Newt Gingrich says things about his career (“I was hired as an historian”) with such conviction that it’s easy to forget that he says so many things that just aren’t so. In the Mike Huckabee forum Saturday night he proclaimed, “I’ve never favored cap-and-trade.” But the Rick Perry campaign was quick to e-mail this excerpt from a Feb.15, 2007 interview on PBS:

In 2000, candidate George Bush pledged mandatory carbon caps; it was a campaign pledge. What did you think of it at the time? Were you for that?

I think if you have mandatory carbon caps combined with a trading system, much like we did with sulfur, and if you have a tax-incentive program for investing in the solutions, that there’s a package there that’s very, very good. And frankly, it’s something I would strongly support.

Remember when the hard-core right went nuts over Mitt Romney’s suggestion that human activity may play some role in climate change? Well, this was Gingrich in the same interview:

What was it that convinced you that global warming was a real and pressing problem?

Oh, I think the weight of evidence over time [convinced me] that it’s something that you ought to be careful about. As a conservative, I think you ought to be prudent, and it seems to me that the conservative approach should be to minimize the risk of a really catastrophic change.

And when did you come to that?

Well, I thought over the last eight or 10 years it was useful to move in that direction. I was strongly opposed to Kyoto treaty the way it was written; I think it was written by the Europeans as an anti-American document. I also think it doesn’t get the job done because it excludes China and India. But I felt that was a lost opportunity to talk about: How do you design a pro-science and pro-technology strategy that lowers the amount of damage the human race does to the planet? ...

He has since said that he doesn’t know whether global warming is due to human activity. But in 2007 he was ready to “design a strategy” around his conviction. But that is quintessential Newt.

Whatever the latest technology fashion or scientific trend (stem-cell research, global warming, ethanol subsidies, space colonization, electric cars, electromagnetic pulse weapons) Gingrich has always been ready to leap first, fork over taxpayers’ money and save the nitty-gritty details for later. If he actually had the power to see his ideas come to fruition (rather than just make money from books and lectures), we’d be hundreds of billions more in debt and have a mound of unintended consequences.

In this regard he’s the personification of what he inveighs against: right-wing social engineering. Unlike libertarians, who want government to do very little, or advocates of limited, energetic government — e.g., Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) — who want government to do a few more things but do them well, Gingrich wants to do lots and lots of things all at once. Everything is “urgent” and “essential” with him. Is there any reason to believe government could take on all his ventures without running up a bill and doing most of them poorly?

Like the frenetic White Rabbit (“We’re late! We’re late!”), Gingrich implores us not to dawdle and hence not to soberly evaluate the potential consequences of his schemes. There is a word for someone convinced of his own wisdom, willing to enact radical changes, indifferent to unintended consequences and certain everything will “pay for itself”: liberal.