From The Guardian World:
Newt Gingrich really wanted to talk about feathered dinosaurs.
“Thirty years ago, nobody believed dinosaurs and birds were the same,” he told an unwitting audience. “Today, virtually every paleontologist believes that birds came from dinosaurs and that the dinosaurs were feathered. But the American Museum [of Natural History] now has them so you can actually walk in and you see it, and it really is different than describing it.”
Gingrich went on to wax lyrical about seeing a “little baby” Tyrannosaurus rex. It was all a welcome plug for the museum in New York but it was a little bewildering for those who had gathered at the Heritage Foundation, one of Washington’s leading conservative thinktanks, to hear him talk about his new novel and its tantalising title: Collusion.
Now 75, Gingrich is still resisting extinction. He is remembered as the architect of the Contract with America, proposals that in 1994 helped Republicans win a majority in the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years. Gingrich was speaker from 1995 to 1999, the nemesis of Bill Clinton and father of political polarisation. He was a failed candidate for president in 2012 and is now a Fox News contributor and defender, interpreter and normaliser of Donald Trump
“The Man Who Broke Politics” was the headline of a profile in the Atlantic magazine last year. It explained neatly: “Newt Gingrich turned partisan battles into bloodsport, wrecked Congress, and paved the way for Trump’s rise. Now he’s reveling in his achievements.”
Yet where some politicians lack a hinterland, Gingrich’s is planet-sized. Along with his passion for paleontology, he is a former professor of history, environmental studies and geography. He is also a documentary maker, podcaster (recent subjects include Julius Caesar and Benjamin Franklin) and the author of 36 books including historical novels, tomes on public policy and a hagiographic Trump trilogy: Trump’s America, Understanding Trump and Electing Trump.
Andrew Ferguson, an author and staff writer for the Atlantic, said: “I don’t think there is a public political figure in America that could do what he’s done. That whole body of work, as shoddy and speculative and in some cases silly as it is, shows a level of intellectual curiosity and energy that no one in my lifetime who’s involved in politics could ever match. It’s an absolutely astounding thing that he should get credit for. It’s just unheard of.
“On the other hand, this stuff is usually done very quickly in a kind of assembly line fashion. But partly that just means the work is a victim of his own limitless energy and attention deficit disorder that has characterised his entire political life. He’s just always jumping around constantly. He absorbs information, then he does his own gloss on it and then he regurgitates it and it often doesn’t come out in the most appetising way.”
Gingrich described Collusion, co-written with the former Washington Post reporter Peter Earley over 339 pages, as “very exciting” and “a page-turner”.
It is certainly ripped from the headlines, featuring a resurgent Russian menace – the book is dedicated to “the poison victims and others who have been murdered by Russian president Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin’s regime” – divisive domestic politics and a former Navy Seal who is an opioid addict. But any reader hoping that the title is aimed at a certain American president is in for a disappointment.
“The timing, by the way, of Collusion and the Mueller report is totally coincidental,” said Gingrich as he brandished a copy at the Heritage Foundation lectern. “We had scheduled this eight months ago. Once in a while you get lucky, although it does lead to some confusion: several people have introduced me on radio shows going: ‘And now, the brand new book about the Mueller report.’ Those people had not actually looked at the book.”
Contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia, as detailed by special counsel Robert Mueller, are of less concern to the authors then Antifa and other Fox foes. In one scene, a university professor is assailed by a leftwing mob and voices conservative talking points: “Now being a liberal is all about identity politics. It’s about focusing on our differences instead of what makes us the same.
“Being color-blind is considered racist now! It’s all been flipped upside down, and it’s tearing us apart. Just look at us! … Today’s argument is that if you’re an LGBTQ black woman, your view of American society is automatically more valid than that of a straight white male. That is wrong. Logic and reason matter. Not victimization.”
If Fox News gave out literary prizes, Gingrich would sweep the board. Collusion’s back cover has an endorsement from host Sean Hannity, also a Trump champion. Gingrich’s book Days of Infamy, an alternative history of the attack on Pearl Harbor, was praised as “absolutely brilliant!” by the Fox News personality Oliver North.
But literary critics are likely to be less forgiving. At one point in Collusion, ex-Navy Seal Brett Garrett tells FBI agent Valerie Mayberry: “Listen, Mayberry. My 10 minutes is up, but I came to tell you that I’m going to get the bastard responsible and I want you to know something. Something I need to tell you. It’s not just the bureau that wants you back. We’re a good team, even if you do have a lot of really irritating habits. I’d like you back.”
At the Heritage Foundation, one of the first audience questions was about a big-screen adaptation. Gingrich admitted: “None of our books have been picked up yet, but we’re very interested in anybody who’d like to talk to us. I’ve written a number of novels now that I think would easily either be a series on Netflix or would be a movie or whatever.”
Is he bitter? Maybe a little. “But it’s interesting in Hollywood, if you make a really liberal film that doesn’t sell very well, you have greater prestige than if you make a bestselling conservative movie.”
According to those who know him, Gingrich, whose wife, Callista, is US ambassador to the Vatican, has an intellect and erudition that should not be underestimated. Rich Galen, his former press secretary and communications director, said: “The books I’ve read are pretty good. People forget he’s got a PhD in history so he’s good at doing research. He sells a lot, makes a ton of money, and deservedly so: they’re fun to read.”
Gingrich is a speed reader who can finish a book in an afternoon, Galen said, and his speeches were laced with quotations thanks to an extraordinary memory. On one occasion, Galen said, he questioned how Gingrich could have remembered the exact page number of a particular line. The book was duly ordered from the Library of Congress and Gingrich was proved right.
“How long do you want to play this game?” he asked.
Others in Washington are more sceptical. Sidney Blumenthal, a political historian and former assistant and senior adviser to Clinton, said: “I am afraid I have not wasted my limited time on Earth on Newt Gingrich’s oeuvre. Life is short, art is long, Gingrich doesn’t fit.”
The original content can be found here: Newt Gingrich resists irrelevance with new novel ripped from headlines