Newt and the 'Pygmies' - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Newt and the ‘Pygmies’

On Monday, the American Spectator hosted Newt Gingrich at a Newsmaker Breakfast. Over the course of the conversation, Gingrich criticized the modern political process, and made a historical reference that asking him whether he wanted to join the race would be like asking Charles de Gaulle "Don't you want to rush in and join the pygmies?" The Examiner's Bill Sammon wrote a story portraying his comment as an attack on the other Republican candidates, but in a letter, Gingrich representative Rick Tyler explains the context of the comment. As somebody who was in the room at the time, I vouch for Tyler's assertion that Gingrich was criticizing the broken political process, not the other Republican candidates.

Here's Tyler:

Dear Editor,

Bill Sammon’s piece along with its headline, “Newt Gingrich goes nuclear” (The Examiner – July 23, 2007) presents yet another example of how our political process is broken.

In a recent hour-long newsmaker interview with reporters, Newt Gingrich when asked by Bill about joining the presidential race made a simple historical analogy. He likened his interest in joining the race in its current form to former French President Charles de Gualle’s interest in returning to political life under the French Fourth Republic, a political and governing system which he disdained.

Sammon either did not understand the reference or he chose to quote Gingrich out of context.  I am inclined to believe the latter because Bill is a smart person.

Gingrich as a young man lived in France under de Gaulle and earned a Ph.D. in modern European history.  His comparison, which Sammon ignored, was significant and relevant to today’s dysfunctional political process and government bureaucracies.

For twelve years de Galle unwaveringly opposed the Fourth French Republic. He despised the ruling elites of the permanent governing class.  They had no new ideas, no creativity, and no solutions. Their failed political leadership, lack of seriousness, political games, and constantly shifting coalitions led to an unmitigated political mess, compounded by a governmental structure that didn’t work.

The Fourth Republic ended after military disaster in Indochina in 1954 and the subsequent loss of the war in Algeria.  Herein is the significance of the Gingrich analogy unreported by Sammon.

Last week, a snowman was allowed to ask a question about global warming to serious candidates by way of a YouTube video.  We have reduced a presidential debate to a TV game show similar to ‘Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader’.  This is no way to choose the leader of the free world.

The de Gaulle illustration is fitting.  De Galle understood that to solve France’s innumerable problems and return it to prominence on the world stage, would required dramatic reforms that could not be realized from within the then failing political system.  He boldly called for real change and in 1958, de Gaulle lead the creation of France’s Fifth Republic which survives today.

Similarly, in order to solve America’s seemingly intractable problems, what is needed at the core of the presidential race are bold solutions and bold leadership that transcend the constraints of partisan political posturing.

It was clear to anyone in the room that when Gingrich said, “This is like going to De Gaulle when he was at Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises during the Fourth Republic and saying, 'Don't you want to rush in and join the pygmies?” that he was referring to the French analogy of a broken political system and not any of the candidates running for President. 

Sammon shortchanged his readers by choosing to ignore the important comparison, and choosing instead to quote Gingrich out of context all for the sake of horserace politics.

Rick Tyler

Press Secretary for Newt Gingrich

Washington, DC

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