I don't mean that in a partisan sense. But rather I ask the question in terms of journalism and newsworthiness.
Reading the New York Times Magazine's star treatment of Newt Gingrich this weekend, I kept waiting for the massive 8,000-word article to answer the very simple question, who cares what Newt Gingrich thinks? He hasn't been in office for more than a decade. I can't think of a single Bush era initiative that had Gingrich's fingerprints on it. He didn't run for president. And even the Times article details how House Republicans completely ignored Newt's advice on how to deal with the new president Obama in terms of his stimulus package. And yet....
And yet there Newt is on the cover of the Times magazine with the headline, "The Anti-Obama," which clearly tried to elevate the failed Speaker of the House to the level of the new president. We're supposed to believe that Newt's now calling the shots inside Washington, D.C. among Republicans. But again, where's the proof? Newt obviously has no control whatsoever over the legislative process and he's not running for office.
But he emails colleagues lots of ideas! Okay.....
From the Times profile:
There's not really any unified, easily distillable argument in these and other proposals, no ideology that might be charted on a continuum and labeled accordingly...Gingrich told me he has identified about 100 ideas and positions that command anywhere from 62 percent to 93 percent support among such a cross-section of voters: giving out tax credits for installing alternative heating sources in your home (90 percent); awarding cash prizes to anyone who invents a car that gets 100 miles to the gallon (77 percent); keeping God in the Pledge of Allegiance (88 percent).
Gingrich has been doing the deep thinker/ideas shtick for nearly 15 years, and the press loves it. Gingrich's ideas don't ever really go anywhere. But for the Beltway press corps, he's a big deal. He's serious and he's important and of course the out-of-power wannabe pol should be the subject of a massive Times profile, right?
Plus, the state of the the GOP is just a hugely important topic, and how could readers survive without fresh quotes from Frank Luntz about how stupendous Gingrich is, and quotes from Grover Norquist about what a liar Obama a liar, right?
BTW: If you'd like a little context, which was missing from the Times piece, when Republican voters were polled in September 2007 and asked who they'd support to be the party's nominee, Grinch, in this WSJ poll, came in last place.
But of course in 2009, Gingrich is a very important person. Or put another way, when should we expect to see the Times' 8,000-word feature on Democratic idea man Dennis Kucinich?