The New Henry Clay

Back in December, I got an alert from Amazon telling me to pre-order a new book. Citizen Newt, a biography by Reagan scribe Craig Shirley, would be the first bio completed with the former speaker’s full permission.

Amidst a 2012 presidential run and backchatter about personal failings comes the authorized biography of Newt GingrichIn one way or another Newt Gingrich has been trying to lead a revolution for most of his life, and Citizen Newt is the story of that struggle.

I would link to the book’s listing, but I can’t – the release has been delayed to 2013. Wisely, Shirley’s publishers prioritized his history of Pearl Harbor and put that out first. When I talked to Shirley today for a story (up shortly) on the expiring Gingrich campaign, he cautioned that his biography would probably end in 1994, when Gingrich became speaker. The presidential campaign?

“This is, in many ways, just a footnote as far as his political career is concerned,” said Shirley. “He’s not going to be known for this presidential campaign. He’ll be known for the historic takeover of Congress in 1994, and all the things leading up to the takeover.”

Had the campaign done him any good? “He went through the trials and tribulations,” Shirley mused. “He got the scar tissue and came in with the silver medal. Well – in the delegate count, Santorum had the silver and gingrich had the bronze.”

But I was asking a complicated question. In the short term, obviously, blowing the presidency was bad for Gingrich. In the long run, it wouldn’t matter. “When you think of Henry Clay, and you think of the War Hawks or the Kansas-Nebraska Compromise, you don’t think of his failed presidential campaigns. You’re hard pressed to think of someone with a greater role in the politics of his time than Gingrich.” And 2012 wasn’t his time.