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Debunking The Myth of Newt’s “Historian” Comment

Debunking The Myth of Newt’s “Historian” Comment

Note:  This is the first Guest Post by Bryan Jacoutot, a law student at John Marshall Law School in Atlanta, GA.:

Although the November 9th Republican Presidential Debate in Michigan is now over a month passed, one critical line said by Newt Gingrich is still at the forefront of the minds of many.

During the debate, a question was posed to Gingrich regarding his 2006 relationship with the mortgage lending giant, Freddie Mac. Debate moderator Ewen MacAskill asked about the $300,000 his company, the Gingrich Group, was paid that year by Freddie Mac. Gingrich responded (italics added):

“I have never done any lobbying, every contract that was written during the period when I was out of the office specifically said I would do no lobbying, and I offered advice. And my advice as a historian, when they walked in and said to me, we are now making loans to people who have no credit history and have no record of paying back anything, but that’s what the government wants us to do, is I said — I said to them at the time: This is a bubble. This insane. This is impossible.”

Since that exchange, critics from all sides have attempted to morph what Gingrich said at the debate into a statement that Gingrich was hired to be a historian, as opposed to bringing his knowledge as a historian to bear on his consulting.

Such claims have uniformly twisted exactly what was said by Gingrich in the debate, giving rise to a kind of urban legend, that Gingrich said he was paid by Freddie Mac to be a historian.

The Washington Post recently came out with an article saying that Gingrich was being disingenuous and misleading in his remarks. Additionally, many of the republican candidates have cried foul play.

Perhaps most notably, Governor Romney recently claimed in an interview that if Gingrich was indeed acting as a historian, then he is the “highest paid historian in history.”

Romney and the others know better.  But perhaps that is too much nuance to expect at this point.


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Spot on, Bryan. I look forward to more posts. Heartened to read you’d like to enter politics in the future.

Thanks, Professor, for providing the opportunity to all these wonderful young students on LI. It’s great to read their take on things. Maybe the future isn’t so bleak after all.

Charles Curran | December 15, 2011 at 3:40 pm

Bryan. Besides taking? The bucks from Freddie for ‘History’?, Mr. Newt said that he is the modern TR, that FRD was his favorite president and that Andy Stern was a far sighted labor leader. He debunked ‘Capitialism’ because it was Romney that was taking over companies and trying to make them better, not unlike KKR. He endorsed ‘Cap and Trade’, got Jim Wright to resign over a book deal, and signed a $7 mil book deal. I’m np fan of Romney, but Mr. Newt has so much baggage it’s scary. Maybe there’s still hope for Perry. If not I will hold my nose and vote for whomever other that the ‘Idiot-in-Chief’.

    got Jim Wright to resign over a book deal, and signed a $7 mil book deal.

    No comment on the rest of your list, but this is so dishonest it’s breathtaking. Gingrich got Jim Wright over a corrupt book deal; he later signed a perfectly legitimate book deal. How do you even begin to see a contradiction or a problem there? It’s like comparing a bank robber to someone who withdraws money from his bank account!

[…] follow this link to read the guest article I wrote for Legal Insurrection. This entry was posted in Uncategorized. […]

Maybe I’m just insufficiently nuanced, but I don’t understand how being hired to give advice as an historian (as Newt described his role at Freddie Mac) is all that different from than being hired AS an historian. Either way, he is (according to him) being hired for his expertise as an historian. I get that his phrasing incorporates the notion that he was giving “advice,” but that’s quite beside the point of all the criticism of his connection to Freddie Mac. What people find disturbing about the money he received from Freddie is that it makes him look like just another D.C. pol lining up at the trough of a taxpayer-supported entity. Ideally, if Newt felt that what Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac was creating a bubble that was going to take them down (at the taxpayers’ expense), he should have been sounding the alarm in public, not lining his own pockets with their money before the bubble burst.

Honest question: I accept that Newt is a credible candidate compared to any of the GOP alternatives, and would certainly be a vast improvement over BHO, but does it bother you at all how much time his supporters have to spend pointing out the “nuances” in the things he says?

    Henry Hawkins in reply to Conrad. | December 15, 2011 at 5:09 pm

    A common complaint to us all is the need of supporters of virtually every current GOP candidate to nuance things their candidate has said.

    I’d guess that for 90% of conservative voters, their preferred candidate isn’t running at all. I know my first two choices are not. The following comparison doesn’t lend itself well to quantification, but I’d assess a field of six candidates drawn from the list of those who are *not* running to be three times as strong as the field that is running. We approach the political Super Bowl with our first string on the bench.

I meant to add that in a race wherein our best conservative candidates were running, Romney and Gingrich are VP choices – at best. What are we to do? In the meantime, I’ve looked them over and support Gingrich. I have not, however, married the man.

OK, fine. He was paid for his “advice.” Would he like to specify which advice Freddie took to heart and implemented? How did that turn out? Did that advice mitigate the collapse of the real estate bubble, or aggravate it?

Look, I ain’t saying he’s a criminal who deserves to be jailed a la Fannie/Freddie Fool$ like Franklin Raines and Mistress of Distress Jamie Gorelick, but if he’s one of the 98.99% of Beltway people who didn’t see the crash coming, he should explain how he missed it and what he’s learned.

    Charles Curran in reply to L.N. Smithee. | December 15, 2011 at 5:43 pm

    I think in an very early interview about this he said something like, I offered advice about not lending to poor credit risks, and they didn’t take my advice. Great read about this is ‘The Big Shot’ by Michael Lewis.

OK, but that’s still what Newt said and to the best of my knowledge, that’s all he has said.

To be honest, I don’t believe he told them it was a bubble, insane, etc. Why? Because at the time he was on the Freddie payroll, you would have needed a chrystal ball to foresee the bubble. He might have said it was a bad idea to extend easy credit but that’s another matter.

Of course, there is a simple way for Newt to enlighten us further about what “advice” he offered for $30,000 an hour. He can ask Freddie to release any and all memos and other documents pertaining to his work.

    JEBurke sez, in part . . .

    “Of course, there is a simple way for Newt to enlighten us further about what ‘advice’ he offered for $30,000 an hour. He can ask Freddie to release any and all memos and other documents pertaining to his work.”

    Precisely. My guess would be that he will not take that course of action, however.

    And, I have no doubt that he has secure copies of all of that correspondence in his personal records as well. But, I would also assume that he had some form of confidentiality agreement with them that would prevent him from releasing any of that correspondence without their express consent.

    If, however — contrary to what he now says — he did not warn them that there was going to be a bubble, what chance is there that the memos will not ALL somehow end up in the hands of the press after he secures the nomination?

Ok, you are insufficiently nuanced. He was hired for his advice. He was NOT hired as a historian. When offering his advice, he qualified the advice by pointing out that he was/is a historian.

The lefty comfortable analogy is when a woman, asked for her opinion on blue widgets, prefaces her answer with “As a woman….” You may or may not have hired her for her credentials “as a woman”, but you didn’t (probably) hire her to “be a woman”.

I am not a great fan of Newtie, and have no idea whether or not he offered the advice he claimed. I also have no idea whether he was hired for his “advice”; his connections or as a “historian”. The object of this article was to point out that he said he was not a lobbyist and was hired for advice. The accusations that he was offered some Michelle Obama like sinecure is not supported either by his statements or any other evidence so far entered.

Lots of fair things to criticize about Newt, don’t lose your credibility over making him say things he didn’t.