to govern simply convinced voters that they needed "the big government party" to do the governing. How to win those debates?
I want JibJab to work on a cartoon asking this question: Can you get geese to fly?
I'm not exaggerating: Three or four times, Gingrich said "the golden goose" should be the analogy Republicans use to beat the Democrats. "When times get bad, the Democrats want to kill the golden goose and have a feast. They don't understand the golden egg of American capitalism."
Is it hypocritical to reject the dumbing-down of presidential politics and then argue for winning hearts and minds with fables and cartoons? Not entirely. Every politician uses fables and analogies. Gingrich understands that they're silly, yet he wants the political class to hammer the masses with them. I suppose he might think we need to introduce the masses to the correct political ideas, and then we can give them the high-falutin' stuff. That's an awfully dim view of the average voter and an awfully high opinion of the political class.
I should add that Gingrich degraded the quality of argument and ideas brought out in the presidential debates and compared them unfavorably to Hannity and Colmes. "The candidate in the presidential debates got an average of seven and a half minutes to speak. I got 20 minutes on Fox News."
UPDATE: My Newt skeptic column from four months ago (four months and three days, actually) is here.