But whereas Wilson spent years publishing scholarly works, Gingrich was more like the professor who wins popularity awards from undergraduates but doesn’t get tenure because he doesn’t publish anything significant. He even told a college newspaper in 1977 that “I made the decision two or three years ago that I’d rather run for Congress than publish the papers or academic books necessary to get promoted.”
Since then, he has given countless lectures and written more than 20 books, but has never produced truly serious scholarship. A typical Gingrich work is full of aphorisms and historical references — and devoid of the hallmarks of academic research: rigor, nuance and consideration of alternative views. Conservative political scientist James Q. Wilson once assessed materials for a televised history course that Gingrich was teaching as a “mishmash of undefined terms . . . misleading claims . . . and unclear distinctions.”
Yet Gingrich has been quick to cite his credentials as a source of authority. In a letter to Reagan budget director David Stockman, he once wrote: “From my perspective as a historian, you don’t deal in the objective requirements of history.” And recently, he suggested that mortgage giant Freddie Mac had paid him for his historical expertise, not his Capitol Hill connections.
2.Gingrich is a hard-core conservative.
Not really. Starting in the 1990s,he backed a health insurance mandate. Three years ago, he appeared in a television ad with then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to promote action against global warming. He has since told conservatives that these deviations were mistakes, but they are of a piece with his record.
Gingrich has never been a strict right-winger, in his positions or his allies. In a 1989 interview with the Ripon Forum, a magazine for moderate Republicans, he said: “I would not be House Republican whip if activists in the moderate wing had not supported me. . . . There is almost a new synthesis evolving with the classic moderate wing of the party, where . . . I’ve spent most of my life, and the conservative/activist right wing.”
Some of his heresies, such as his occasional support for green initiatives, have been matters of principle. Others have been more practical. In his first book, “Window of Opportunity,” he wrote that “there are times and places when specific protectionist steps are appropriate.” Such comments, which clashed with the GOP belief in free trade, reflected local concerns. As he explained to The Washington Post after Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.) tweaked him for his protectionism: “I represent two auto plants. I always ask him, ‘Bob, what’s your position on wheat?’ ”
3.Gingrich was a Reaganite.
In the years since President Ronald Reagan’s death, Republicans have embraced a broader myth that they all locked arms with the Gipper and strode from victory to victory. Gingrich has not fallen short on this score, even publishing a photo book titled “Ronald Reagan: Rendezvous With Destiny” and recently describing himself to CNN as an unconventional political figure, “much like Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.”