I’ve often said that one of the signs of great writing is the ability to look within even your most hated enemy and find the grain of humanity through which they can be understood and explored by the reader. McKay Coppins’ new profile piece on Newt Gingrich in The Atlantic website is not great writing, just a liberal screed. But as Dorothy Parker said, “You can’t teach an old dogma new tricks.”
The long piece devolves into juvenile insults before the second paragraph is complete. While spending the day with Gingrich at the Philadelphia zoo, Coppins describes Gingrich’s figure as “elephantine.” Get it? It’s about as ham-fisted as puns get, but I’m pretty sure that kind of puerile slight is what the young people call “shaming.” (Coppins himself is pasty, chubby, with the pale look of someone who shuns the out of doors and has never used a manual tool in his life.)
Before the third paragraph is done, while Gingrich is inside a large tortoise terrarium Coppin’s borderline rapier wit is once again on display with the line “all of this rather closely approximates a natural habitat.” Get it? Gingrich comes here often AND a tortoise terrarium is similar to a SWAMP … in the words of Alvy Singer of the movie “Annie Hall;” “What I wouldn't give for a large sock with horse manure in it.”
The accompanying photos are hard-lit, Terry Richardson-esque, shots aimed not so much to capture a subject’s humanity but, if Coppins is to be believed, the lack of one. But petty shots aside (see? anyone can make puns too, Coppins). But this was supposed to be a profile piece exploring Newt’s political history. How did Coppins do?
Throughout the piece, Gingrich tries to apply facts from the animal kingdom to the political arena. While Gingrich was obviously hoping to use this as a framing device to contextualize the current political climate, Coppins uses them as a device to frame Gingrich, not only as a political animal, but as the assailant responsible for murdering political civility in America.
Here are various facts he claims, and below them the actual truth:
“‘There is,’ he explained soon after arriving, ‘a lot we can learn from the natural world.’”
“Since then, Gingrich has spent much of the day using zoo animals to teach me about politics and human affairs. In the reptile room, I learn that the evolutionary stability of the crocodile (“Ninety million years, and they haven’t changed much”) illustrates the folly of pursuing change for its own sake: ‘If you’re doing something right, keep doing it.’”
Coppins is off by just of a hundred million years, but Gingrich may be referring to a specific species, so we’ll give him a pass there. Throughout the article, Coppin listens to Gingrich make parallels between his knowledge on the animal kingdom and his political viewpoints. Gingrich then claims that the status of politics comes from the relation with humanity and chimps. He then states that this behavior is natural. The point Gingrich is conveying is that disagreement is natural. Primates fight. Instead, what Coppins extrapolates is that Gingrich is a warmonger who is gleeful about our nation tearing itself apart.
There is nothing natural about harassing and continually attacking people. While Coppins lays blame for this on Gingrich, liberal professor, Mark Bray, was recently celebrated for writing a book that literally endorsed and encouraged groups like Antifa to engage in violence and intimidation. In fact, the majority of radical behavior has instead come from groups such as Antifa, and those who feel that emotional as well as physical attacks are the most justified manner to get their point across. Gingrich didn’t create nor does he advocate for such support. In fact, he states that support for such actions comes from Democrats, as well as various radical groups. Gingrich instead supports reasonable conversation and cooperation between groups of individuals. After all, the best way to have a culture that supports bringing discontented elements of society together, and encouraging society as a whole to work together. This would be done through peaceful cooperation amongst all parts of American society.
“Gingrich hustled to keep his cause—and himself—in the press. ‘If you’re not in The Washington Post every day, you might as well not exist,’ he told one reporter. His secret to capturing headlines was simple, he explained to supporters: ‘The No. 1 fact about the news media is they love fights … When you give them confrontations, you get attention; when you get attention, you can educate.’”
However, Gingrich doesn’t need to start fights to get attention, get his point across. The same can’t be said for left-wing radicals. Gingrich doesn’t need all the generated noise to get his point across. Coppins then begins to elaborate on how his childhood experiences, and goes on to talk about the delusion that Gingrich sees himself as a world-historic hero. However, Gingrich has never seen himself this way. Instead he sees himself as a person of reason, and decency. Unlike some people, he is able to do this without spreading hate or attacking others. The same can’t be said for the Democrats, and the opponents that Gingrich has gone up against. Unlike Coppins states, he was able to bring about change through reasonable reform and has only ever wanted to facilitate cooperation within politics. This contradicts what Coppin states throughout the article, but also further evidence is provided that shows that Gingrich is a person of class. He doesn’t attack his political opponents, and approaches conversation with class. Furthermore, through working together, Gingrich believes that the political climate within America can be made stable, and promote positive change in American society. In doing so, the political climate within America could be one of peace again. So we know Coppins will dispute the philosophy of Gingirch; what about the history?
No mention of the vast reforms of congress, including closing the corrupt House bank Gingrich brought about in 1995. No mention of the Contract with America, which produced many significant legislative achievements including welfare reform, tax reform and other initiatives, all signed by Democrat president Bill Clinton. This is why liberals can never, ever be trusted to record American history, much less conservative history accurately.
“Gingrich unleashed a smear campaign aimed at taking Wright down.”
Coppins clearly has a soft spot for former Speaker of the House Jim Wright. Though he concedes, “Wright came off as gruff and power-hungry,” but the only flaw Coppins concedes he committed was wanting to keep power from Republicans. Wright was forced to resign as Speaker after personally profiting from his office. The House Ethics Committee nailed him on all his misdeeds. But to liberal Coppins, the accusations were all smears. To objective reality, they were the tip of the iceberg for one of the most corrupt men in modern politics. One could fill a book with that man’s scandals but none speaks louder than the story of Pamela Small.
In 1973, 20-year-old Pamela Small, followed a young manager into a storeroom after inquiring about some blinds that were damaged:
“[H]e blocked the door and ordered her to lie face down on the floor. When she refused -- when, with growing panic, she tried to talk her way to freedom -- he grabbed a hammer and slammed it into her skull. She immediately lost consciousness but he continued pounding, exposing the skull in five places. Then he grabbed a steak knife, stabbed her five times in the left breast and shoulder near her heart, and slashed her repeatedly across the throat.
“Bundling her limp body into the car she had left parked out front, he drove around for a while, then left the vehicle in an alley behind the store, the keys in the ignition. Then he went to the movies.
“‘He told the police he thought I was dead,’ Small recalls.”
She physically recovered after a year of life-saving surgeries, reconstructive surgeries, and rehabilitation. Her assailant John Paul Mack, “was arrested the following day, pleaded guilty to malicious wounding ("that he did ... stab, cut and wound one Pamela Small with the intent to maim, disfigure, disable and kill") … .” He was supposed to receive 15 years in a penitentiary. He didn’t spend a single day in a maximum security prison. Instead, he went to a cushy county jail for a pathetic two and a half years and was paroled early. Why? Because his brother’s father-in-law was Congressman Jim Wright.
Mack received early parole because Wright offered to let him join his staff. He would go on to become “arguably the most powerful staff member on Capitol Hill.” Jim Wright went above and beyond to ensure that Pamela Small’s violent aggressor never saw a day in with the hard cases and became wildly successful as a result. When the story broke, all hell broke loose on the hill. Women congressman from both sides of the aisle severed ties with Wright until Mack was dismissed. See, apparently Coppins didn’t feel that stories about Wright’s corruption were relevant to a story about Gingrich fighting Wright’s corruption. Also, it’s worth mentioning the “great” Tip O’Neill defended both Mack and Wright. But I guess the liberal narrative was just too juicy to acknowledge any of this. My mistake, Coppins.
Pieces like this make you wonder about the soup that people like Coppins swim in. The man wrote extensively about Gingrich picking fights with Democratic congressmen under the guise of opposing corruption …without ever asking if any of the people Gingrich was fighting were actually corrupt! How can that type of writing be accepted as actual scholarship? The only plausible theory is this: before Coppins ever met Gingrich, he had a theory in search of facts: Gingrich ruined politics. The actual profiling of Gingrich was a mere formality. He picked up on the juicy bits that affirmed his opinion and filled in the rest. Indeed, this how the piece reads. There’s a distorted, simplified, misinterpreted piece of a fact, then a soaring diatribe about how terrible Republicans are before landing on another distorted, simplified, misinterpreted piece of a fact, then you soar once more. The only thing this piece profiled is the lengths Coppins is willing to go to affirm his own bias.
In this, Coppins stubbornness is on par with the jackass … Hey! Coppins was right, animal puns can be fun!
Craig Shirley is the author of four bestselling books Ronald Reagan's campaigns, including "Reagan Rising: The Decisive Years, 1976-1980," out March 21, 2017. He is also the author of the New York Times bestseller, "December 1941," and is the president of Shirley & Banister Public Affairs.