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Open Letter to Mark Plotkin Regarding Professor Cornpone

Mr. Mark Plotkin, Political Analyst
WTOP Radio
Washington, DC

Dear Mr. Plotkin:

Your commentary on WTOP is always enjoyable.  But I question your claim that Newt Gingrich brings “cerebral” heft to the field of GOP presidential candidates.

While it’s true that everything is relative – compared to Donald Trump, a buzzing gnat sounds like Suetonius – Newt Gingrich’s alleged shining intellect seems to be merely a mirage conjured by Gingrich’s acting skills.

My sense of Gingrich is the same as H.L. Mencken’s sense of a previously famous “cerebral” politician: Woodrow Wilson.  Mencken criticized Wilson’s 1913 to 1921 run in the nation’s premier political theater for “its ideational hollowness, its ludicrous strutting and bombast, its heavy dependence upon greasy and meaningless words, its frequent descents to mere sound and fury, signifying nothing….  Wilson was their [the pundits who admired him] superior in their own special field – that he accomplished with a great deal more skill than they did themselves the great task of reducing all the difficulties of the hour to a few sonorous and unintelligible phrases, often with theological overtones – that he knew better than they did how to arrest and enchant the boobery with words that were simply words, and nothing else.”*

Perhaps you’ll reply that Mencken’s description of Wilson applies to 99.5573 percent of all successful politicians.  And I would agree.  But I would not include Gingrich in the 0.4427 percent of politicians whose clarity and honesty protect them from being so described.

Donald J. Boudreaux

* H.L. Mencken, “The Archangel Woodrow,” reprinted in The Vintage Mencken, Alistair Cooke, ed. (Vintage, 1955), pp. 117-119.