Far be it from me to discourage mainstream political commentary that’s framed in terms of science fiction, but Ray Smock’s Newt Gingrich the Galactic Historian gets it wrong:
If men are from Mars and women are from Venus, Newt Gingrich is from the planet Trantor, a fictional world created by Isaac Asimov in his classic Foundation series about galactic empire.Wrong. The Honorable Newt is not from Trantor. Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman is from Trantor. This is known. He’s said on multiple occasions that he went into economics because the field of psychohistory doesn’t exist. What Krugman took from the Foundation Trilogy was the idea that you could learn everything about history and put it together in order to understand not only what has happened, but why things happen the way they do. Remind you of Gingrich? Me neither.*
Newt’s master plan for America does not come from a Republican Party playbook. It comes from the science fiction that he read in high school. He is playing out, on a national and global scale, dreams he had as a teenager with his nose buried in pulp fiction.Do not blame that on science fiction. 93% of the people in my social circle read the Foundation Trilogy and assorted pulp SF in their youth, and none of them turned into Newt Gingrich.
Smock’s thesis is unwarranted. The argument present in his actual evidence is that Gingrich is prone to wishful thinking, and a grandiose view of his own place in the world. That’s not the fault of the books he’s read; it’s his innate character, beginning to end. If he’d read other books, he’d have drawn the same conclusions but used other examples to illustrate them.
Look at his relationship with history. I’ll allow that Gingrich has read more of it than the average citizen, but I’ve never seen any evidence that his reading has led him to form opinions not already present in his thinking. He mines history, shallowly, for illustrative examples. He uses it to put on airs. And if you’ve read Catton, Foote, and McPherson, Gingrich’s novels certainly won’t give you any surprising new takes on the Civil War.
Newt Gingrich’s knowledge of history is like George Bush’s religion: it exists only to validate what he already wants to believe. When the influence is that shallow, the texts are not to blame.
More from Smock:
Exhibit 42 of the House Ethics Committee report issued in the wake of Speaker Gingrich’s ethics violations regarding the suspicious tax-exempt status of his course Renewing American Civilization, reveals how much Newt internalized the fictional historian Hari Seldon. Scribbled in Newt’s own hand are notes he made during a 1992 meeting with a major contributor of GOPAC. He outlined his role as a visionary leader. His “primary mission” was to be an “advocate of civilization” — a “definer of civilization” — the “teacher of the rules of civilization” — and “leader (possibly) of the civilizing forces.” Newt saw his mission as “universal rather than national.”That is so not the Foundation Trilogy, which is about hard work done in obscurity for the benefit of generations yet to come. If it resembles anything in science fiction, it’s the later Childe Cycle: Final Encyclopedia, not Encyclopedia Galactica. But really, what it is is Newt Gingrich.