The Long March of Newt Gingrich: Part Five


December 21, 2011
This week, FRONTLINE is putting up excerpts from our 1996 biography, The Long March of Newt Gingrich. Watch part one, part two, part three and part four.

“You favor a political revolution. You want to replace the welfare state with an opportunity society. You favor workfare over welfare. You want to lock prisoners up and you’re actually prepared to give up some political pork barrel to build as many prisons as you need.”

— Newt Gingrich, GOPAC training tape

In 1986, Newt became the chair of GOPAC, the Republican political action committee, and he turned it into a potent instrument for his conservative vision. Former Delaware Gov. Pete DuPont, one of the group’s founders, explains:

Our original idea was to help 300 or 400 candidates in the first election run for the Ohio State legislature and the California legislature around the country. Newt said, “We can do that, we can help young people, but why don’t we put together some educational material and spread it widely through the country so that people will begin to understand the conservative message, the conservative philosophy?”

Newt’s greatest weapon was piercing political language. He relentlessly promoted “Newtspeak” through training tapes distributed to conservative activists nationwide. “I started receiving GOPAC tapes probably five years ago, when I was in the state legislature,” Rep. Gil Gutknecht (R-Minn.) told FRONTLINE. “And when they would come … in the mail I would open them right away and I would put them in a cassette player within 24 hours. We were always eager to get them. It was almost like a chalk talk with a great coach.”

A leaked 1990 GOPAC internal memo details Newt’s relentless focus on language. It suggested recipients memorize a list of “Optimistic Positive Governing Words” such as “common sense,” “freedom” and “principle[d]” to describe the Republican vision, as well as a list of “Contrasting Words,” such as “excuses,” “pathetic” and “stagnation” to denigrate the message of their opponents.

Newt also presided over an American history course, transmitted by satellite, based on his core belief that the survival of American culture was in peril because the country had embraced the values of the Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs. But critics noted that Newt’s course promoted the ideas of GOPAC donors and questioned whether his agenda was being driven by the highest bidder.

Bonus: Were you surprised to see Newt with Arianna Huffington in the footage of a GOPAC event? Read about their tangled history in “Newt Gingrich and Arianna Huffington; A ’90s Story” from Politico reporters Kenneth P. Vogel and Dylan Byers.

Produced by Steve Talbot, The Long March of Newt Gingrich was a co-production with the Center for Investigative Reporting.

In order to foster a civil and literate discussion that respects all participants, FRONTLINE has the following guidelines for commentary. By submitting comments here, you are consenting to these rules:

Readers' comments that include profanity, obscenity, personal attacks, harassment, or are defamatory, sexist, racist, violate a third party's right to privacy, or are otherwise inappropriate, will be removed. Entries that are unsigned or are "signed" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. We reserve the right to not post comments that are more than 400 words. We will take steps to block users who repeatedly violate our commenting rules, terms of use, or privacy policies. You are fully responsible for your comments.

blog comments powered by Disqus

More Stories

Mass Shootings, a Supreme Court Ruling, Bipartisan Legislation: How America Reached This Moment on Guns
FRONTLINE has been chronicling America’s dialogue on guns for years. Get the backstory on the recent news in these documentaries.
June 29, 2022
The Supreme Court Has Overturned 'Roe v. Wade.' These Documentaries Show How We Got Here.
Overriding nearly five decades of legal precedent, the Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that legalized abortion in the U.S. These documentaries offer context on how America reached this moment.
June 24, 2022
Why the Black Educator Forced Out Over Bogus Critical Race Theory Claims Wanted to Share Her Story
ProPublica reporter Nicole Carr explains why educator Cecelia Lewis was hesitant to speak to reporters about white parents forcing her out of her job and why she ultimately decided she had to.
June 18, 2022
White Parents Rallied to Chase a Black Educator Out of Town. Then, They Followed Her to the Next One.
Cecelia Lewis was asked to apply for a Georgia school district’s first-ever administrator job devoted to diversity, equity and inclusion. A group of parents — coached by local and national anti-CRT groups — had other plans.
June 16, 2022