Newt Gingrich | Media Matters for America

Newt Gingrich

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  • Conservative media want you to believe Trump has been “tough” on Russia. They’re not telling the full story.

    Secretary of State Pompeo echoed right-wing media talking points on Trump’s toughness. In reality, Trump has undercut a number of actions Congress and his administration have tried to take against Russia.

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Following President Donald Trump’s disastrous bilateral meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, the president’s administration flacks and conservative media lackeys quickly scrambled to his defense, arguing that Trump has been “tough” in his “actions against Russia” and rattling off a series of actions he has taken since 2017 that supposedly support such a claim. The president himself and administration officials have also parroted the talking points in an attempt to dispel the idea that he is somehow in the pocket of the Russian government. But a closer look at the actions Trump shills have pointed to reveals a foreign policy that is more concerned with posturing for media than being “tough” in the face of Russian aggression.

    On July 16, Trump met with Putin for a meeting behind closed doors in which no other American -- except an interpreter -- was present, and they emerged more than two hours later to give a wide-ranging press conference. When asked whether he holds the Russian government accountable for its multifaceted interference campaign during the 2016 elections, Trump repeatedly denied Russia’s involvement, saying, “I don’t see any reason why it would be” Russia. (The president would later claim to have gotten “would” and “wouldn’t” confused.)

    To counter the deluge of negative press in the wake of the meeting, right-wing media and administration officials pointed to various foreign policy and military responses to Russian aggression that the United States and its allies have undertaken during Trump’s presidency to argue that the president’s “actions” actually “have been tough.” About a week after the bilateral meeting, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo echoed Trump’s conservative media defenders as he faced senators on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, insisting Trump “has taken a truckload of punitive actions against Moscow” and that he has been “tough on Russia” as president. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders repeated the meme, as did the president himself.

    Trump’s defenders have pointed to sanctions against Russia that were imposed under Trump, the American strikes against the Russian-backed Syrian regime in 2017 and 2018, the March 28 expulsion of Russian diplomats and seizure of a Russian consulate, Trump’s demands for other countries to increase their NATO spending, the sale of lethal arms to Ukraine to fend off the Russian military and rebels in the eastern portions of the country, and the pressure Trump put on German Chancellor Angela Merkel over a proposed natural gas pipeline from Russia, among other specific actions. But Trump’s defenders are not telling the full story behind these actions.

    Sanctions

    In the aftermath of Trump’s meeting with Putin, a number of the president’s defenders touted sanctions that were imposed against Russia as evidence of Trump’s clear-eyed approach with regard to Russia. But, not only were the sanctions drawn up and passed by Congress while the Trump administration loudly opposed the move, the administration also dragged its feet in implementing them, missing a deadline to begin the implementation and only taking action after Congress demanded it do so. Moreover, Trump left United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley out to dry by walking back, without explanation, an announcement she made regarding additional sanctions against Russia.

    Additionally, one of the first official actions the Trump administration attempted was “to relax or remove punitive measures imposed by President Obama in retaliation for Russia’s intervention in Ukraine and meddling in the 2016 election.” The effort to remove sanctions that were already on the books appeared to continue into Trump’s presidency, as one of his top fundraisers and former deputy finance chairman for the Republican National Committee, Elliott Broidy, reportedly offered in 2017 to “help a Moscow-based lawyer get Russian companies removed from a U.S. sanctions list.”

    Syria

    Right-wing media have also cited U.S. airstrikes conducted against the Syrian regime as evidence that Trump has stood up to Russian aggression. But, in 2017, Trump “notified Russia in advance of” the strike, “giving time for both Russian and Syrian forces to avoid casualties in an attack,” and by the very next day, Syrian warplanes were using the airfield that was targeted. Additionally, in 2018, the strikes Trump authorized against the Syrian regime targeted chemical weapons infrastructure, “and not the bases where the Russians and Iranians are.”

    Trump’s defenders have also pointed to an American counterattack on Russian mercenaries and Syrian military personnel in February, saying Trump “authorized” the attack. While the U.S. military did in fact fend off a Russian-backed attack after “repeatedly” warning about the “growing mass of troops,” the strike was an “act of self-defense.” Citing the incident as evidence that Trump is countering Russian interests in Syria does not address the larger picture that, under Trump, Russia has become even more entrenched, further solidifying its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, as Trump lacks a coherent overarching strategy for the war-torn country. Not to mention the fact that, in May 2017, Trump disclosed sensitive “code-word information” originating from Israeli intelligence services to the Russian foreign minister and Russian ambassador to the United States at the time.

    Expulsion of Russian diplomats

    Trump sycophants are additionally highlighting the March 26 expulsion of 60 Russian intelligence operatives who were in the United States under diplomatic cover and the closure of a Russian consulate as further proof of Trump’s tough stance on Russia. But the expulsion of diplomats is an expected reaction that “represent[s] more symbol than substance.” And Trump also berated administration officials for expelling too many Russian officials, as he was reportedly “furious that his administration was being portrayed in the media as taking by far the toughest stance on Russia” as compared to European allies, who joined the United States in the symbolic gesture.

    Moreover, in a still-unexplained proposition in the early days of the Trump administration, officials looked at “handing back to Russia two diplomatic compounds, near New York City and on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, that its officials were ejected from in late December as punishment for Moscow’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.”

    Weapons to Ukraine

    In what has emerged as a favorite talking point for Trump defenders in the wake of the meeting with Putin, conservative media are touting an arms deal with Ukraine. The deal, which the Obama administration had resisted, is meant to bolster Ukrainian defenses against the Russian military and pro-Russian Ukrainian rebels. Except Trump stooges in right-wing media fail to mention that the Ukrainian investigation into Trump’s former campaign manager’s shady business dealings in that country conspicuously stopped just “as the Trump administration was finalizing plans to sell the country sophisticated anti-tank missiles.” Not to mention the fact that, during the 2016 campaign, Trump made the laughable claim that the Russian military is “not going into Ukraine,” even though it effectively annexed the Crimean peninsula in 2014. According to Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister, Ukrainian officials were “tearing their hair and running around like crazies” when Trump was elected because of fears over what it would mean for the country.

    NATO spending

    Trump’s Fox News sycophants have also insisted that by “beating up the NATO allies” at the 2018 NATO summit, Trump succeeded in getting allies to “cough up more money” for the alliance when in fact Trump’s efforts had little to do with members’ increases in direct spending on their national military budgets. According to The New York Times, “each NATO member pledged in 2014,” after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, “to spend 2 percent of its gross domestic product on its own defense each year by 2024. … As a share of G.D.P., spending by European members and Canada began to rise before Mr. Trump took office.”

    Nord Stream 2

    Conservative media have also pointed to Trump’s critical comments to Merkel at the 2018 NATO summit over the proposed Nord Stream 2 natural-gas pipeline that would run from Russia to Germany as confirmation that Trump is “tough” in dealing with Russia. But previous administrations and a bipartisan group of senators also opposed Nord Stream 2, and Trump himself toned down his criticism after meeting with Putin, conceding that the United States cannot block Germany’s domestic energy decisions. The German Marshall Fund’s Ulrich Speck said the president’s attacks against Merkel “looked as if Trump is looking for ammunition against Germany. If he would have been serious on pushing against Nord Stream, he would probably have brought this up much more forcefully with Putin.” Indeed, a “tough” U.S. policy toward Russia would avoid driving such a wedge between the United States and an ally that has disregarded domestic business concerns to wrangle European Union member states, which had their own economic apprehensions, to join sanctions against Russia for its 2014 invasion of Ukraine.

  • Right-wing media are mad Trump picked Putin over US intelligence. He was just following their lead.

    Blog ››› ››› KATIE SULLIVAN


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    In an unusual development, many right-wing media figures have criticized President Donald Trump for throwing the U.S. intelligence community under the bus during a July 16 appearance with Russian President Vladimir Putin by refusing to affirm its conclusion that Russia meddled in the 2016 election. While it’s uncommon to see typically sycophantic figures rebuking the president, this criticism is particularly surprising given right-wing media’s own history of encouraging Trump’s attacks on the intelligence community for just that finding.

    During the press conference in Helsinki after his one-on-one meeting with the Russian president, Trump touted Putin’s denial of interfering in the U.S. elections and claimed he doesn’t “see any reason why” Russia would have meddled. Many right-wing media figures were displeased with this response and rebuked the president’s behavior:

    • Fox News’ Abby Huntsman (whose father currently serves as U.S. ambassador to Russia): “No negotiation is worth throwing your own people and country under the bus.”

    • Fox’s Newt Gingrich: “President Trump must clarify his statements in Helsinki on our intelligence system and Putin. It is the most serious mistake of his presidency and must be corrected—-immediately.”

    • Fox News analyst Jack Keane: “That’s alarming that the president would not stand behind that entire intelligence community and judicial process and back them up a hundred percent.” Keane also stated: “To stand there on a world stage and appease Russia in disfavor to our intelligence community was a thing that shocked me."

    • Fox’s Trish Regan: “This was clearly not [President Trump's] best performance. ... He should have defended us. He should have defended his own intelligence community."

    • Fox News’ Geraldo Rivera tweeted: Trump “seems to distrust & despise @HillaryClinton & #SpecialCounsel more than he distrusts& despises #Russia & #GRU He also didn’t embrace our own intelligence community, which says Russia is guilty of meddling.”

    • Fox News analyst Brit Hume: “Trump, finally asked whom he believes on Russia interference, gives a vague and rambling non-answer, with renewed complaints about Hillary’s server. Says he trusts US intel but made clear he takes Putin’s denials seriously. Lame response, to say the least.”

    • Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade: said that “When Newt Gingrich, when Gen. Jack Keane, when [Chairman of American Conservative Union] Matt Schlapp say the president fell short and made our intelligence apparatus look bad, I think it’s time to pay attention.” He also claimed that Trump “fell short” in Helsinki.  

    • Townhall’s Guy Benson: Trump’s response to the question if he believes U.S. intel or Putin was an “atrocious, humiliating answer.”

    • The Washington Examiner’s Byron York: “Concerning Trump's newser remarks specifically on Trump-Russia affair: Appalling.”

    Right-wing media’s apparent shock at the president’s actions, however, is itself laughable, given Trump’s history of attacking the U.S. intelligence community over the Russia investigation, and right-wing media’s own war against intelligence officials. Right-wing media have spent years besmirching the intelligence community to protect Trump and undermine the Russia investigation, often pushing outlandish conspiracy theories about a “secret society” and attempted “coups,” or else aggressively targeting individual officials in order to delegitimize intelligence findings that might hurt Trump. There is plenty to scrutinize the intelligence community over, but it is wildly hypocritical that right-wing media are finding Trump’s rhetoric about the Russia investigation “appalling.” After all, he probably got it from them.

  • Fox’s Newt Gingrich refuses to walk back claim that murdered DNC staffer was responsible for DNC email hacks even after 12 Russians were indicted

    CNN’s Oliver Darcy: When asked to apologize for “peddling the conspiracy theory that Rich was killed for supposedly leaking the DNC docs to Wikileaks,” Gingrich said “No. Goodbye!” before hanging up

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    CNN senior media reporter Oliver Darcy tweeted “In light of the Mueller indictments, I called @newtgingrich to see if he would like to apologize to the Seth Rich family for peddling the conspiracy theory that Rich was killed for supposedly leaking the DNC docs to Wikileaks. "No. Goodbye!" Gingrich told me before hanging up.”
     

    Gingrich had previously claimed Seth Rich was “assassinated at 4 in the morning, having given WikiLeaks something like 23,000 -- I’m sorry, 53,000 emails and 17,000 attachments,” joining Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and Lou Dobbs in smearing a dead DNC staffer with conspiratorial claims. On the day the Justice Department announced indictments of 12 Russians connected to a “sustained effort” to hack Democratic emails during the 2016 election, Darcy contacted Gingrich to ask if he would apologize for spreading the conspiracy theory. Gingrich refused.

    Darcy and many others have previously noted there is “zero evidence” to support conspiracy theories regarding the death of Seth Rich, and Gingrich’s refusal to disavow his prior statements come months after the Rich family’s previous demand that Fox News apologize for its role in spreading the conspiracy.

  • Right-wing media are criticizing Maxine Waters over civility. Here’s what they’ve said about her in the past. 

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Right-wing media are criticizing Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) after she encouraged people to publicly protest Trump administration officials who are complicit in the atrocious family separation policy at the U.S border. But the “civility” these outlets are touting has been absent in their many vicious past attacks on Waters.  

    For more than a month, the Trump administration separated immigrant children from their asylum-seeking parents and detained them in child prisons, apparently with no plan in place to reunite the families. The administration took infants as young as 3 months old from their guardians, kept children in cages, and deported some parents without their kids -- while officials continuously lied about their own policy. President Donald Trump has since signed an executive order ending the policy of family separation, but the order’s future might be in jeopardy given that it calls for the inhumane and likely illegal policy of indefinite detention of migrant children (with their parents). And for those families already separated, some parents may never see their children again, and the administration has offered other parents -- many of whom sought asylum after fleeing violence or persecution -- an impossible choice: They can continue seeking asylum and risk not seeing their kids for the duration of the case, or they can be reunited and deported.

    In the face of this atrocity -- and the administration’s many others-- people have begun to stage peaceful protests against the architects and defenders of family separation. On June 23, Waters joined those cheering on the protesters’ efforts, encouraging people to continue putting pressure on Trump officials. Speaking at a rally, she said, “Let’s make sure we show up wherever we have to show up. And if you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd. And you push back on them. And you tell them they're not welcome anymore, anywhere.” Waters has since been attacked by people who are fretting over the “incivility” of her remarks. But right-wing critics have flung racist, sexist, and all-around vile comments at Waters for years.

    • After watching a clip of Waters speaking in Congress, former Fox host Bill O’Reilly lobbed a racist attack at the congresswoman, claiming he couldn’t hear “a word” Waters said because of her “James Brown wig.”

    • In an homage to O’Reilly’s racist remark, conservative “media analyst” and YouTube personality Mark Dice tweeted a picture of James Brown, writing, “Congresswoman Maxine Waters dropped by the #MTVAwards as a presenter tonight!”(The tweet has since been deleted.)

    • Fox's Newt Gingrich fantasized about Trump beating Waters in a boxing match.

    • Infowars host Alex Jones likened Waters to a rabid dog.

    • Jones also called her a “dumb witch,” and he once said, “I think she’s hot. I’m into necrophilia.”

    • Jones also once killed a small bug on air after labeling it “Maxine Waters.”  

    • Infowars ran an article titled “Maxine Waters is a globalist race pimp embarrassment.”

    • Trump ally and radio host Michael Savage called Waters “one of the most despicable people in the history” of Congress.

    • Savage also argued that Waters should be charged with “sedition,” saying, “I don’t know if [she] can even spell it.”

    • He also said that Waters was “working for the Muslims who want to kill us.”

    • Radio host Rush Limbaugh called Waters a “lunatic.”

    • The New York Post’s John Podhoretz, who is also a contributing editor for The Weekly Standard, accused her of “worship[ing] at the feet of totalitarian monsters.”

    • Syndicated right-wing columnist Ann Coulter said that without affirmative action, Waters couldn't get a job "that didn't involve wearing a paper hat."

    • Former Fox host Eric Bolling told Waters to “step away from the crack pipe.”

    • Fox’s Laura Ingraham said she would prefer “Madea doing political commentary” over Waters.  

    • After the president recently called Waters a “low IQ person,” Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk tweeted: “If Maxine Waters was really so smart, why does she refuse to take an IQ test?”

  • The staggering corruption of Dinesh D’Souza’s pardon

    A conspiratorial, racist fraud gets a reprieve from the like-minded president

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Dinesh D’Souza got off easy. Back in 2014, the right-wing crank was indicted for committing campaign finance fraud, and he pleaded guilty to illegally reimbursing “straw donors” to the Senate campaign of Wendy Long, his friend from college. Prosecutors wanted to throw D’Souza in prison for 10 to 16 months, arguing that the contrition he claimed to feel for his crime was belied by his many cable news appearances in which he said he was a victim of political persecution by the Obama administration. At his sentencing, the judge told D’Souza that “it is still hard for me to discern any personal acceptance of responsibility in this case.”

    The judge nonetheless showed leniency and gave D’Souza five years of probation, eight months in a “community confinement center,” plus community service. At the time, D’Souza said he was “relieved” and thanked the judge “for imposing a fair sentence.”

    Since then, D’Souza has tried to turn himself into a martyr. With the eager assistance of his friends in conservative media, he’s spun his conviction (he pleaded guilty, remember) and light sentencing as proof that Barack Obama’s administration pursued a vendetta to silence one of its conservative critics. That theory is based on precisely zero evidence.

    But it was good enough for President Donald Trump, who announced earlier today via Twitter that D’Souza (a vocal supporter of the president) will be receiving a full pardon.

    This is an obvious abuse of the president’s pardoning power and it follows a pattern of corrupt pardons. Trump pardoned former Maricopa County Sheriff (and current Republican Senate candidate) Joe Arpaio last year after he was convicted of criminal contempt of court for refusing to obey judicial orders to halt his department’s racial profiling of Latinos. Former Dick Cheney aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, who was convicted of lying to federal prosecutors in the Valerie Plame affair, got a pardon after his Trump-loving attorney pleaded his case to the White House.

    In all these cases, there are two common and related themes: Trump using his pardoning power to bestow favors on his cronies, and the insistence that the pardoned person was “treated unfairly.” Trump said Arpaio was “treated unbelievably unfairly,” his statement on Libby’s pardon said that “for years I have heard that he has been treated unfairly,” and his tweet announcing D’Souza’s pardon said he “was treated very unfairly by our government.” What’s clear in all these instances is that “treated unfairly” means that the convicted person did not receive the sort of preferential legal treatment that the president feels his allies should enjoy.

    D’Souza’s pardon is also an expression of the corruption rotting away at conservative politics and the right-wing media. A healthy political movement would have long ago ostracized a bigot and fraud like D’Souza. He is a racist troll and inveterate conspiracy theorist who spends his days mocking school shooting survivors on Twitter. Leading up to the 2012 election he wrote a lie-filled book and produced a howlingly mendacious “documentary” arguing that Obama inherited a “Third World, anti-American” ethos from his absentee father. He wrote a book arguing that the “cultural left” was to blame for the September 11 attacks, and another book insisting that “the American slave was treated like property, which is to say, pretty well.”

    Rather than booting this extremist to the fringes, conservative media turned D’Souza into a cause célèbre. He was a fixture on Megyn Kelly’s Fox News program during his campaign finance fraud trial, where he was given an open platform to assert his persecution at the hands of Obama. His idiotic conspiracy theories about Obama’s father garnered an enthusiastic endorsement from Newt Gingrich, who argued that you can understand the first black U.S. president only “if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior.” D’Souza is a regular guest on conservative talk radio and routinely hits the lecture circuit with the backing of right-wing activist groups.

    Now this racist, conspiratorial fraud has been pardoned by another racist, conspiratorial fraud, and this long-simmering corruption is being lauded within the Republican Party -- Trump’s pardon of D’Souza was quickly celebrated by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who called D’Souza a “powerful voice for freedom.”

  • Newt Gingrich taught me the secrets of Defending America™

    A scammy online adventure with baklava, Ben Franklin, and lots of grifting

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    How much money would you spend to defend America? Before you answer, remember that we’re talking about America here. The America. It’s in need of defense, and good soldiers like you and me must heed the call and quite literally pay our dues. So how much cash would you lay down? A thousand dollars? Ten thousand? Can you even put a price on something so vital and necessary as the defense of America?

    Even if you can’t, Newt Gingrich certainly can. For just $50 you can sign up for Newt’s online course called “Defending America,” which consists of six video lectures delivered by Gingrich himself that “provide patriotic Americans like you with the historical facts and arguments you need to debunk the Left’s agenda in your own community.” Newt’s been all over Fox News of late reminding its viewers that “Defending America” is something that they, as patriots, can spend their money on.

    As a patriotic American who loves historical facts, I convinced my bosses (suckers) to hand over the company credit card so I could spend $50 on America Defense lessons from Newt Gingrich.

    Here’s what I learned.

    Newt just wants to eat baklava

    “The left didn’t like the concept of a singular civilization called America,” Gingrich declares in his lesson on the evils of multiculturalism. And as part of its war on the American cultural monolith, “the left” is making it impossible for good patriots to eat the pastries of their choice.

    “Think about the problem this gives you with baklava,” Newt says as part of a determinedly obtuse harangue about cultural appropriation. “Can you only eat baklava if you’re Greek or if you’re Turkish? Or if you’re Greek, do you eat Greek baklava but not Turkish baklava? And if you’re not Greek or Turkish, why are you even allowed to have baklava?”

    But it’s not just about the freedom to cram one’s maw with endless varieties of honeyed pastry, Newt explains. The key question of who can eat which type of baklava goes right to the very heart of the leftist conspiracy to destroy America. “While I’m making fun of it, this is not funny,” Newt says. “This is at the center of the intellectual corruption of the American academic community, and the news media, and the American entertainment communities that grow out of and draw from the academic community.”

    “The left” is mainly student activists and professors at West Coast colleges

    The conceit behind “Defending America” is that there exists “a deliberate strategy by the left to instill anti-American values to fundamentally change this country.” The primary movers in the nefarious, country-ending cabal, at least according to Newt’s estimation, are campus activist groups and academics who write op-eds. And as the baklava example makes clear, Newt’s shtick involves tweezing out what he believes are the most extreme examples of their behavior and presenting them as what “the left” writ large stands for.

    Newt’s “lessons” on “Defending America from the Multicultural Disaster” and “Defending Free Speech from Left-wing Censors and Thought Police” focus almost exclusively on various perceived outrages committed by student groups and the occasional professor. “Universities are increasingly becoming havens of resegregation and reverse racism,” he declares in his lesson on the evils of multiculturalism. “There’s a school in Washington state that wants to kick all white people off the campus for a day.”

    The school in question, Evergreen State, became a brief focus of national controversy when a faculty member proposed that, as part of a longstanding annual “Day of Absence” protest for minority rights, white students who chose to participate in the protest leave campus for the day as a show of “solidarity.” After a biology professor objected to the idea, student protests erupted. Conservative media seized on the story, threats were made against the school, the biology professor resigned, the faculty member who proposed the idea resigned, and the school canceled the “Day of Absence” protest in the face of dwindling enrollment numbers.

    From this and a handful of other cherry-picked examples of campus activism, Newt concludes that there is “a psychosis across our entire academic, news media, and entertainment world, which is a mass hysteria involving people who believe things that are crazy because all their friends believe the things that are crazy, and they need to be crazy together or they’d be alone, and then their friends wouldn’t like them.”

    “The left” is both a ridiculous joke and an urgent threat to America’s existence

    “There is no better evidence of the weakness of the left than the fact that they can’t debate,” Gingrich says at the beginning of Lesson Four. “They can’t defend their positions. Part of it is because they don’t know anything,” he adds with a mocking smirk. “There is no capacity on the left to have a serious debate about their values, and so they scream.” This is a running theme of all the lessons: “The left” is full of ignorant dopes whose whacked-out positions are worthy only of mockery and sneering disdain. “We have these college campuses that are totally subsidized, with people there full time who don’t teach very much, don’t learn very much, and don’t do very much,” Newt explains, “and so they’ve been gradually vegetating into weirder and weirder positions.”

    Somehow, though, these same indolent pontificators and mock-worthy extremists are simultaneously a nefarious and altogether implacable force for American destruction whose influence drives the highest levels of politics and entertainment. Newt wants to have it both ways: The left is a feeble joke, and the left is also an existential threat to the country.

    Not surprisingly, this lazy thinking leads Newt into mistakenly dismissing genuine threats to conservative political power as little more than leftist tantruming. The 2017 Women’s March stands out as one of the most important moments for left-wing activism and candidate recruitment in the era of Donald Trump. But Gingrich dismisses it as “a collection of nutcakes, gathered together, made important because The New York Times and The Washington Post covered them. Otherwise it would just be, sort of, a gathering of random weird people, sort of like a family reunion on the Mall.”

    This isn’t so much education as it is marketing. Newt wants his “students” to feel that they’re standing up against a dangerous enemy, but also that the enemy can be easily vanquished. It’s a message that’s tailor-made for someone who is already apt to believe that “the left” can be defeated with fifty bucks and a few Ben Franklin quotes.

    “The left” can be defeated with fifty bucks a few Ben Franklin quotes (or “quotes”)

    The key to dismantling the anti-Americanism of “the left,” per Gingrich, is rote repetition of a carefully curated suite of quotes from the Founding Fathers. Over the course of the six lessons, Newt laboriously sifts through the collected utterances of America’s founding statesmen (and other historical figures) to demonstrate that the United States is supposed to be a land of unrestricted gun access with no separation of church and state and a functionally useless social safety net.

    Newt isn’t breaking any new ground here; cherry-picking the Founding Fathers is a grand tradition of conservative “intellectuals” who grasp for historical gravitas in their quest to choke off public assistance for the poor. What Newt brings to the affair is the laziness and basic errors of scholarship that you’d expect from a $50 scam history course.

    “Benjamin Franklin said it perfectly,” Newt proclaims in his lesson on free speech, attributing to Franklin the following quote, which appears on the screen like so as he reads it:  

    “Without Freedom of Thought, there can be no such Thing as Wisdom; and no such thing as publick Liberty, without Freedom of Speech; which is the Right of every Man, as far as by it he does not hurt and controul the Right of another: And this is the only Check it ought to suffer, and the only Bounds it ought to know. This sacred Privilege is so essential to free Governments, that the Security of Property, and the Freedom of Speech, always go together; and in those wretched Countries where a Man cannot call his Tongue his own, he can scarce call any Thing else his own. Whoever would overthrow the Liberty of a Nation, must begin by subduing the Freeness of speech.”

    That’s great quote! But it’s not Benjamin Franklin’s. It belongs to English essayists John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon, who wrote under the nom-de-plume “Cato.” Franklin quoted this passage in an essay he published in The New England Courant under his own pseudonym, Silence Dogood.

    Newt doesn’t actually read anyone on the left

    Given that the purpose of “Defending America” is ostensibly to instruct conservatives on how to effectively neutralize “the left,” it would be reasonable to expect that the person doing the instructing would be an expert and learned authority on what the left believes and how it operates. But, by his own admission, Newt Gingrich is not that expert.

    As part of a live Q&A session posted as part of the course last October, Gingrich was asked if there were “any liberal writers, any left-wing writers you would recommend reading to understand them.” After a moment’s pause, Gingrich responded: “No.”

    He went on to explain that he used to read liberal writers back when he was in grad school, but “the modern left is almost like a cancer that has metastasized” and has only “grown weirder and weirder and weirder, and so I think it’s really hard to look to the left to explain itself.” Instead, Newt recommended reading conservative pundits like Ben Domenech and Andrew McCarthy to understand what “the left” is all about.

    Newt wants to sell you other products by Newt Gingrich

    As a good American patriot, I paid my bosses’ $50 to Newt so he could teach me the secrets of how to Defend America. I assumed that would be the end of our financial relationship, but I was wrong -- embedded within these lessons for the preservation of American democracy were further opportunities for me to purchase additional products from Newt Gingrich.

    “I would urge you, if you come to Washington, take Rediscovering God in America, walk around to every single monument,” Newt says, hocking his 2009 book during the lesson on “Defending Faith-Based America from Secular Tyranny.” He also works in a plug for Five Principles for a Successful Life, which he co-wrote with his daughter, during the lesson on work and opportunity. “We developed the five principles and went out and talked to a number of people, a really wide range -- I mean, Gen. David Petraeus was one, Whoopi Goldberg was another.”

    A fulsome defense of America requires sending Newt Gingrich lots of money.

    Nothing

    Honestly there’s nothing that “Defending America” can teach you because it’s not actually meant to teach anything. It’s part of a scam that Newt Gingrich has perfected in order to make himself very rich. Like many other enterprising hucksters on the right, Newt understands that he can wring large sums of cash from conservative marks by nurturing and exploiting their senses of grievance and victimization.

    At no point throughout “Defending America” would you have any inkling that Republicans and conservatives have firm grips on the levers of power in this country. All the carping Newt indulges in about multiculturalism and attacks on “traditional” values pays no heed to the fact that the federal government (controlled by his ideological allies) is busily ramping up deportations, installing right-wing judges on courts, sabotaging social programs, and recklessly pursuing a hard-line conservative agenda. Rather, you’re made to believe that college professors and Hollywood are the real power in the country and are threateningly close to transforming America into a socialist dystopia.

    Newt evangelizes this fiction with the shamelessness of a man who has full confidence in the strength of his grift. Lesson Six of “Defending America” is titled “Defending ‘We the People’ From the Washington Swamp” -- a hilarious description given that Gingrich himself is the quintessential “swamp” denizen.

    “You have bureaucrats who are liberal,” Newt complains, “you have lobbyists and lawyers who are liberal, and you have the reporters who are liberal. That’s your national capital.” Newt has made a lucrative career in this supposed hellhole of swampy liberalism by monetizing his connections to lawmakers and collecting fees as an unregistered lobbyist. There are few people on this planet with less standing to rail against the corruption and “swampiness” of Washington, D.C., than Newt Gingrich, but here he is doing exactly that for $50 a pop.