Category Archives: Reviews

Citizen Newt Is Needed Today || American Thinker

Citizen Newt Is Needed Today

Citizen Newt, an authorized biography by Craig Shirley, explores how the legendary speaker of the House rose and influenced American politics and policy. It takes readers on a journey from when Gingrich decided to run for Georgia’s Sixth District to when Republicans gained control of the House in 1994.

Shirley told American Thinker, “You are hard-pressed, in the 230-year history of the American republic, to come up with the name of a political leader who wasn’t president who has had as long-lasting an impact on the national political debate as Newt Gingrich. I also was motivated to write his book because liberals can’t be trusted to record conservative history. They’re interested in pushing an agenda instead of reporting the facts. Of the books that are in my bibliography just about every one of them was written by a liberal, and every one of them was rancid, error-filled, agenda-driven, in every way, shape or form. They were not reporting on the facts of Newt Gingrich. They were reporting on their own personal ideology. But Gingrich burst on the national political scene in the late 70s, and here we are some 30 or 40 years later, and he’s still relevant.”

It is astonishing, after reading this book, to find the overlap between then and now. Many believe that there is a need for a Gingrich clone to tell it like it is and to pass legislation, while taking on the corrupt interests of the media, political consultants, lobbyists, and the establishment. Shirley believes “The problem for Donald Trump is that this Congress is a bunch of do-nothings. It is the static versus the dynamic. Newt took the Republican Party from a minority status to a majority status and accomplished his goal as stated in the ‘Contract With America.’ He got through 9 out of 10 pieces.”

Shirley quotes a 1985 statement by Gingrich, “The biggest division in the Republican Party… is between those who are serious about building a majority party and those who are locked into the mentality of a minority party.” Another quote from his 1979 campaign, where he charged that the Republican Party had not “a competent national leader in his lifetime. The GOP did not need another generation of cautious, prudent, careful, bland, irrelevant, quasi-leaders.” Sound familiar?

When asked about this, Gingrich responded to American Thinker, “It takes enormous leaders to get bills through both the House and the Senate. To accomplish something there is a need to have a leadership who knows what it is doing, communicates to the American people to get their support, and then through the American people gets the support of Congress. A perfect example is when President Trump went to North Dakota with a popular tax cut message. What I would do is build a coalition in every state of everyone who wants a tax cut and ask them to pressure members of both parties.”

In 1984, then-congressman Gingrich declared that the Democrats were obstructionists. He sees the similarities between the behavior then and now, “The fight started by Reagan and sustained by us, is the same fight of Trump today. What happens is they get into Washington surrounded by other Democrats who have this groupthink where they like to be mutually reinforced, a collectivist behavior that never wants to break rank. These people voting against the Trump agenda could be career ending; especially the states where Trump won overwhelmingly like West Virginia, Indiana, North Dakota, and Montana. It appears that they are out of touch with their constituents. The average American repudiates Democratic Party values. I predict in 2018 we will hold our own in the House and pick up 4 to 6 seats in the Senate.”

Because the Democratic Party’s program is based completely on identity politics, it is no wonder that they do not control the state legislatures, state senates, governorships, the House, the Senate, or the White House. Gingrich feels it falls back onto President Obama’s shoulders, “He spent eight years annihilating the Democratic Party where now they only control six state legislatures in the country. Look at how ridiculous the statement was of a candidate running for governor in Maine when he said there are too many white people there. If true, he just repudiated the vast majority of voters there and he blatantly narrowed his appeal and acceptability. This is what goes on in the Democratic Party all the time. They do not realize how weird they have become because the only ones they talk to are themselves.”

In 1981, Gingrich appeared to be ahead of his time when he initiated a resolution to put a statue of Dr. Martin Luther King in the U.S. Capitol. This overwhelmingly passed the House and the Senate. When asked how it relates to what is happening today, Gingrich responded, “If I were African-American I don’t think I would be very happy with a statue of somebody who fought to sustain slavery. I think we should understand the feelings over the very specific issue of the Confederacy, and not consider it offensive if they are to be taken down and put in a museum because they are not being destroyed.”

He became professorlike when he noted, “We wrote an alternate novel about Gettysburg. What many people don’t realize is that Robert E. Lee’s army actually had active slave traitors who went with them and actually captured free independent blacks in the Gettysburg area and took them South to sell into slavery.”

What about the attitude toward Thomas Jefferson and George Washington? “That is completely different. I think we have to remember that it was these men who came up with the concept of a world where people were systematically able to organize the right to govern without a king. They actually created a self-governing system in which individuals could have freedom. They also wrote into the Constitution that provided for abolishing the slave trade in DC, and provided a series of steps that began to move the system away from slavery. I think it takes remarkable ignorance or a willful rejection of the facts not to realize the worth of these historic figures.”

He also thought the discussion about the movie Gone With The Wind is “stupid. It would be a little like dissing William Shakespeare because there are parts of his writings that are anti-Semitic. Both the movie and the writings reflected the world they were part of.”

He thinks conservatives should see the glass half-full by looking at the accomplishments, including the court system moving to the right, the biggest deregulation underway in history, and a real effort toward tax reform. Regarding health care reform, “I believe people do not realize that 49/52 Republicans voted correctly in the Senate. There were sixteen Democratic nos for every Republican yes. We are only focusing on the one, not the 48 Democrats who got a free pass.”

Reading this book, people will feel deja vu. Americans should yearn for the return of Newt Gingrich, because he was someone who got things done and found solutions, someone who put America first.

The author writes for American Thinker. She has done book reviews, author interviews, and has written a number of national security, political, and foreign policy articles.

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Book Review: Citizen Newt || Washington Times

An honest accounting of a skillful tactician

– – Monday, September 11, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

CITIZEN NEWT: THE MAKING OF A REAGAN CONSERVATIVE

By Craig Shirley

Thomas Nelson Books, $29.99, 544 pages

At a time when our history books and biographies are being revised at warp speed by practitioners of identity politics and a generation of academics fearful of being accused of being politically incorrect and losing their jobs, Craig Shirleystands out as an honest and highly talented biographer who is also a man of conviction.

His four books on Ronald Reagan, written with deep understanding of the man himself as well the principles he personified, have been widely praised by critics both left and right for their honesty and conviction. And “Citizen Newt,” he writes, “is the only factual account of the twenty-year rise of a first-generation Reaganite,” an account, he believes, that’s long overdue.

He quotes the respected Democratic pollster John Zogby: “Operationally, what Bill Buckley was to scholarly conservatism, what Reagan was to the leadership of conservatism, what Antonin Scalia was to the legal arguments of conservatism, Newt Gingrich was to its tactical and legislative and political successes.”

Nancy Reagan, he writes, once commented that Mr. Gingrich played the key role in completing the Reagan Revolution: ”Ronnie turned that torch over to Newt and the Republican members of Congress to keep that dream alive.”

And in the elections of 1994, that’s precisely what they did, in large part by making the election national (with no national candidate) with the “Contract with America,” conceived of and masterminded by Rep. Gingrich. The contract, announced on Sept. 27 on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, “contained ten specific promises that hundreds of Republicans candidates would sign and vow to enact in their first hundred days if they gained control of Capitol Hill.”

Some called it a brilliant stroke. Others, most predictably The New York Times, called the contract a “politically preposterous prospect” and “duplicitous propaganda.”

But as a central part of what some have called the “Gingrich Revolution,” with Mr. Gingrich leading the insurgency, the Democrats lost badly, and for the first time since 1954 — four decades — Republicans won a majority in the House.

“In the narrative of the Republican Party, there have only been a handful of elections that were truly meaningful or that demonstrated a shift in American political history. Without a doubt, the election of 1994 was one of them.”

A variety of factors would contribute to the loss, among them stagnation, Democratic corruption, the personal corruption of the president himself (this was also the year of Whitewater), and even the bizarre and very public failure of his wife to get the extraordinarily complex and cumbersome “Hillarycare,” (the precursor of Obamacare) enacted.

The schematic for Hillarycare was so convoluted, writes Mr. Shirley, that one major newspaper was unable to publish it. But “The Washington Times was more successful and devoted their entire editorial page to the diagram. It terrified people as it laid out, in black and white, dozens of agencies and commissions, bureaus, departments.”

Mr. Shirley notes that “it resembled a diagram of the Stalinist system of government.” And Newt Gingrich called it a “bureaucratic monstrosity German socialism and Italian corporatism.” (As is Obamacare, some might say.)

Of course, Mrs. Clinton’s scheme was not in itself determinative. But it was symptomatic of why the pendulum had swung back. As Mr. Gingrich put it, the intent of Hillarycare was to seize control of the health care system and centralize power in Washington. And for the time, as the 1994 elections demonstrated, people had had enough of big government.

Nor was it just Republicans who felt that way. “Soon, even a liberal president would be telling Congress and the nation, ‘The era of big government is over.’ ” And while there were Reaganites like Newt Gingrich, after the 1994 election serving as speaker of the House, making decisions and guiding legislation in Washington, that would remain the case.

Mr. Gingrich no longer holds office or a governmental position. But he is still active — writing, speaking, advising public figures, among them the current president. In assessing his career and contributions, Mr. Shirley adds his name to a select list of political statesman — among them Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan — “who had an effect on the national debate for more than three decades.”

And that, Mr. Shirley concludes, “in and of itself, makes him an interesting figure, a subject worthy of an honest accounting of his rise to power and subsequent accomplishments.”

In this deeply researched biography, written in strong clear prose with wit and understanding, while never glossing over missteps and mistakes, Craig Shirley has given us that honest accounting.

• John R. Coyne Jr., a former White House speechwriter, is co-author of “Strictly Right: William F. Buckley Jr. and the American Conservative Movement” (Wiley).

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Book Review: Citizen Newt by Craig Shirley || ConservativeHQ

Book Review: Citizen Newt by Craig Shirley

It is always a pleasure to review a book written by and about a friend and I was especially pleased to receive a review copy of Craig Shirley’s biography of Newt Gingrich, Citizen Newt, The Making of a Reagan Conservative.

And it is even more fun to review a book where one gets a favorable mention or two, as Craig Shirley gave me in some of the early chapters of the book, but the mutual friendships and favorable mentions aren’t the reason I recommend Citizen Newt – rather it is for the important lessons for today that I found in the same chapters where Craig Shirley detailed my early association with and support for then little-known conservative House backbencher Newt Gingrich.

It is lost to history in the misty-eyed canonization of President Reagan that, especially during his first term, conservatives – often led by Newt Gingrich – were frequently at odds with the White House and frustrated with how Reagan set his priorities and his choice of James Baker III as his White House Chief of Staff.

In Chapter 7, “Off Course,” Shirley recounts one of the battles that Newt and I joined to try to keep President Reagan true to his promises on taxes.

Newt called President Reagan’s support for the “Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982,” also known as TEFRA, “the opening round of a fight over the soul and future of the Republican Party” and very publicly took on President Reagan for supporting one of the largest tax increases in US history and he wasn’t bashful about saying that something was not quite right at the White House.

Other conservatives took up the cudgel and to scare the White House into making a U-turn and withdrawing support for the tax increase some even went so far as to suggest that maybe Jack Kemp should challenge Reagan in 1984.

We conservatives were convinced that James Baker was undermining the Reagan agenda from within. We thought then and now (despite the subsequent testimony of Ed Meese and others to the contrary) that Baker had a negative effect on efforts to advance the conservative agenda Reagan had campaigned on.

Citizen Newt doesn’t settle that argument, but it does remind conservatives that personnel is policy and that the evidence of establishment Republican perfidy with regard to Reagan’s conservative agenda is abundant.

Citizen Newt also reminds us that back in 1982 Newt understood something that many others didn’t quite comprehend: “Reagan was never going to be as conservative as the movement wanted him to be,” a lesson that might be profitably applied to the Trump White House as well.

With that comment in mind, President Trump’s conservative – populist supporters who are convinced that Reince Priebus, General John Kelly and General H.R. McMaster and other establishment Republicans and Democrats in the White House staff and Cabinet are obstructing Trump’s campaign agenda could learn a lot from the early chapters of Citizen Newt.

Just as conservatives outside of the White House often had to act as a third force to remind President Reagan of what our priorities were – and to overcome internal staff opposition to the Reagan campaign agenda – those who voted for the Trump campaign agenda of building the wall on our southern border, declaring Iran in violation of the Obama nuclear weapons deal, getting tough on illegal immigration, and ending the dangerous importation of millions of anti-constitutional Muslim immigrants would do well to adopt the tactics of the New Right outlined in Citizen Newt.

Another of the great strengths of Citizen Newt is to remind readers that the more things change in Washington, the more they remain the same.

As publisher of the magazine Conservative Digest, in the early days of his congressional career I frequently provided Newt Gingrich with a platform to promote his ideas, and especially to attack the Democratic majority on Capitol Hill that then constituted Washington’s self-appointed permanent ruling class:

The Democratic Party is now controlled by a coalition of liberal activists, corrupt big city machines, labor union bosses and a million dollars from tax-payers per election cycle to buy invulnerability. When Republicans have the courage to point out just how unrepresentative, and even weird, liberal values are, we gain votes… Fear and corruption now stalk the House of Representatives in a way we’ve never witnessed before in our history.

The Awan brothers’ bank fraud, computer theft and hacking scandal, the Democrats’ bizarre support for transsexuals in the military, their demand that men be allowed into woman’s locker rooms and bathrooms, the total breakdown of the rule of law in Democrat-run cities, the vast sums of money flowing from George Soros and the Democracy Alliance into Democrat campaign coffers and Far Left not-for-profit political organizations eerily mirror the political environment Newt Gingrich railed against on the pages of Conservative Digest back in 1981.

Unfortunately, what conservatives lack today is a leader and spokesman with Newt Gingrich’s zest for combat and unerring aim for the Democrats’ political weaknesses.

Citizen Newt isn’t a personal biography of Newt Gingrich; those interested in the details of Gingrich’s personal life will be disappointed, however, as a political biography it is full of lessons for the student and practitioner of conservative politics.

Newt Gingrich’s influence on the conservative movement has been and continues to be profound. Those who wish to understand the development of the conservative movement since 1980, and who wish to learn conservative politics from one of its most accomplished thinkers and astute practitioners should buy Citizen Newt and study it, as it will undoubtedly become viewed as not just a compelling political biography, but one of the foundational texts of modern conservative political organization.

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“Reagan Rising” featured in the Season: Summer Reading List for 2017

4. Craig Shirley, Reagan Rising: The Decisive Years, 1976-1980 (Broadside Books, 2017). This is Craig Shirley’s fourth book on Ronald Reagan and his presidency, and probably the most unlikely. In Reagan Rising, he tells Reagan’s story from his razor-close loss to President Gerald Ford for the 1976 Republican nomination to his landslide election as President of the United States in the 1980 election. But Shirley also tells the story of Reagan’s intellectual and political development — in many ways Reagan in 1980 was different from the Reagan of 1964 or 1976. Shirley also lays out the redefinition of the Republican Party and the transformation of the American political landscape. I worked as a teenage campaign volunteer in the 1976 Reagan campaign, responsible for enlisting South Florida high school students in the Reagan cause. It was in the course of that campaign that I met Ronald Reagan and saw him in unscripted moments before a campaign event as well as behind the podium. I knew then that Ronald Reagan was a man of ideas, passionately held. I knew the outlines of the story from 1976 to 1980, but Craig Shirley now offers the definitive narrative of those years in Reagan Rising. Readers will understand today’s political landscape far better after reading this book.

Excerpt:

Running for president is never easy, and it was especially hard for Ronald Reagan, as he had not just the usual obstacles to overcome, but also those of the skeptics in his own party and a very hostile and malicious national media. He had a halfhearted attempt in 1968, ran full out in 1976, and even more so in 1980. But then, he was a fully formed American conservative. Many times, however, he heard from critics in the GOP establishment that he was ‘just an actor.’ But as he wisely said later, in the waning days of his presidency, after being asked if he’d learned anything in Hollywood that helped him to be a good president, ‘I’ve wondered how you could do this job and not be an actor.’ …. Reagan remains one of the most fascinating figures of history and the American presidency, in part because he was a constantly evolving individual. his worldview in 1964 was not his worldview in 1980. his conservatism had changed,  from simply being against the intrusions of government to the more positive advance of individual freedom.”

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Review: “…a fine work of history and a good job of storytelling,” by Newt Gingrich || Selous Foundation

BOOK REVIEW

SHATTERING POLITICAL MYTHS

  • Reagan Rising:The Decisive Years, 1976-1980
  • By Craig Shirley
  • Harper Collins Publishers: New York 2017
  • HC, 409, US$29.99
  • ISBN: 978-0-06-245655-7

Rising

Сraig Shirley is THE definitive biographer of President Ronald Reagan. And this is the fourth volume of that definitive biography.

This is an important book because it shatters some of the myths which have grown up in the afterglow of Reagan’s remarkable presidency.

Looking backwards through the collapse of the Soviet Empire, the long period of economic growth, and the sheer artistry of Reagan as President, it is easy to romanticize how easy and how inevitable it was. Shirley knows better and he teaches us with a masterful combination of facts and anecdotes.

Shirley knows that Reagan could always have stopped after 1976. He loved his ranch and he loved being with Nancy. As Shirley notes in Reagan Rising, there were a lot of grassroots folks who never wavered but there were a lot of politicians who thought Reagan’s time had passed. As Irving Kristol said to his son in 1977 “I guess we will have to be for Jack Kemp since Reagan will be too old.”

Shirley also knows that the nomination of Governor Reagan was far from a sure thing. The Eastern establishment did not like him and largely rallied around George H.W. Bush, a Yale, Skull and Bones, legitimate scion of the establishment wing of the party. Hard core conservatives wanted someone with a greater edge like Congressman Phil Crane. Governor John Connelly saw himself as a natural president. The list went on and on.

Reagan was hamstrung by a really bad campaign run by John Sears. After losing Iowa, the Reagans decided to fire Sears and bring in a new team. That decision probably saved Reagan from defeat and the country from a Carter reelection (neither Shirley nor I believe any other Republican would have beaten Carter who had eliminated Ted Kennedy, pretty decisively, to win renomination).

Finally, there was no guarantee of a Reagan victory in the fall. As Shirley reports, Reagan stumbled at the beginning of the general election, found his rhythm and began gaining ground. However, it was only after the one debate, scheduled on the eve of the election, that Reagan pulled away to win a decisive victory.

For those who remember 1980 this is a refreshingly accurate and candid reminder of that great campaign. For those too young to know what a remarkable moment it was, this is a great introduction to a key part of their country’s history.

Shirley is to be congratulated for a fine work of history and a good job of storytelling.


Newt Gingrich is a former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and 2012 candidate for President of the United States. In 1995 he was elected the first Republican Speaker of the House in 40 years followed by such legislative achievements as welfare reform, a balanced budget and a cut in the capital gains tax. He is the author of 28 books, including Treason with Pete Earley. Newt and his wife Callista also are documentary film producers.

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