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DPReview Digital Photography. East Dane Designer Men's Fashion. Shopbop Designer Fashion Brands. Deals and Shenanigans. Ring Smart Home Security Systems. I asked Cantor whether Gingrich was giving him useful advice for how to navigate the current moment. Like most everyone else, I had assumed that Republicans were confronting a single, difficult question: How do you contrast yourself favorably with a wildly popular new president at a time of great urgency when you yourself are about as popular as acne? In the weeks after my meeting with Cantor, Congressional Democrats began to discern the outlines of this strategy as well, complaining that Republicans were trying to drive a wedge between them and Obama by appearing to embrace the president while criticizing the ideological rigidity of his party.

As Gingrich explained it to me back in November, just after the election, what he had been preaching to Cantor and other House Republicans was actually more radical than that. Gingrich, who likes to reduce the world to binary options, saw two basic paths for Obama: either he was going to cater to interest groups and his Congressional wing, or he was going to take a more centrist, more reformist approach to governing. If he chose Door No. But he said he was betting that Obama would take the second approach — that he meant what he said about leaving the old doctrines behind and intended to govern in a way that might fundamentally realign American politics.

He was telling them that if Obama was going to move far enough in their direction, their best play — and maybe their only play — was actually to team up with him on legislation if they could. I have no interest in being an opposition party. Obama came to the Hill for a minute meeting and seemed apologetic, according to Republicans who participated, for the way the House minority had been shut out of the rule-making process.

Cantor led an economic working group in coming up with alternative ideas for the bill — basically the kind of deep tax cuts the Democrats had already rejected — and he and Boehner then delivered them to the president.

Whatever actual resolve Republicans may have had to work across party lines seemed to dissolve overnight, and they reverted to the more familiar stance of reflexive opposition. Obama himself, sounding markedly less bipartisan, skewered the diminished G. It turned out that they actually could stand up to Obama, soaring approval ratings and all, and live to see another vote, and that provided a psychological boost to a minority party that had seemed cowed and confused. Just as important, judging from the polls and media coverage, they had at least managed to introduce a reasonable doubt about the stimulus plan into the jury box of public opinion, a note of skepticism that might linger in the months ahead.

Republicans had taken the calculated risk, of course, that if the economy improved, Democrats would throw the vote back at them in the elections. But at least now, having presented a philosophical alternative, they could run against the bill in if it turned out only to swell the deficit without creating the jobs that Obama had forecast.

The night after lodging their protest against the bill on the House floor, Republican congressmen arrived at a retreat in Virginia feeling jubilant for the first time since before the presidential campaign. Having seen his engage-and-divide strategy founder almost immediately when it came to the stimulus, Gingrich seemed to have changed his mind about Obama and resorted to his more instinctual, more confrontational cast.

No longer did he talk of Obama as the kind of centrist guy you could get your arms around. Now was the time for Republicans to rediscover their principles, Gingrich told the congressmen. At one point, he likened himself, lightheartedly, to Moses. Interviewing Gingrich, as I did on three occasions recently, is like stopping by the office of your thesis adviser when your thesis adviser has better things to do with his time. Polite but impatient, Gingrich answers most questions pedagogically, with impromptu seminars on history or social theory.

It seems important to him that you know how much he knows — which, truth be told, is quite a lot. There are moments when this routine can verge on the absurd, like something out of a Ricky Gervais sketch.

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At one point, I asked Gingrich, now a healthful-looking 65, about his sudden exit from Congress in There was a long pause on the other end. 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.

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What we needed, apparently, were more steelworkers who belonged to the Girl Scouts. From the day he arrived and began ascending the levels of leadership, Gingrich was the one guy who woke up every morning determined to reverse the flow of history. If people ran simplistically, he made it more complicated. If people ran by telling you why their opponents stunk, he ran by telling you why his side was better.

He did the opposite of everything that had been done up to then, because everything up to then had been a disaster. But whether the igniter was impeachment or the budget shutdown, everyone agrees that it was probably as much an issue of temperament as of circumstance. Possessed of a chaotic mind that moves from one obsession to the next, Gingrich flailed from objective to objective, while his missteps came to dominate the news.


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Then, too, there was the question of what to do with power. Gingrich has often been prescient in his thinking about social change. This was when most of America was just discovering the Commodore Gingrich also predicted that factories would soon be making alloy metals in space, although he did say that this could happen only if we pursued the right policies, which, clearly, we did not. And yet, in his machinations to bring his party back to power, Gingrich became preoccupied with process.

The Contract With America was mostly a call to reform the institution of Congress; moving beyond it, turning the corner from rebellion to governance, required workable ideas beyond slashing programs and taxes. When Gingrich looks back now on the days after his resignation, he sounds genuinely relieved. I got it.

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Freed from the constraints of governing, Gingrich turned chiefly to two pursuits: making money, which he did through speeches and television punditry, and exploring ideas, especially in the realm of technology and modernization. The jewels of his small empire on K Street are his two policy centers: the Center for Health Transformation, which is actually a for-profit association of health care providers, and the newer American Solutions, which churns out research on a broader array of issues.

They like the security and the comfort of a well-thought-out, highly boring boardroom meeting in which they do a PowerPoint once. You have far fewer delays in New York, and by the way, you cut the number of unionized air-traffic controllers by 7, But it was hard to imagine Republicans outflanking Obama, as we stood on the brink of global panic, by promising a better on-time ratio for Delta.

This has long been the chief criticism of Gingrich among those who share his ideological convictions — that there is a randomness to his brilliance, a lack of prioritization or discipline.

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The ideas Gingrich promotes seem to rotate every few weeks, depending on the book he has just torn through or the especially illuminating conversation he has just had, or simply on where his earnest fascination with policy has taken him this morning. Rather, the new-model Newt seems to be pursuing a ruthlessly responsive, almost-wikified brand of politics. Gingrich told me he has identified about ideas and positions that command anywhere from 62 percent to 93 percent support among such a cross-section of voters: giving out tax credits for installing alternative heating sources in your home 90 percent ; awarding cash prizes to anyone who invents a car that gets miles to the gallon 77 percent ; keeping God in the Pledge of Allegiance 88 percent.

What must be obvious even to Gingrich is that none of these calculations have much to do with what his acolytes in Congress want from him right now. Rather, what Republicans on the Hill value about Gingrich is that he has something to say about every issue, a parry for every feint, a sense of certainty and plainspokenness in confronting policy issues that most Republicans have either ignored for a decade or reduced to hopelessly leaden detail.

Gingrich thinks about ideas strategically, as a way of countering his opponents or wooing new constituencies, and this is something Republicans have failed to do almost from the day he left Capitol Hill. The Democratic establishment in was under assault from online activists who demanded that the party modernize its message and appeal to voters in all 50 states; now conservative blogs like The Next Right and The New Majority are making the exact same argument daily.

The conversation dominating Republican politics is how to rebuild. There are no neatly distinct schools of thought in this inchoate debate. The retrenchers see the Bush era principally as a cautionary tale in forgetting where you came from. Republicans lost the public not because their ideology became less relevant or less credible, the retrenchers argue, but because it was twisted in the morass of governing. The only way back, then, is for the party to rededicate itself either to fiscal conservatism or social conservatism or some combination of the two, which means, first and foremost, exposing Obama and Democrats on the Hill for the elitist liberals they really are.

I got a sense of what this kind of combative approach might sound like when I called Grover Norquist, the anti-tax zealot who convenes a weekly meeting of influential Republican operatives.