Gingrich May Be a Historian, but not a Clairvoyant

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This June 2005 quote from the former House Speaker, spoken at a joint appearance with none other than Hillary Clinton (Newt was in a moderate-friend-of-Democrats phase at the time) proved less than prescient:

“We may be at the end of a 40-year cycle of bitterness,” Gingrich said. “I’ve spent enough of my life fighting. It would be nice to spend some time constructing, and I think that there’s a feel in the country that’s very similar.”

Where Newt got this notion about an end to bitterness isn’t clear. Mid-2005 was an especially bitter moment in U.S. politics–Bush hatred was spiking; Iraq was falling apart; the Senate was warring over the “nuclear option”; and so on–and there was scant reason to expect a change of tone anytime soon. But Newt is prone to grand predictions, many of which don’t amount to much: see, for instance, his 1995 belief that a home medical “diagnostic chair” would dramatically limit doctor visits within a decade.

And it turned out that Newt wasn’t so tired of fighting after all. Less than two years after he praised Hillary Clinton (with whom he was allying over some modest health care reform) as “very competent, very professional, and very intelligently moving towards the center,” he returned to his old form. By March 2007, Clinton was again a “nasty” woman who runs an “endlessly ruthless” campaign. Maybe Newt miscalculated, and that 40 year cycle is really a 50 year cycle, which gives him another five or so years of fighting before it’s finally time to start constructing.

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