Gingrich’s papers show criticism of Reagan

Newt Gingrich likes to portray himself as a “Reagan Conservative,” someone that believes in and pursues limited government policies. But the Washington Post reports that Gingrich was critical of Ronald Reagan’s views and wasn’t at all an advocate of a limited government:

In an unnoticed 1992 speech, Newt Gingrich in a single utterance took aim not only at a beloved conservative icon but also at a core tenet of the conservative movement: that government must be limited.

Ronald Reagan’s “weakness,” Gingrich told the National Academy of Public Administration in Atlanta, was that “he didn’t think government mattered. . . . The Reagan failure was to grossly undervalue the centrality of government as the organizing mechanism for reinforcing societal behavior.”

A review of thousands of documents detailing Gingrich’s career shows it wasn’t the first time he had criticized Reagan, whom he regularly invokes today in his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. When Gingrich was in the House, his chief of staff noted at a 1983 staff meeting that his boss frequently derided Reagan, along with then-White House Chief of Staff James A. Baker III and Robert H. Michel, the House Republican leader.

Gingrich “assumed that he’s the whole Republican Party,” said the Gingrich aide, Frank Gregorsky, according to a transcript of the meeting. “He knows more than the president, the president’s people, Michel, Baker. He calls them stupid all the time, and I think that’s going to get him into big trouble someday.”

An examination of the papers collected over nearly three decades reveals a politician of moderate-to-liberal beginnings, a product of the civil rights era who moved to the right with an eye on political expediency — and privately savaged Republicans he was praising in public. Even as he gained a reputation as a conservative firebrand, the documents show Gingrich was viewed by his staff primarily as a tactician — the “tent evangelist” of the conservative movement, one staffer said — with little ideological core.

Wait, this is the guy that has been called the “intellectual leader of the conservative movement”? You may say that Gingrich has become more conservative as time has gone by, but has he really? After all, he laid the groundwork for the big-spending path that Republicans took. He supported Medicare Part D, TARP, and an individual mandate for health insurance.

And then there’s this:

Gingrich was often passionate, even emotional, in private. But he was also passionate about ideas, among them his longtime fascination with space.

In a 1983 staff meeting — three decades before he would propose a colony on the moon during his presidential campaign — he insisted on pursuing $60 million a year in federal funding aimed at building 12 space stations and a mine on the moon. According to a transcript, he said he wanted to “mandate” that NASA take the money. He proposed unionizing workers in space. And Republican leaders who were resisting additional funds for science, he said, were “idiots” and “so incredibly stupid.”

Yeah, because his moon colony, an incredibly expensive proposition, isn’t the dumbest policy idea that has come up during this primary race [/sarcasm]:

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