Newt Gingrich Reduced to Quoting Film Version of FDR for Political Inspiration


Newt Gingrich is politics' answer to The Blair Witch Project: A bona fide '90s cultural phenomenon that never made it out of the last decade of the 20th century. Gingrich injected some fun and insight into U.S. politics and engineered a stunning and unexpected Republican takeover of Congress before self-destructing in a mess of hubris and ideological incoherence, and losing a throwdown/shutdown with Bill Clinton. At his best, Gingrich was cypto-libertarian, talking up technology and an open-ended future; at his worst, which was most of the time, he was a big government conservative who wanted to keep things the way they used to be while getting to helm the ship of state. No small wonder that he self-destructed, especially after he couldn't actually lead a movement to cut the size and scope of government, which was his stated goal.

Somehow it's fitting that Newt's latest auto-generated missive, delivered steaming hot to your inbox via the intertubes after being typed by a million Max Headrooms in a room somewhere), came out just as news that John Hinckley, Jr. is now freer to roam about the country hit the telscreens.

Here's the former Speaker of the House and soft-core historical novelist taking inspiration not from Robert Taft and not even from the real Franklin Roosevelt but from Jon Voight's portrayal of FDR:

Last week, I had the pleasure of addressing the Senate-House Annual Republican Dinner. The MC for the evening was actor Jon Voight. Before he spoke, a video tribute for Voight was shown, including clips of him playing Franklin Delano Roosevelt in a movie.

In one scene, Roosevelt is being told by his generals and advisors all the reasons why achieving victory in World War II was too hard.

In response, Voight—playing Roosevelt, who, remember, was confined to a wheelchair due to polio— dramatically lifts himself up using the table and stabilizes himself on his non-functioning legs. He then stares down every shocked person in the room and says:

"Don't tell me it can't be done."

It occurred to me, sitting in the audience preparing to speak, that those seven words—"Don't tell me it can't be done"—should be the rallying cry for all Republicans (not to mention all Independents and Democrats who want a better future for America—more on this idea later).

Whole thing here. Me, I'm just waiting for the moment that Cuba Gooding, Jr., playing President Obama, steadies himself on his spindly little arms and vaults over the Oval Office desk and declares, "Three workouts a day—year-round!"

More on this idea later! In the meantime, check out hands-down the most inspiring portrayal of FDR: FDR—A One-Man Show, by Chris Elliott, which really should be mandatory viewing for all past, present, and future American citizens:

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  1. All I can hear is a voice screaming in my head; “BUT IT WAS PEARL HARBOR!!!”

  2. “Don’t tell me it can’t be done.”

    *grinds teeth*

    Okay, then; it *can* be done, BUT WE SHOULDN’T DO IT!!!!

  3. “Don’t tell me it can’t be done.”

    A poor man’s version of “Yes we can.”

    This is the future of the GOP, friends. Shoddy, tardy, cheap imitation of Democratic statism.

  4. So Republicans are looking at FDR as a hero now, eh?

  5. So Republicans are looking at FDR as a hero now, eh?

    I think that because it was Jon Voight playing FDR, that makes it okay.

  6. Don’t forget about the Star Trek episode in which Abraham Lincoln beat the crap out of George Wallace.*

    *OK, I’m probably not remembering it correctly, but you get the gist.

  7. Which brings up the important question… “Why is Chris Elliott famous?”

  8. Folks, I realize that as third-party types there’s a strong tendency towards “a plague on both your houses” regarding Republicans and Democrats, but let’s be fair here. Any politician who is a “cypto-libertarian” even some of the time beats most other national politicians by miles. Is Newt perfect? No. Is he too friendly to big government at times? Yes. But compared to Pelosi and Obama and company, he’s Murray Rothbard.

  9. I have a professor who looks and talks just like Chris Elliott. It’s super freaky.

  10. Also, one-man shows are the friggin stupidest things ever.

  11. @PapayaSF – During the campaign I heard Newt say that voting third party was a waste and to just vote McCain.

    Gingrich is irrelevant when it comes to restoring Constitutional principles. Only when these guys (Gingrich, Limbaugh, Hannity, etc.) start advocating the libertarian philosophy of small government and low taxes AND support candidates who actually adhere to these principles, can we get along.

  12. Jonas,

    Not if it’s Hal Holbrook playing Mark Twain.

  13. Surely I’m not the first to notice the “Free Newt” ad banner? Gotta love self-defeating Google ads…

  14. “Don’t forget about the Star Trek episode in which Abraham Lincoln beat the crap out of George Wallace.*”

    It was Ghengis Kahn actually, but politically no big dif.

  15. You know, I actually saw “Pearl Harbor,” the movie Newt is referencing. (Don’t ask.) The scene he’s quoting had everyone in the theater groaning. The generals and admirals weren’t explaining “all the reasons why achieving victory in World War II was too hard,” they were explaining all the logistical problems with the proposed Dolittle Raid (which in reality was done mostly for American morale and didn’t accomplish much militarily, but got 11 Americans killed or captured).

    FDR gets up with his “don’t tell me it can’t be done!” line, which was supposed to be inspirational, but, no. So the generals were supposed to go, “Oh, you can stand up out of your wheelchair for brief periods, so I guess that means were all a bunch of defeatists for worrying about the range of a B-25, lack of refueling opportunities, anticipated enemy defenses, you know, doing our jobs.”

  16. So Republicans are looking at FDR as a hero now, eh?

    Every since the Republican party got taken over by neo-cons, yeah.

  17. Ma-Ma-Ma-Ma-Max Hea-Headroom!

  18. freeforall232: Of course Newt would say that, and he’s probably right. When was the last time a third party won the presidency? I’ve often voted L, but there is a strong argument to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. National politics always involves compromises.

    I agreed with most of the criticism around here regarding McCain, but at this point, I still think he’d not have been as bad as Obama.

  19. So a complete dismissal of Newt and the Republican congress he led, while elsewhere Reason praises Clinton as the most fiscally responsible modern president. I guess irony is more important than accuracy in the journalism biz.

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