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“He never reached the top in academia, and he never served in the military, yet his self-image was that of the heroic soldier-scholar who could inculcate his troops and lead them into battle. That was House Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1995; or so it appeared.”

Tell Newt to Shut Up

Prize-Winning Washington Post Journalists Reveal How Reality Gagged the Gingrich Revolution
  • Everett M. Dirksen Prize for Journalism
  • George Polk Award for National Reporting

Speaker Newt Gingrich and his troops promised a revolution when they seized power in January 1995. The year that followed was one of the most fascinating and tumultuous in modern American history. After stunning early success with the Contract with America, the Republicans began to lose momentum; by year’s end Gingrich was isolated and uncertain, and his closest allies were telling him to shut up.

Here is an unprecedented, fly-on-the-wall look at the successes, sellouts, and perhaps fatal mistakes of Newt Gingrich’s Republican Revolution. Based on the award-winning Washington Post series that documented the Republicans’ day-to-day attempts to revolutionize the American government, “Tell Newt to Shut Up!” gets to the heart of the political process.

  • 224 pages
  • Simon & Schuster
  • May 1996
  • ISBN 9780684832937

General Gingrich

Chapter One

Sonny Bono got it first. Before most professional image advisers and veteran Republican pols had a clue, the freshman congressman from Palm Springs anticipated what would happen. Newt Gingrich was rocketing into a new realm, and he seemed to have no idea how different and dangerous it would be. It mattered little that he had prepared himself to be Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives since his college days, or that he had spent thousands of hours with managers at Delta, Coca-Cola, Ford, and the Army studying how large institutions operated. Everything he had learned about leadership from examining the careers of FDR, Churchill, and Reagan was secondary now to one unavoidable fact that a mustachioed little guy who crooned “I Got You Babe” with Cher intuitively understood when others did not.

Bono issued his warning on the morning the world changed: January 4, 1995. Sonny’s first day as congressman. Newt’s first day as speaker. The revolution was already in full, dizzying swirl. Newt was marching from meeting to interview to speech with the bearing of an overstuffed field general, surrounded by the hubbub scrum of aides, photographers, and press hacks. As he and Bob Dole, majority leader of the Senate, were leaving a CBS Morning News interview in the old Agriculture Committee Room in the Longworth House Office Building, Bono approached them.