Your Daily Newt: The Germans Have a Word for It

"GINGRICH CRUSH!"Patrick Fallon/ZumaPress

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As a service to our readers, every day we are delivering a classic moment from the political life of Newt Gingrich—until he either clinches the nomination or bows out.

Newt Gingrich hates bureaucracies. He loathes them, really—wants to watch ’em burn and see them replaced with a “conservative opportunity society” in which the government gets out of the way to allow private businesses to (for example) extract minerals from the moon. But there’s one European bureaucracy Gingrich believes the United States could learn from: The German military, which the Georgia firebrand used as a model for how to manage the House Republican caucus. As Vanity Fair reported in 1994:

Gingrich’s pal Stephen Hanser says that part of Newt’s strategy in the House is based on combat theory, namely the German armed-forces doctrine of Auftragstaktik, or “mission orders.” The problem is that in the heat of battle subtleties are lost. Standards fall. Atrocities are forgiven. Especially if the action is rapid-fire.

Connie Bruck offered some more context in the New Yorker:

Since his earliest years in Congress (he was first elected in 1978) he has lived by what he calls a “planning model”—which entails vision, strategies, projects, tactics. It is adapted from the German military model, having been introduced to Gingrich in the mid-seventies by his close friend and advisor Steven Hanser, who was a fellow history professor at West Georgia College and is a specialist on the Wehrmacht (the German armed forces).

Gingrich’s love for the German language wasn’t just a passing phase. In blurbing Rep. Steve Israel’s 2007 collection of military speeches, Charge!, Gingrich wrote: “Steve Israel possesses that rare quality that the nineteenth-century German Army called ‘fingerspitzengefuhl,” which he defined as “a fingertip sense for the art of war.”

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We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

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