Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Newt and the War of the Worlds

With his assertion that the Middle East is ablaze with the flames of World War III, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has successfully raised the hackles of your blogstress's many friends on the left. Your cybertrix, however, takes some pride in having suggested just that, days before Gingrich made his declaration. The difference between your Webwench and Newt (other than, presumably, the bustier) is that election strategy did not enter into your écrivaine's calculation, as it did into Newt's. (See Matt Stoller.)

A word to her progressive friends: The problem with Newt is that he's occasionally right -- and not in that broken-clock-twice-a-day way. To dismiss out of hand everything he says just because he says it never gets one very far.

The trick with Newt to pay very close attention, as Mr. Stoller did. Look not only for the ruthlessness, but also for the inherent contradictions in the whole of his body of orally disseminated work. He's so often off the cuff that he's prone to screwing up.

In a most delicious moment during the 1996 presidential campaign -- the last time Mr. Gingrich tested the waters for a presidential run -- your cyberscribe tripped him up simply by having paid attention to two speeches he made to two different groups, each of which represented one of the two major wings of the Republican Party: the religious right, and the business lobby. From "The Evolution of Al Gore" by yours truly:

As luck would have it, I was in New Hampshire at the time for Mother Jones, reporting a story on the takeover of a local school board by religious enthusiasts who were seeking to plant creationism in the local science curriculum. At a press conference, I asked Gingrich how he managed to square his support of the creationists with his vision of a high-tech America in which U.S. students were second to none in the fields of math and science.

"I think you can certainly refer to both creationism and evolution as something that people ought to be aware of -- together," Gingrich replied. "If you look at chaos theory and the degree to which the certainty of the 19th century is beginning to be replaced, I don't think there's any problem with teaching both."

In other words, because scientific theory is subject to its own evolution -- change that sometimes demands the discard of earlier theories -- what's the problem with presenting an idea that has no basis in science as equal to hypotheses that are rooted in scientific discovery?
To sum up: Don't do a knee jerk when Mr. Gingrich lobs his rhetorical grenades; step back, take a breath, and do a Google search. The results will be so much more rewarding.

Sphere: Related Content