It's all over the news today that ol' Newt has promised a moon base by 2020. Guardian has a nice writeup on Nasa's budget woes but I think we need to drill down a little deeper. At the heart of it, Gingrich has been doing his best impression of a Hollywood president, focusing hard on manufacturing highlight reel clips whenever he speaks. He's pandering to the nostalgia of presidents past, though he hasn't the substance to back it up. Go through the list -
1) He's tried to paint himself as a Washington outsider like Carter did and GW Bush famously attempted
2) He's lashed out at debates and during interviews, modeling tone in many of these faux-impassioned episodes after the famous "Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy" outburst.
3) He's played both sides of the attack fence as deeply as possible, echoing Reagan's 11th commandment in one breath then viciously throwing attack-truths at Romney
Ok, I'll stop at that or else I'll never get to my point. Leave more examples in comments if you'd like to keep the discussion going.
This news item is merely the latest in what will be, I think, another two years of manufactured sincere moments in Newt's run-up to being nominated by the GOP and defeated in the big contest. What's important here is that he's dangerously close to jumping the shark; next he'll be urging us to stay the course (a thousand points of light), and if he does become too much of a caricature he'll risk losing the nomination. The key is, though, that he wants people to subconsciously link him to greatness past without it bubbling up to the front, because that'll raise a lot of legitimate questions. Until this move, I'd have thought it a move with Rove-like shrewdness, but Gingrich clearly has a problem with subtlety.
Here's how he's NOT like the great moments he's trying to associate himself with:
1) He's as far as a Washington outsider as possible. He was the Speaker of the House, and his consulting business was built on offering access to the inside of Washington. It doesn't get plainer than that.
2) I'm confident in saying that his impassioned responses are not just planned, but well-practiced to make the most of tone. He's a very smart man, and he knows that people will bring up his more despicable traits, and his best move is to evade as long and as thoroughly as possible. How better than righteous indignation that harkens back great moments of old?
3) You can't go 100% offensive and 100% victim in this game or people will notice. 70/30 is as much as you can usually swing before people call bullshit on your martyr complex. This won't keep up for long.
4) He's just not a great man, and he's promising the benefit of a platform he doesn't support. The GOP is his party as much as anyone's, and he's helped guide it to its current anti-science position. The only way I see this happening is if he manages to swap our defense and science budgets, and there's just no way that's happening.
Ol' Newt is smart, but he's proud, and his hubris will kill his White House dreams. He doesn't think we're smart enough to catch on. He doesn't intend to fund science at all - if you look at the proposal, it's very sneaky. He's selling us on the idea of a great nation, a moon base, a new frontier, all while asking us to sign on the dotted line of funneling another 10% of Nasa's budget into private industry. Then when his friends in industry fail to deliver a commercial moon base, he can blame the industries for failing, and government's failure to invest more in that industry for causing it.
I'll end it here because I have to run back to work. Apologies for the fragmented thoughts, I had to get this down.