Saturday, March 07, 2009


This doesn't relate to anything in particular that's going on right now, but (for reasons too complicated to explain) I found myself thinking today about a very odd Newt Gingrich story from the mid-1990s. I looked it up, and it was just as bizarre as I remembered it being:

In the midst of a chaotic afternoon in which House members traded barbs over Newt Gingrich's book deal, Representative Patricia Schroeder paused to reflect on the Speaker's ideas about the roles of men and women in military combat.

While teaching his history course at Reinhardt College in Georgia a couple of weeks ago, Ms. Schroeder noted, Mr. Gingrich had expressed some thoughts on the subject.

If combat means being in a ditch, he told his class, "females have biological problems staying in a ditch for 30 days because they get infections, and they don't have upper body strength."

Men, he said, "are basically little piglets; you drop them in the ditch, they roll around in it."

And yet, he went on, if being in combat "means being on an Aegis class cruiser managing the computer controls for 12 ships and their rockets, a female again may be dramatically better than a male who gets very, very frustrated sitting in a chair all the time because males are biologically driven to go out and hunt giraffes."

And it suddenly occurred to me: Newt Gingrich is Dwight Schrute.

Yeah, I know -- I've described Christopher Hitchens as Schrute-like. But I think Newt beats him.

There was a Schrute moment in last week's New York Times Magazine story by Matt Bai:

At one point, I asked Gingrich, now a healthful-looking 65, about his sudden exit from Congress in 1998. "First of all, in the Toynbeean sense, I believe in departure and return," he told me.

"In the what sense?" I asked.

"Arnold Toynbee," he replied matter-of-factly, as if no one would walk into his office without having read "Lectures on the Industrial Revolution in England." "I believe in the sense that, you know, De Gaulle had to go to Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises for 11 years."

"I'm sorry?"

"Departure and return. And someone once said to me, if you don't leave, you can't come back, because you've never left."

I was still trying to process this nugget when the slouching Gingrich, now onto a point about steel plants closing, jolted upright. "The 1913 Girl Scouts manual!" he said, or at least that's what it sounded like. "Which I should get a copy of." He punched a button on his phone and dialed his assistant.

"Yes, sir?"

"Can you get me about four copies of the 1913 Girl Scouts manual, 'How Girls Can Help Their Country'?" Gingrich asked. There was a long pause on the other end.


"I think it's on Amazon," Gingrich said helpfully. He leaned back and proceeded to explain to me that the Girl Scouts manual contained a recommendation that every girl learn to perform two jobs, just in case one of them went away. What we needed, apparently, were more steelworkers who belonged to the Girl Scouts.

Pure Schrute. All he needs is a ninja throwing star, and the self-deluding rescue fantasy to go with it. No wait, I think he already has that fantasy, in spades.

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