By Zaid Jilani
Today, former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich announced that he is taking steps to consider becoming the GOP nominee for president in 2012.
As Gingrich begins the long process of possibly running for President, he is likely to take every effort to mold his image to make himself palatable to American voters. Yet the public deserves to know every important detail about the history of the man who may seek to be their leader. ThinkProgress has assembled a list of ten things Gingrich probably doesn’t want you to know about him:
1. DESPITE BATTLING THE “SECULAR SOCIALIST” AGENDA, GINGRICH CHEATED ON HIS WIVES SEVERAL TIMES: One of Gingrich’s main themes in his columns and speeches over the past few years has been the need to stop the “secular socialist” takeover of America, which he blames for the demise of the family. Yet he had several of these affairs while attacking President Bill Clinton for his own. He justified his hypocrisy to his second wife once, telling her, “It doesn’t matter what I do.”
2. WHILE DEMONIZING GOVERNMENT LARGESS, GINGRICH POURED MORE FEDERAL MONEY INTO HIS DISTRICT THAN ALMOST ANY OTHER: The politics of the mid-1990′s was marked by the right’s attempt to decimate the social safety net. As Gingrich waged his campaign to destroy unemployment insurance and aid for needy families, he made his own district the recipient of huge amounts of federal aid. Under Gingrich, his district in Cobb County, GA received more “federal subsidies than any suburban county in the country, with two exceptions: Arlington Virginia, effectively part of the Federal Government, and Brevard County Florida, the home of the Kennedy Space Center.”
3. IN 2007, GINGRICH BACKED CAP-AND-TRADE, THEN FLIP-FLOPPED TWO YEARS LATER: Talking to PBS just four years ago, Gingrich said, “I think if you have mandatory caps combined with a trading system, much like we did with sulfur, and if you have a tax-incentive program for investing in the solutions, then there’s a package that’s very, very good. And frankly, it’s something I would strongly support.” He even cut an ad with House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) warning of the dangers of climate change. Just two years later, Gingrich ended all of his green advocacy in favor pandering to far-right views on the environment. “Imposing stunningly high taxes on an economy in the middle of a recession is fundamentally wrong. … [A]rtificially capping their economy is the wrong approach,” he said in testimony before Congress.
4. GINGRICH BLAMED THE MASSACRES AT COLUMBINE AND VIRGINIA TECH ON “LIBERALISM”: Showing that his cynicism knows no bounds, Gingrich blamed “the liberal academic elite, the liberal political elite” for the Columbine shootings in Littleton, CO. He followed the same script after the massacre at Virginia Tech, saying liberalism is responsible for the “dehumanization” that led to the killings.
5. GINGRICH WANTED THE RICH TO DECIDE WHEN THEIR OWN TAX CUTS WOULD END: During last winter’s debate over extending the Bush tax cuts, Gingrich said that we should “have the business leadership of the country describe the number” of months that the cuts for the wealthiest should last.
6. DESPITE RAILING AGAINST THE “PARTY OF FOOD STAMPS,” GINGRICH PROPOSED EXPANDING THEM: One of the memes Gingrich has pushed over the past year is that Democrats are the “party of food stamps” because they believe in federal food assistance for the indigent. Yet in 2002, when President George W. Bush proposed expanding some food stamp programs, Gingrich backed him, saying that the “welfare reform” law he helped author in the 1990s went too far in cutting food assistance.
7. FOR THE PAST FEW YEARS, GINGRICH HAS FRONTED FOR THE HEALTH INDUSTRY: Gingrich helped found a number of major businesses, including a for-profit health care firm called the “Center for Health Transformation” (CHT) and a communications firm called the “Gingrich Group.” CHT serves approximately 94 health industry corporations and lobby groups. Despite many meetings with Republican lawmakers to shape health care legislation, Gingrich refuses to register as a lobbyist.
8. GINGRICH REFERRED TO JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR AS A “LATINA WOMAN RACIST”: During the debate over the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor, Gingrich took to his Twitter account to say that Sotomayor, who is a “latina woman racist” should withdraw from the nomination.
9. GINGRICH FLIP-FLOPPED ON THE INDIVIDUAL MANDATE: In 2008, Gingrich suggested “insurance mandates for people who earn more than $75,000 a year.” Yet by 2010, he was blasting the mandate as unconstitutional.
10. GINGRICH SAID WE SHOULD ALLOW SOME TERRORIST ATTACKS TO REMIND US OF THE DANGER: During a book tour, Gingrich told an audience in a speech that was televised on C-SPAN that the Bush administration had been very successful at intercepting terrorists, but had not gotten credit for it, explaining that maybe we should’ve “allowed an attack to get through to remind” Americans about the danger of terrorism.
Throughout his career, Gingrich has devoted himself to constantly changing his views on a whim and trying to position himself relative to the political climate of the moment . While he claims to have changed, the facts haven’t, and ThinkProgress will keep you informed about his latest flip flops and turnarounds in the coming months.