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Thursday, Dec. 15, 2011 07:02 am

The deep shallowness of Professor Gingrich

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Mea culpa, I misspoke, my bad – I stand corrected.

In past commentaries, I have called Newt Gingrich a lobbyist. Apparently, he hates that tag, even though he has indeed gotten very wealthy by taking big bucks from such special interest outfits as IBM, AstraZeneca, Microsoft and Siemens in exchange for helping them get favors from federal and state governments. But Gingrich, his lawyers and staff adamantly insist that it’s rude and crude to call him a lobbyist. No-no, they bark, The Newt is – ta-da! – “a visionary.”

Major corporations, they explain, pay up to $200,000 a year to the corrupt former House speaker’s policy center, seeking nothing more from Newt than the sheer privilege of bathing in the soothing enlightenment of his transformative vision. Also, as the man himself constantly reminds everyone, he has a Ph By-God D. So he’s “Dr. Newt,” the certified visionary.

Yet the sales pitch to lure potential corporate clients to his center makes crystal clear that the visionary services he offers entail precisely doing what (excuse the term) lobbyists do. For example, the center brags that Newt has “contacts at the highest levels” of government, and that being a paying customer “increases your channels of input to decision makers.” One corporate chieftain who hired the well-connected Washington insider for $7,500 a month (plus giving him stock options) says that Gingrich “made it very clear to us that he does not lobby, but that he could direct us to the right places in Washington.”

So, Mr. DoNotCallMeALobbyist is, in fact, selling his government contacts and peddling his political influence. But he does not lobby. Instead, we’re told that he directs, makes calls, arranges meetings, opens doors – and, of course, has visions.

I’m glad we got that cleared up. From now on, I’ll call Newt what he is: a Washington influence-peddler. Yes, that’s much better.

These days, Gingrich is having visions of sugarplums dancing in his head.

As you probably know, he’s the latest front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination. But he has also adopted a theatrical pose appropriate for this Christmas season – not as the bright star in the East guiding the Wise Men to the Biblical manger, nor as jolly ol’ St. Nick bringing joy to children everywhere. No, no, Newt has cast himself as Scrooge. Only scroogier.

Channeling his inner Ebenezer, the Newt recently called America’s child labor laws “truly stupid,” adding with Dickensian glee that he would fire school janitors and have low-income 9-year-olds do that work. Really? The top GOP contender for president of the U.S.A. actually advocates turning poor school kids into janitors?

Why, yes, explained the former professor. “Start with the following two facts,” he lectured at an Iowa campaign stop. “Really poor children in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works. So they literally have no habit of showing up on Monday. ... They have no habit of ‘I do this, and you give me cash’ – unless it’s illegal.” Thus, speaketh the visionary, chain ’em to mop and teach the little ragamuffins about life.

Did I mention that this guy is a candidate for president? Of the United States? In 2012, not in 1812?

Dr. Newt is a cluster-bomb of ignorance. First, three out of four poor adults work, and most poor children are in households with at least one of their parents showing up every Monday for a job.

And Gingrich’s condescending implication that poverty equals bad morals is not only wrong, but frighteningly shallow, elitist, out-of-touch, clueless, stupid ... and, well, Scroogy.

If the professor wants to see bad morals in action, he shouldn’t be looking down on poor people, but pointing up at Wall Streeters and CEOs who’re profiting by creating more poor people. But Newt’s not about to point them out – just days after he trashed “really poor children,” he scooted up to Wall Street dragging a sock for campaign donations.

The question for Republicans is, do you really want to nominate Scrooge for president?

Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, columnist and author.


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