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Newt Gingrich Is a GOP Nobody from the '90s -- Why Is He Quoted Like the Gospel?

Every time Gingrich opens his mouth, the media clings on his every word. There's no reason this man should be listened to.

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Oh, I know, Gingrich gets draped with news coverage because he's an ideas man, a public intellectual. Just ask Chris Matthews and Gloria Borger. Beltway conventional wisdom: Gingrich is a deep thinker. Really? Let's go back to that newsmaking interview he gave to ABC News, and let's look at some of the loony claims he made, claims that went unreported in the press, which politely looked away.

The topic was torture, and Gingrich claimed that after the terrorist attacks of September 11, the country was terrified: "We had an anthrax attack. We had a real danger that there might be a nuclear attack." He added that America ought to debate whether the president could authorize "extreme measures" if we think "somebody might be engaged in trying to plant a nuclear weapon in an American city."

Oh, brother. According to Gingrich, we came this close to a nuclear attack after 9-11, and the United States tortured detainees only to prevent nuclear bombs from being detonated in New York or Los Angeles. In truth, Vice President Dick Cheney reportedly asked in 2003 that at least one detainee be tortured in Iraq to try to uncover nonexistent links between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. Meaning the Bush administration OK'd torture for purely political reasons.

The larger point is that Gingrich had no idea what he was talking about. Or he did have an idea and purposefully lied about it to ABC News. He does so with immunity, though, because he understands the press ignores all the wacky misinformation that he's patented, and maintains the façade that he's a deep-thinking visionary.

Like, remember last month when Gingrich went on Fox News and got all sci-fi, declaring that as leader of the free world, he would pre-emptively disarm a North Korean missile with "a laser"? ( Paging Dr. Evil.)

If and when Newt Gingrich says something that's actually newsworthy, the press ought to let us know. But until then, let's stop pretending that every partisan utterance the unpopular '90s politician makes requires a headline.

A senior fellow at Media Matters for America, and a former senior writer for Salon. He can be reached at eboehlert@aol.com

 
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