Monday, March 2, 2009

Newt as profiled by Matt Bai in the NYT Magazine

Below is my favorite excerpt from yesterday's New York Times Magazine piece on the Republicans' great white hope. It's an interesting profile piece worth reading, written by Matt Bai. You can read the article in its entirety here.
Interviewing Gingrich, as I did on three occasions recently, is like stopping by the office of your thesis adviser when your thesis adviser has better things to do with his time. Polite but impatient, Gingrich answers most questions pedagogically, with impromptu seminars on history or social theory. It seems important to him that you know how much he knows — which, truth be told, is quite a lot.

There are moments when this routine can verge on the absurd, like something out of a Ricky Gervais sketch. At one point, I asked Gingrich, now a healthful-looking 65, about his sudden exit from Congress in 1998. “First of all, in the Toynbeean sense, I believe in departure and return,” he told me.

“In the what sense?” I asked.

“Arnold Toynbee,” he replied matter-of-factly, as if no one would walk into his office without having read “Lectures on the Industrial Revolution in England.” “I believe in the sense that, you know, De Gaulle had to go to Colombey-les-Deux-Églises for 11 years.”

“I’m sorry?”

“Departure and return. And someone once said to me, if you don’t leave, you can’t come back, because you’ve never left.”

I was still trying to process this nugget when the slouching Gingrich, now onto a point about steel plants closing, jolted upright. “The 1913 Girl Scouts manual!” he said, or at least that’s what it sounded like. “Which I should get a copy of.” He punched a button on his phone and dialed his assistant.

“Yes, sir?”

“Can you get me about four copies of the 1913 Girl Scouts manual, ‘How Girls Can Help Their Country’?” Gingrich asked. There was a long pause on the other end.


“I think it’s on Amazon,” Gingrich said helpfully. He leaned back and proceeded to explain to me that the Girl Scouts manual contained a recommendation that every girl learn to perform two jobs, just in case one of them went away. What we needed, apparently, were more steelworkers who belonged to the Girl Scouts.

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