Gingrich Wields History, Seeking to Add Chapter

Historians in the News

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Newt Gingrich is a historian. He earned a Ph.D. in history. If you’ve forgotten, he’ll remind you.

During a six-candidate forum in Iowa recently, Mr. Gingrich dropped in references to the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, Capt. John Smith’s leadership of Jamestown, the French Revolution and, as a bonus, the Latin root of “secular.”

A few days earlier, as guests at a fund-raising breakfast forked into slabs of coffeecake, Mr. Gingrich told a lengthy anecdote about John Quincy Adams.

And in New Hampshire before that, he referred at a Tea Party forum to the Louisiana Purchase, Thomas Jefferson’s abolition of federal judgeships and, again, the Northwest Ordinance of 1787.

Mr. Gingrich taught college history before entering politics, and his historical references on the campaign trail are such a feature of his public remarks as to be nearly a rhetorical tic. They strike some as evidence that Mr. Gingrich is the smartest candidate in the room — and others that he is a man determined to let you know how much he knows.

In an election season rife with factual misstatements, deliberate and otherwise, Mr. Gingrich sometimes seems to stand out for exhibiting an excess of knowledge....

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