Thursday, February 25, 2010

Newt and Shirley

The American Spectator announces that Craig Shirley is to write the authorised biography of Newt Gingrich.

Gingrich is best known for his science-fiction writing, but has also in recent years got into the movie business. He and his wife run Gingrich Productions, which rides the wave of conservative film-making that began about five years ago in reaction to Michael Moore. They have their own festivals and everything. The Gingrichs have produced and hosted Rediscovering God in America (parts I and II), Nine Days That Changed the World (about John Paul II's visit to Poland) and Rendezvous with Destiny about the life and presidency of Ronald Reagan. On top of this, Gingrich has pretty much confirmed a 2012 presidential run. A campaign biography is on the cards, then, and Shirley seems a sensible choice.

Craig Shirley is the author of Reagan's Revolution (2004), about the 1976 campaign, and has more recently written on the 1980 campaign in Rendezvous with Destiny, which should be worth a read if only for its first use (I think) of the newly opened campaign papers at the Reagan Library. So Shirley and Gingrich share a fondness (for Shirley's books are very fond) for Reagan, and also for unimaginative titles. Each also has a long history with the Republican party - Shirley at least as far back as 1984, when he campaigned for Reagan. He now runs a public relations firm and writes shallow and snarky editorials about why Obama is no Reagan (because Reagan appealed to the common-sense citizenry rather than the "wisenheimers of Washington": D.C's elite lobbyists, pundits and PR men. Please read the services which Shirley & Banister Public Affairs provide).

Gingrich's energetic life and career could make an interesting story, though his straight transition from academia to Congress might not fit the traditional presidential story of hardship, self-education, enterprise and outsider credentials. Gingrich, though, has faith in biography, and its practical, inspirational purpose:

"I don't care what you want to be. If you want to get rich, read the biographies of people who got rich. If you want to be a famous entertainer, read the biographies of people who got to be famous entertainers." - Taken from Joan Didion's fantastic study of weird, 'Newt Gingrich, Superstar' (1995)

I'm not sure if I want to be Newt Gingrich, but watch this space.

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