The context for the column is that Gingrich had just gotten a lot of publicity for landing a $4.5 million book contract.
TRB FROM WASHINGTON: The $4 million mind
By Robert Wright
The New Republic, p. 6, Jan. 23, 1995
We stand at a crossroads between two diverse futures. O.K., I admit it: the previous sentence isn't original to me. I was looking for an opening line
with some oomph, and I lifted this one from the work of one of the most powerful writers of our time: Newt Gingrich. It is the first sentence in his
book on America's future.
No, I don't mean the book that a major New York publishing house is willing to spend millions publishing and promoting; that book isn't written yet. I
mean Window of Opportunity, published in 1984 by "Tom Doherty Associates"-- and promoted via a $105,000 publicity budget donated by oil
interests, textile interests, real estate interests and so on. But that's another story. This week let's use Window of Opportunity as the rare
opportunity it is--a chance to glimpse a $4.5 million literary talent in action.
To begin with, there is Gingrich's justly celebrated use of imagery. Consider his description of how "welfare state" liberals wrecked the space
program. When he writes that "the vision of a malaise-dominated decaying Western culture smothered the dream of a permanently manned station," we feel
as if we can see the malaise-dominated decay; and we watch, transfixed, as it (or, strictly speaking, the vision of it) slowly smothers a space station
(or, technically, the dream of one). Of course, more than Gingrich's literary flair, it is his penetrating vision of the future that has made him such
a sought-after writer. He reports, for example, that the modern economy calls for less and less physical labor, and then builds swiftly from this
insight to the prediction that Americans "will increasingly ... release the day's tension by lifting weights, swimming or through contact sports."
Newtradamus has spoken.
As Gingrich stresses repeatedly, the path to an "optimistic future" (one of the two diverse futures between which lies the crossroads at which we
stand) passes through outer space. If the government had followed through on the 1969 moon landing, he says, then by 1984 we would have had two space
stations and a colony on the moon. You might ask: What eventual benefits could justify such massive spending? Gingrich is ready for this question. "A
mirror system in space could provide the light equivalent of many full moons so that there would be no need for nighttime lighting of the highways."
Indeed, "ambient light covering entire areas could reduce the current danger of criminals lurking in darkness." Also, don't forget "the possible
benefits of weightlessness to people currently restricted to wheelchairs." Lending credence to this scenario, Gingrich reports that, if you describe it
to paraplegics, they "begin asking questions in an enthusiastic tone."