Tag Archives: Newt Gingrich

Gingrich the Entrepreneur

            Republicans may be refining the idea of what business competence means. The party has long cherished expertise gathered in the marketplace over mere political skill or experience.  But there was an interesting nuance introduced in a Washington Post article about Newt Gingrich, published today, which suggests that the ideal of the man of commerce may not be monolithic.

            In an article exploring concerns about Gingrich’s leadership during his years a Speaker of the House, former Congressman Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) praised the fast-rising presidential contender for getting “a plane that hadn’t flown in 40 years to fly.” But he went on to say that the plane then flew erratically, up, down, left, right, raising questions about Gingrich’s leadership skills.

            “Newt is an entrepreneur more than he’s a manager,” says Shays.

            Interesting. Is there a distinction forming between the self-made man (entrepreneurial skill) and the technocratic leader (managerial expertise)? The former implies risk taking, vision and a willingness to fail; the latter suggests steadiness, competence and professionalism.

            Genuine success in business no doubt requires both skill sets, and there are many cases in which the entrepreneurial founder  of a corporation eventually finds himself sidelined by business-school types after the start up grows bigger than the founder’s ability to manage it.

            Both skill sets are idealized by the political parties that dominate U.S. politics, but the Democratic Party, of late, has stressed managerial competence while the Republican Party idealizes the self-made man. The rise of candidates such as Herman Cain (which skill set was primary on his résumé?) and Gingrich may require more subtle thinking about just exactly what the Republican Party wants to valorize in the commercial sector. And that will give importance clues about how it conceives of the presidency.

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Newt Gingrich: Opera Lover

    As Newt Gingrich rises in the polls, it’s worth putting one little item on the table of public discourse: He loves opera. In Washington, lots of people love opera, but it’s rare for politicians with national ambitions to love it so publicly and openly as Gingrich has in the past. As anyone who attends the Washington National Opera–now the official opera company of the Kennedy Center for the Arts–can attest, he’s often there, especially on big gala occasions. That puts him in company with several Supreme Court justices, including Antonin Scalia and Ruther Bader Ginsburg. But Supremes have lifetime appointments, which makes it considerably safer to love opera in the open. Gingrich is still looking for benediction from the national electorate, which makes his embrace of the Irrational Art Form all the more daring. How will it play out? When someone asks the inevitable question about what kind of music he likes, will Gingrich say Verdi, Puccini and Mozart? Or will he and his people attempt to sequester the opera lovin’ data point in the same category as the former Speaker’s taste for big ticket items at Tiffanys?

It’s also possible that his love of opera could reinforce his public persona as an intellectual. Opera is for smart people, of course. Not likely. The base probably doesn’t much care about Rigoletto, Rheingold or Radamisto, and there’s a difference between seeming smart (having ideas) and seeming cultured.

The real question, for opera lovers, is what kind of opera does Gingrich love. Italian? German? French? Early Instruments? Regietheatre? Or classic old-guard production? Is he a soprano man? Or more inclined to the bass and baritone roles? These questions matter.

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Filed under Culture, Music, Opera, Uncategorized