First off, I have to admit to a couple of embarrassing things about me and this book:
- I got it for Christmas from my wonderful husband, and I was extremely excited, even though Newt’s headshot from the cover does seem a bit disappointed in me.
- This exchange with my college roommate happened – I’ll let you decide which one of us is cooler:
Valerie: have you read The Hunger Games yet?? I read it at the GYM this morning bc I just needed more BOOK time!!!
me: so this is pathetic, but I totally did that at the gym this week…. with a book by NEWT GINGRICH
Valerie: oh, Dani girl you need help
me: Someone sign me up for AARP
The conclusion? I am awesome.
Anyway. The subtitle of A Nation Like No Other is “Why American Exceptionalism Matters”. With that subtitle, I’ll be honest, I kind of expected a lot of rants about how entitled America is to everything, how America should be in space and how journalists are douchebags. “American Exceptionalism” after all, has lately become synonymous with empire, with morally uneasy choices that America gets to do because nobody else is powerful enough to tell her not to; and I think that Republicans have largely bought into that, and either own it, swaggering around like the bully at school with grandiosity and pomp, or distance themselves from it entirely, apologizing for apologizing and apologizing again. But Gingrich, in this book, creates a framework for American Exceptionalism that is based on history, on true stories of hard-working immigrants and small-business owners and people who are aching to make a real difference. He reframes the narrative (something anyone who’s watched a debate knows he excels at) and in doing so, he gives his reader room to breathe, to distance themselves from the thoughtless swaggerers and the fearful apologizers, and to find themselves somewhere in the middle, with facts to back up their positions instead of gut feelings.
This book embodies the best parts of Newt. It demonstrates his extensive knowledge, his quirky history professor persona and a very believable love of country. Because writing a book requires edits and revisions, he’s not allowed to spout off about moon colonies or how everybody is keeping the Christians down or how much he hates Wolf Blitzer. His tone is reasonable, well-educated and amazingly likable.
It is obvious now that Newt’s presidential bid is puttering to a halt, and I have to admit some equal parts relief and sadness. After reading A Nation Like No Other, I’m struck by the lack of pandering in his writing. He seems to be unwilling to give up common liberal “wrongs” and instead leads an optimistic charge, declaring America to be good, a democratic republic to be worth the trouble, and every day voters smart enough to stand up to their elected officials and declare that enough is enough. However, I’m also a bit relieved, because as we have seen on the campaign trail, Gingrich is simply not disciplined when on the spot. He’s a great debater, a very educated and intelligent man and I hope that whoever ends up in the White House puts him to good use – but I just think that the wild schemes and untempered approaches leave something to be desired for a presidential candidate. That said, he makes a great author, and I hope he keeps writing books like A Nation Like No Other. I, for one, will stay at the gym to read them.