If Sinclair Lewis had lived long enough to write a novel about Newt Gingrich, he’d have cast him as a grifter. He’d move from town to town, living out of a suitcase and renting by the night. Gingrich would probably sell shares in The Fully Patented Ultra-Sonic Moon Shuttle, an expensive stake in a nonexistent rocket. “Reserve your ticket to the stars! Dip your toes in the Sea of Tranquility! Breathe the mineral rich air of the moon!” Of course, as soon as the jig is up, he’d be gone — leaving behind irate debtors, bankrupted old ladies and the odd angry husband or two.
A fantasy perhaps, but Newt has always lived on his wits, surviving only so long as people never spotted the con. The clues were there at the very beginning of his career, when he took a position teaching history at West Georgia College in 1970. Within a year, the 28-year-old applied to be college president. When that failed, he waited another year before trying to become head of the department. Again, he was rebuffed. After delivering a handful of lectures on “futurism” and “environmentalism,” this ambitious young man defected to the geography department