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Post Partisan
Posted at 09:08 AM ET, 11/17/2011

Newt Gingrich, Washington Outsider


For his doctorate in history from Tulane University, Newt Gingrich produced a dissertation titled “Belgian Education Policy in the Congo: 1945–1960.” Based on this and his other scholarly endeavors, Freddie Mac, the government-backed mortgage insurer, paid him a total of about $1.6 million to be a consultant on matters historical. Is it any wonder this agency is in a hole about $181 billion deep? With almost no knowledge of the Belgian Congo but with a smattering of history to my credit, I could have told Freddie Mac it was making bad loans. For that sort of “strategic advice,” I usually charge well under $1 million a year.

As Gingrich insists, Freddie Mac would not have hired him for his influence as former speaker of the House, Washington figure and constant presidential candidate. Not a chance. Freddie must have gone from campus to campus, imploring historians who actually gained tenure — Gingrich never did — to accept $1.6 million but found no takers. Historians are an industrious lot, and it would take much more than $1.6 million — not to mention car fare — to lure them from Harvard or Columbia or even nearby Georgetown. Fortunately for Freddie, nearby was a first-class expert in Belgian Congo education policy and so, naturally, it jumped at the opportunity.

Poor Gingrich. Once again he is being pilloried. Freddie is just about the Republican idea of the devil. To a man — and some women — the party holds it responsible for the mortgage debacle. (It would hold it responsible for global warming, but there’s no such thing.) Gingrich has joined in the merry condemnation and here it turns out that he was on the payroll, so to speak. But did Freddie officials listen to him? No siree. He told them not to make those unsecured loans. He stamped his foot. He held his breath. One time he didn’t eat for an hour.

Providing trenchant historical perspective was just one of Gingrich’s obligations at Freddie. He also provided “strategic” advice. This is not ordinary advice. That would have been worth far less. This was “strategic” advice, which is not tactical advice or short-term advice or long-term advice, but advice presumably attached to a missile and fired at Freddie Mac’s headquarters, which what was done in the Belgian Congo, no doubt, ibid, op.cit. and all that.

Had Gingrich taken $1.6 million from the odious and evil mortgage monsters for non-strategic advice, he would be a Washington Insider. There is, as you know, nothing worse, and Gingrich, by his own say-so, is not a Washington Insider. He is a Washington Outsider. Outsiders provide strategic advice. Insiders whisper tactical advice. This comes very close to lobbying, which is, as we all know, a heinous activity — except when you happen to believe the cause is good.

I wish the evil, liberal press would stop picking on Gingrich. He’s an erudite man, a strategic thinker who has had more than breakfast at Tiffany’s and knows a thing of two about education in the Belgian Congo. He might also know the lyrics to that old Danny Kay –Andrews Sisters song, “Civilization,” which begins like this, “Bongo, bongo, bongo, I don’t want to leave the Congo. . .” It’s a novelty number — like the one Gingrich has been doing for the last 30 years.

By  |  09:08 AM ET, 11/17/2011

 
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