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June 01, 2007

Newt's New Ideas

It's just that Newt has no new ideas, it's that his ability to convince the media otherwise exposes the bankruptcy of the whole new ideas concept. After all: Newt's health savings accounts might as well be new. It's not as if more than a dozen Americans even understand how health savings accounts work in the first place. And this goes for most policies. Newt could champion tort reform and, if Tim Russert wanted to call it blindingly brilliant and inventive, it's not clear who'd stop him.

In a media landscape where nobody bothers to explain policies, all policies may be new, or they may be old, or they may be stolen, or unworkable, or brilliant. All that matters is the appended adjectives. Given that there aren't media protocols for routinely talking through the details and evaluating the worth of policy proposals, they exist entirely in terms of their throwaway descriptors, which are in turn functions of candidate narratives, atmospherics, the reporter's familiarity with the concepts at hand, etc. And because fairly few reporters are actually policy experts, it's sadly easy to construct a reputation for big thinking out of loud talking. Newt can spin old ideas into new ones because we have a media that doesn't much traffic in ideas, and thus doesn't know how to tell the difference. What they do know is that most candidates don't talk about policies, and Newt does, and that makes him different. That his policies are generally bad is, again, a level of analysis we rarely reach.

June 1, 2007 | Permalink


This post immediately reminded me of a great passage near the beginning of The Screwtape Letters. Screwtape, a kind of middle manager in hell, is advising a subordinate on how to manipulate human beings: "He doesn't think of doctrines as primarily 'true' or 'false,' but as 'academic,' or 'practical,' 'outworn' or 'contemporary,' 'conventional' or 'ruthless.' Don't waste time trying to make him think that materialism is true! Make him think it is strong or stark or courageous -- that it is the philosophy of the future. That's the sort of thing he cares about."

Posted by: Kevin | Jun 1, 2007 7:34:52 PM

A failed junior college professor with delusions of grandeur bloviating endlessly about the future which we will face by using 19th century nostrums recycled as new ideas. And yes, please, please, please let him run on privatizing Social Security. It will be like 1964 all over again.

The alleged "new ideas" of the GOP have mostly been warmed over items from the agendas of William McKinley and Warren G. Harding. A new era combining the worsts of the Guilded Age and the age of Laissez-faire. What could go wrong?

As for Gingrich, his brain should be well preserved as he uses it rarely. What an arrogant, know nothing asshole he is.

Posted by: Klein's tiny left nut | Jun 1, 2007 9:56:53 PM

Each generation and electoral season we get the epitome of "Has Been" appearing on the public scene. Newt the Has Been sounds just right.


Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Jun 1, 2007 11:08:16 PM

And because fairly few reporters are actually policy experts...

Actually fairly few reporters have greater intelligence than a seventh grader.

Posted by: Col Bat Guano | Jun 3, 2007 12:10:48 AM

"What they do know is that most candidates don't talk about policies..."

Is that really true???

Posted by: gob | Jun 4, 2007 1:15:24 PM

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