Newt Privately Groused About Reagan: Records

Little-explored documents reveal other choice tidbits
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 20, 2012 9:22 AM CST
Newt Privately Groused About Reagan: Records
Newt Gingrich gestures while speaking to an audience at an event billed by his campaign as a 'Hispanic Leadership Event' in South El Monte, east of Los Angeles, on February 13, 2012 in California.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – Newt Gingrich likes to compare himself to Ronald Reagan, but little-noticed documents from his decades in government reveal choice tidbits from Gingrich like this one: "Really, Reaganomics has failed." The thousands of documents were compiled by a Gingrich aide, archived at a university, and recently examined by the Washington Post. Another transcript of a 1992 speech has Gingrich explaining that Reagan's "weakness" was that "he didn’t think government mattered. … The Reagan failure was to grossly undervalue the centrality of government as the organizing mechanism for reinforcing societal behavior." And a former Gingrich chief of staff noted, at a meeting in 1983, that Gingrich called Reagan and his "people … stupid all the time," according to that transcript. More from the documents:

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  • Gingrich started out moderate-to-liberal, shifting to the right when he saw it would be advantageous. In 1970, he applied to teach at West Georgia College and described himself as a "progressive." By 1974, he was calling himself a "common-sense conservative," but his run for office included many liberal positions such as beefing up Medicare benefits and reducing tax loopholes for the wealthy. He even ran as an environmentalist, the Post notes. After losing that 1974 run, during a 1976 run he opposed limiting abortions.
  • Gingrich finally won election to Congress in 1978. In 1979, he said that his job was "to save Western civilization."
  • The documents show that Gingrich publicly called for spending cuts, but privately pushed government funding.
  • A 1982 memo shows that Gingrich's then-aide said his boss's position on abortion was dependent on "whatever side yelled at you last." That same aide later said in an interview that Gingrich "is not any kind of an ideological conservative."
  • A staff member called Gingrich "the big man" in a memo from 1984; in response, Gingrich wrote, "The big man? I am on Scarsdale," which was likely a reference to the Scarsdale diet.
  • He once proposed unionizing workers in space and building a mine on the moon.
  • Last but certainly not least: One undated handwritten note from a former aide refers to Gingrich's first wife, Jackie, around the time of their divorce: "Jackie … pizza in face, poured the drink on him."
(Read more Newt Gingrich stories.)

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