Newt Gingrich

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Newt Gingrich

Newton Leroy Gingrich (born June 17, 1943) is an American politician who is best known as the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 1995 to 1999. In 1995 he was named Time Magazine's Man of the Year.

He was born Newton McPherson in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the son of Kathleen and Newton McPherson. His parents separated soon after Newt's birth, and his mother raised him by herself until she married Robert Gingrich, who adopted Newt, hence the name change. Gingrich has a younger half-sister, Candace Gingrich, whom he rarely saw growing up (he was a young adult by the time of her birth).

Gingrich's adopted surname has been generally pronounced "Ging-gritch" since his entry into public life. However, his adoptive family has always pronounced the name "Gin-grick," as would be customary in the Pennsylvania Dutch ethnic milieu.



Gingrich attended school at various military installations and graduated from Baker High School, Columbus, Georgia, in 1961. He received a bachelor's degree from Emory University in Atlanta in 1965. He received a master's degree in 1968 and doctoral degree in 1971 in Modern European History from Tulane University in New Orleans. He taught history at West Georgia College in Carrollton, Georgia, from 1970 to 1978.

Political career

After two failed runs for Congress in 1974 and 1976 in which Gingrich was defeated by Democrat Jack Flynt, who had served twenty years as the Georgia 6th District Representative, Gingrich was elected as a Republican to the House of Representatives in November 1978. In this election, after Flynt's retirement, Gingrich faced Democrat Virginia Shapard, a Georgia State Senator. Gingrich went on to serve ten terms in Congress and became a national leader of the conservative Republican movement while engendering notable political and personal criticism from his opponents; his detractors have accused him of contributing to political polarization.

In 1981, Gingrich was a cofounder of both the Congressional Military Reform Caucus and the Congressional Space Caucus. In 1983 he founded the Conservative Opportunity Society, a group that included young conservative House Republicans. In 1983, Gingrich demanded the expulsion of fellow representatives Dan Crane and Gerry Studds for their roles in the Congressional Page sex scandal.

In 1987, Gingrich brought ethics charges against Speaker of the House Jim Wright, a Democrat, who eventually resigned as a result of the Congressional ethics inquiry. Gingrich's success was in part responsible for his rising influence in the Republican caucus, and in 1989 he served as minority whip, succeeding Representative Dick Cheney, who had been appointed Secretary of Defense by President George H. W. Bush. Gingrich served as Minority Whip until the election of 1994, the first midterm election during the Presidency of Bill Clinton.

Gingrich only faced one tough election, in 1990. During the 1990s round of redistricting, Democrats in the Georgia state legislature tried to draw Gingrich's district out from under him by splitting most of his old territory among two other districts. The new 6th district, based in Cobb and Fulton counties, was heavily Republican, but included none of Gingrich's former territory. However, the strategy backfired when Gingrich moved to the new district and won easily.

In 1994, Gingrich defined a Contract with America, a list of campaign promises signed by himself and other Republican candidates for the House of Representatives. The promises were designed to unite the various factions of the party and provide a contrast with the policies of the Democratic Party. Many credit that contract (as well as demographic trends) for the election successes of November 1994. In that election, Republicans gained 54 seats and took control of the House for the first time since 1954.

Gingrich was then elected Speaker of the United States House of Representatives and served from 1995 to 1998. The Congress fulfilled Gingrich's Contract, voting on all ten of the Contract's issues within the first 100 days of the session. Legislation proposed by the 104th Congress included term limits for Congressional Representatives, tax cuts, welfare reform, and a balanced budget law, as well as independent financial auditing of the finances of the House of Representatives and elimination of non-essential services such as the House barbershop and shoe shine concessions.

While many of the major proposals did not become law, after defeat or modification in the Senate or President Clinton's veto, they represented a dramatic change in the legislative goals and priorities of previous Congresses and in general promoted Gingrich's conservative philosophy of limited government.

Over the next four years, Gingrich's leadership also took aim at the embattled president, investigating various scandals and calling for impeachment of President Clinton.

In January of 1997, the full House (by a 395-28 vote) reprimanded Gingrich and fined him $300,000. The sanctions were for "intentional or ... reckless" disregard of House rules by using tax-exempt foundations for political purposes and subsequently lying to the House ethics committee.

After the 1998 election campaign, in which the Republicans expected big gains but ultimately showed the poorest results in 34 years of any party not in control of the White House, Gingrich resigned from the speakership. He'd been reelected to an 11th term, but chose not to take his seat.

Personal life

Many critics of Gingrich have noted that while his party hammered President Bill Clinton over the Lewinsky scandal, that Gingrich himself had a history of questionable personal conduct.

In 1981 Gingrich reportedly informed his first wife, Jackie Battley, that he wanted a divorce just as she had received a diagnosis of cancer. Gingrich and Marianne Ginther were married months later.

Also, during the very time of the Lewinsky scandal, Gingrich was having an extramarital sexual affair with Callista Bisek, a scheduling and assistant hearing clerk on his staff who is 23 years his junior. The affair reportedly began well before Gingrich assumed the speakership in 1994, and continued through his divorce from his wife, Marianne Ginther Gingrich, in 1999. Reportedly, Gingrich's fellow Republicans knew he was engaged in the extramarital relationship and used that knowledge to ease him out of the speakership.

According to the Washington Post, in late 1999, Gingrich reportedly telephoned Marianne in Ohio during Marianne's mother's birthday party to inform her that he "didn't want [her] as his wife any more." There was controversy as to whether Gingrich knew whether his wife had a neurological condition that might be a "forerunner of multiple sclerosis." [1] (

Post-speakership career

Gingrich was often touted as a possible presidential candidate in the 2000 Presidential election, but this never materialized.

He has since remained involved in national politics and public policy debate. He is a senior fellow at the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute, focusing on health care (he has founded the Center for Health Transformation), information technology, the military, and politics. He is occasionally a guest or panel member on Inside-the-Beltway news shows.

Gingrich has publicly questioned the decisions and motivations for some of the policies, particularly foreign policies, of the Bush Administration. Specifically, he has challenged policy of the State Department, calling for a transformation of the department due to numerous diplomatic failures. He has also called the State Department "ineffective and incoherent" in its resolve to persuade members of the UN Security Council for a second resolution for military action against Iraq.

In early December 2003, Gingrich, although generally supportive of the Bush Administration, took issue with the administration's strategy in Iraq, stating that the U.S. had "gone off the cliff in Iraq" and that "Americans can't win in Iraq. Only Iraqis can win in Iraq." Despite this, he remained broadly supportive of President Bush's re-election campaign.

As a guest on the show Hannity and Colmes on April 19, 2005, Gingrich stirred controversy when he claimed that "far more of the 9/11 terrorists came across from Canada than from Mexico." As none of the 19 hijackers entered the U.S. from either Canada or Mexico, Canadian ambassador Frank McKenna requested an apology, which Gingrich promptly gave, saying he deeply regretted what had become a "widespread inaccuracy."

Presidential ambitions

Gingrich has written a book titled Winning the Future: A 21st Century Contract with America, released on January 10, 2005. He has hinted at the possibility of running for President in 2008 stating "anything's possible" and "I don't think it's very likely. On the other hand, if I have an impact on public policy and do it in a way that is exciting and positive, why wouldn't I want to do that?" He is currently (as of 2005) engaged in a national tour to promote his book, including visits to traditionally small book markets — but early Primary season states — Iowa and New Hampshire to promote the book. Some have interpreted the Presidential speculation as an excellent means of book promotion, while others have interpreted the book tour as an excellent means of floating his candidacy.

In May 2005, an Iowa newspaper reported ( comments from Gingrich as meaning that he would consider running for president in 2008 if enough people agreed with ideas outlined in his new book, including dramatically tougher border security and immigration policies. The quote - "If you show up someplace and there's a big enough movement, we can talk about that" - stops far short of announcing a run, but certainly adds to the speculation.

On June 6th, Gingrich appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart [2] ( Gingrich didn't deny that he was running, but left the option open:

Jon Stewart: "And so you would like to announce on our program that you, Newt Gingrich,...[will run]"
Newt Gingrich: "Well look, I'm not..."
Stewart: "You say it! You say it!"
Gingrich: "I'm not studying this, I'm not looking at it in great detail, but, the last guy to announce on your show came in fourth." [Referring to John Edward's run in the 2004 Democratic primaries]
Stewart: "I'm glad you're a fan."


  • "Politics and war are remarkably similar situations."
  • "The Democrats in the Capitol building get up every morning knowing that to survive they need to do only two things: They lie regularly and they cheat."
  • "In government, you either have a system where you say 'Would you like to learn how to be rich, would you like to learn how to be successful?' Or you have a system where you say, 'Well, you really ought to feel envy and resentment, so let's see if we can mug them.'"
  • "From their standpoint, the Declaration of Independence did not have a phrase that said, 'We're endowed by our creator,' but rather said something like, 'being gathered together as random protoplasm.'" (1985) ([3] (


Gingrich has written several books, both before and after leaving Congress. Notables are To Renew America (1995) and Lessons Learned The Hard Way (1998); a new book, Winning the Future : A 21st Century Contract with America was released in early January 2005.

He has also been co-author with science fiction author William Forstchen, of four alternate history novels: 1945 (in which World War II never happened), and a trilogy on the Civil War: Gettysburg : A Novel of the Civil War (in which the Confederacy won the Battle of Gettysburg), Grant Comes East, and Never Call Retreat: Lee and Grant - The Final Victory. Although denounced by some critics as attempt to rewrite the Civil War so that the Confederacy could win, the trilogy was actually an argument for how the attendant evils of Reconstruction could have been avoided.


Sources and external links

Preceded by:
Jack Flynt (D)
U.S. House of Representatives
Georgia 6th district

Succeeded by:
Johnny Isakson (R)
Preceded by:
Tom Foley
Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives
January 4, 1995January 3, 1997;
January 7, 1997January 3, 1999
Succeeded by:
Dennis Hastert

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