"He appears unable to even govern himself"
At the height of Newt Gingrich's political power as House Speaker, Republican congressmen began reporting back that their constituents were passing along a simple message: "Tell Newt to shut up!"
The same advice is being given now, though this time the message is coming from a distinctly elite group of apparent ideological confreres and former associates. But there seems -- until recently, at least -- to have been a significant disconnect between their views and those of likely voters in charge of the Republican nominating process, who have turned Gingrich into a top-tier candidate in early states. Said Robert Dallek, a prominent presidential historian, "There is a certain unprecedented quality to this which should give people pause."
Back in 1995, after the Republicans' stunning, Clinton-era takeover of Congress, Gingrich was a pivotal figure who would be named Time's "Man of the Year." One is reminded of his strengths, weaknesses and grandiosity in "Tell Newt To Shut Up!", a fly-on-the-wall account of that tumultuous first year of leadership, including his critical budget negotiations with President Clinton and the federal government shutdown which boomeranged politically on Gingrich. "He spoke in sweeping sentences bursting with adjectives and adverbs that rendered his world oversized and absolute. Enormous. Classic. Grotesque. Tremendous. Totally. Frankly. Unequivocally. Extraordinarily. Explicitly. He wore these words as epaulets of power," wrote the authors, then Washington Post reporters David Maraniss and Michael Weisskopf.