Monday, December 18, 2006

Newt Gingrich--what a swell guy! (Part 5--ego and personality)

Overview

This post will show what Newt thinks about Newt, along with a few other aspects of his personality. On the one hand, Newt has a mighty high opinion of himself and his role in life, and on the other hand, he has said things about himself that show reasons why he is not a strong leader. And there are plenty of things said by others--including people who worked with him--showing that he is not a strong leader and certainly not cut out to be an effective President.

Newt likes him some Newt

Gingrich's political career began in 1973, when he decided to make his first run for Congress. From the very start of his political career in 1973 (the first time he ran for Congress), Gingrich had lofty, if not admirable, goals. As Gail Sheehy noted in her September 1995 Vanity Fair article, Gingrich told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that "[My ambition] is to be an old-time political boss in 20 years."

Peter Boyer's July 1989 Vanity Fair article described something Gingrich said to the Washington Post in 1985. Gingrich was still giddy after the 1984 GOP convention, where Gingrich convinced Reagan's speechwriters to use his (Newt's) phrase "opportunity society" in Reagan's speech. Here's part of what Gingrich said to the Washington Post:
"I have an enormous personal ambition. I want to shift the entire planet. And I'm doing it. Ronald Reagan just used the term "opportunity society" and that didn't exist four years ago. I just had breakfast with Darman and Stockman because I'm unavoidable. I represent real power."
(emphasis added). Gail Sheehy, in her September 1995 Vanity Fair article, cited more of what Newt said to the Washington Post: "Oh, this is just the beginning of a 20-or-30-year movement. I'll get credit for it..."

Boyer also described something Gingrich said after the White House Correspondents dinner in 1989:
Gingrich makes an appearance on a public-television talk show, where he says that God has given him a mission: "To find honest self-government and to survive as a free people."
(emphasis added). So Newt declared he was on a "mission from God." Moreover, as shown in Parts 1-3, Gingrich claiming that his holy task was to "find honest self-government" was BS. And I will show further evidence of that in Part 6.

Until then, know that Gingrich also has compared himself to a famous historical figure, according to Sheehy's article:
"I'm a mythical person," says Newt, no stranger to revolutions. "I had a period of thinking that I would have been called 'Newt the McPherson,' as in Robert the Bruce." He is referring to his childhood, when he strongly identified with his biological father, Newton McPherson.

"Robert the Bruce," Newt continues, "is the guy who would not, could not, avoid fighting...He carried the burden of being Scotland." Like the Bruce, Newt feels he must carry the burden of being his nation.
Yeah, they can never take away his ego. So, Newt his ownself thinks he is an unavoidable mythical being with real power who is going to be an old-time political boss who will get credit for shifting the entire planet because he is on a mission from God.

Like I said--Newt likes him some Newt.

But wait...there's more.

From almost the beginning, Gingrich has wanted the big prize--the Presidency. Sheehy reported that soon after Gingrich lost his second race for Congress in 1976, he and his minions "began to plot a presidential run scheduled for 2000 or 2004. According to a close source, 'We were all discussing the timing, his age, working out the one-term and two-term presidencies in between. I think the plan is still going. I think he will be president.'"

Well, the timetable is now slightly off, but Gingrich is making a run for the nation's top office, and he is trying to make it look like he has been anointed to make the run. Here's what Gingrich told Fortune magazine for a November 21, 2006, article: "I am not 'running' for president. I am seeking to create a movement to win the future by offering a series of solutions so compelling that if the American people say I have to be president, it will happen." Gingrich went on to explain that this means that
he plans to create a draft-Newt "wave" by building grassroots support for his health care, national security and energy independence ideas - all of which he has been peddling to corporate audiences over the past six years. "Nice people," Gingrich says of his GOP competitors. "But we're not in the same business. They're running for president. I'm running to change the country."
In other words, Gingrich is seeking to prove that he is on a mission from God. He doesn't want to run--he will have to run.

In late July 2003, I got involved in a draft movement that sought to get Wes Clark to run for President. While one might argue that it was not a true "draft" effort, I do know that it was started basically by two people, that Clark was not considering a Presidential run before the movement started, and the movement grew and grew. I also know that Clark was not traveling across the nation trying to create a draft movement. I was a small part of the Draft Clark movement, but once he officially got in the race, I spent a lot of time and energy campaigning for him. I am biased, but I have met and briefly spoken with Wes Clark, and in my opinion Newt Gingrich is no Wes Clark. But I digress...

The point is that Gingrich has seen his own destiny as being President.

And there are many reasons why his personality and demeanor are wrong for that office.

Gingrich's ego and personality are problematical, to say the least.

Unless otherwise noted, the source for this section is Sheehy's article. I encourage everyone to read the whole article, which gives a lot of detail into Gingrich's past, which could explain some of his personality traits. My point is that regardless of whether there is an explanation for his overall personality, or whether one should sympathize with him, the traits he and others have described are not ones I want in a President.
  • Gingrich's descriptions of himself.
Sheehy reported that Gingrich "once called himself 'a psychodrama living out a fantasy.'" (emphasis added). Gingrich added "I found a way to immerse my insecurities in a cause large enough to justify whatever I wanted it to." Who wants that for a President? Anyone? Bueller?

And this Newsweek article from just a few weeks ago reported that in the middle of the Clinton scandals, Gingrich stated "I'm not a natural leader. I'm a natural intellectual gadfly." So why does Gingrich want to be in a position that demands significant leadership skills?
  • Gingrich's mother and stepmother
In September 1995, Sheehy wrote the following:
Until he reaches his "impossibly high ideal," Newt will remain the unacknowledged child. Many observers see the child at the center of Newt. "Newtie is still a kid," admits Kit (Gingrich). Marcella McPherson agrees: "Newtie wants things Newtie's way...If he wants something, he wants it now. Newtie was always for Newtie."
I think we have had enough of this in a President already. We don't need any more.
  • Other people who know Gingrinch
Mary Kahn was a reporter who covered Newt in the mid-1970s, and she was also married to Chip Kahn, who happened to be Gingrich's campaign manager in the early 1980s. She told Sheehy that "Newt Gingrich is playing out a personal agenda in a public forum, and it threatens the safety, health, and security of our most vulnerable people. And that's what frightens me about him. Someday he might be president."

I mentioned in Part 4 that Dot Crews was Gingrich's campaign scheduler through the 70s. In addition to describing some of Gingrich's extramarital activities, she told Sheehy the following:
"Looking back on everything, Newt was always focused on his agenda. It was not about political philosophy with Newt--never. If the country today were to move to the left, Newt would sense it before it started happening and lead the way."
In other words, Newt's agenda is whatever it takes for Newt to succeed.

Frank Gregorsky began working for Newt in 1978 while still in college and served as his chief of staff in the early 1980s. According to him,
"All of his colleagues have had the rug pulled out from under them enough to know that Newt's a bright bulb with no dimmer switch. It's either on or off...either pitch-black or you're blinded by the light...He can't modulate or nuance or taper."
In general, having a President with no internal filter or regulator and who lacks nuance is a bad idea. In particular, that is exactly what we have had for almost six years, and we damn sure don't need any more.

The problem with the lack of a "dimmer switch" is examined in the next subsection.
  • Leadership and management style
Gingrich has had a problem with leading, managing, and getting things done in the past.

He has often been described as captivating and dynamic as a speaker, and when it comes to partisan rhetoric and catchy slogans, Gingrich has always been good, but beyond that he has problems, and Sheehy gave a good overview of them:
Unlike Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich cannot easily transmit empathy to the camera or a gathered audience. Like Nixon, he does not easily communicate sympathy, trustworthiness, or compassion. His eyes do not meet the camera. He meets the world with the gaze of an outsider whose attention is inwardly engaged. People willingly give to Newt for quite an extended period of time because they are electrified by his tenacity and vision. But as time passes and they expect their relationship with the man to deepen, it doesn't.
(empahsis added). The emphasized portion of the above description is what really concerns me. The President of the United States will be outwardly engaged, whether he wants to be or not. One cannot be inwardly engaged the majority of the time. The President simply does not have that luxury. Some might say that Gingrich's above-referenced teancity and vision mean that he is outwardly engaged. However, as shown below, that engagement has been no more than Gingrich talking at people. It has not been truly engaging with other people.

Sheehy described Gingrich's leadership style as being like Gen. George Patton's and that such style "allows Newt to see a hole and drive straight through it[, but] does not lend itself to winning friends or building lasting coalitions based on loyalty." (emphasis added) In my view, winning friends and building lasting coalitions are essential to being an effective President. Moreover, they are part of what a President is supposed to do. These things have been difficult for Gingrich in the past because he has admitted he lacks the ability to easily connect with people.

At the time of Sheehy's article, Eddie Mahe had been the Deputy Chair of the Republican National Committee, after which he became the head of a consulting firm and a long-time advisor to Gingrich. Mahe said that Gingrich "doesn't do friendship." This assessment was echoed by Vin Weber, who, like Gingrich, was one of the "Young Turks," the group of young Republican members of the House in the late 1970s and early 1980s. According to Sheehy's article, "Weber[] has also admitted that Newt has problems with interpersonal relationships. 'I told him so every day,' Weber remarks." Is it a good idea to have a President who lacks good interpersonal skills? The lack has had a direct impact on what kind of bosss he has been in the past.

After Sheehy wrote "they expect their relationship with the man to deepen, it doesn't," she wrote the following:
And when he is finished using them, he moves on, discarding former loyalists like so much used ammo. Gingrich routinely dismisses any negative public statements as the work of disgruntled former employees, but the depth of feeling among his former allies is remarkable. "There are no former disgruntled employees," says Dot Crews. "We're all just sorry that we ever went to work for him in the first place and that we didn't get out sooner."
For those who might think Crews is nothing more than a disgruntled employee, consider how Gingrich's work behavior might affect you.
Ladonna Lee, president of the Eddie Mahe Company, did many projects with Newt in the 80s. She sums up one aspect of his people problem this way: "He's a very tough taskmaster. A lot of different people who have been his chief of staff or A.A., no matter how well they do, it's never enough."

Newt's style of leadership, described by Eddie Mahe as "the mountaintop philosophy," may be a further complication. Says Ladonna Lee, "He would always get people started on a project or a vision, and we're all slugging up the mountain to accomplish it. Newt's nowhere to be found...He's gone on to the next mountaintop."

Echoes Dolores Adamson, "He would say, 'You have to understand that I am a think tank, I can save the West, and when I come up with a new idea, we need to move on it immediately.' We'd have this big project going, and all of a sudden it just faded away. Everybody went into swarms to try and get something accomplished. And then he turned on them and did something else."

Vin Weber says, "I never saw a lot of crackpot ideas. I saw a lot of good ideas. But there was difficulty in assessing a cost-benefit ratio. Even if every idea is good, resources are limited. With Newt, it didn't matter if we were overreaching, we had to do everything."
(emphasis added). I think most people would grow weary of a boss who not only would not allow them to complete a given project, but would demand that they finish any and all projects he could come up with. My concern is not that this makes Gingrich a difficult boss. My concern is that here is another aspect to the "no dimmer switch" part of Gingrich's personality. It seems that Gingrich has no filter, no sense of priority, and no discipline regarding starting and finishing a job. That is not Presidential material.

Conclusion

Gingrich has an oversized ego with a sense of divine destiny that he is supposed to be President. Yet he described himself as being an intellectual gadfly and not a natural leader. His primary concern is his own agenda and achieving it. He has poor interpersonal skills. He is not a good boss because he is a taskmaster who is impossible to please and he makes it impossible for people to get their work done. He is full of ideas that never come to fruition because he does not see anything through. These facts alone are reason enough why he should not be President, but there is one more that is the proverbial icing on the cake.

Recall that Gingrich his ownself said that he was "a psychodrama living out a fantasy." Sheehy's concluding paragraphs revisit that description.
Perhaps Gingrich doesn't quite believe the mythology in which he has cloaked his long, unglamorous march to the top of the Hill. As was the case with Gary Hart before him, one part of Newt is truly confident that he would make a magnificent national leader. But there may be an inner voice of doubt --the voice of the past, Big Newt and Bob Gingrich-- which is silenced only by the attempt to prove he is so worthy, so tough, so heroic that he is above the rules that apply to ordinary mortals.

But what happens to the country while Newt Gingrich immerses his insecurities in a cause meant to justify himself?
We do not need to find out.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Ray said...

OK, you've convinced me Hillary is the right man for the job.

12/19/2006 6:59 PM  
Blogger WCharles said...

That's funny on multiple levels...

I feel that, to varying degrees, Hillary shares some characteristics with Newt.

And for anyone new to this blog, I am not a Hillary fan.

12/19/2006 7:43 PM  

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