In 1995, after large Republican gains in the 1994 elections (during which, touting a "Contract with America," he championed a balanced-budget amendment, limitations on welfare benefits, and term limits for members of Congress), he became the first Republican Speaker in 40 years. Often didactic, frequently combative, Gingrich led Republicans in attempts to enact conservative legislation, leading to conflicts with President Bill Clinton, most dramatically over the budget in 1995 and 1996.
The Republicans' program was only partially successful, and Clinton's confrontations with Gingrich and the House helped to restore some of the stature the president had lost after the 1994 elections. In the 1996 House elections, Republicans retained the majority and Gingrich his speakership, but he began to lose favor with the conservative bloc, who saw him as backing away from their principles. In early 1997, the House, after an investigation initiated in 1995, reprimanded Gingrich for campaign funding violations. In the 1998 congressional elections, Democrats made substantial gains in the midst of the Clinton impeachment (see Lewinsky scandal), and Gingrich abruptly resigned his speakership and House seat. In 1999, he joined a Washington think tank and became a television-network political commentator. Gingrich's books include To Renew America (1995), Winning the Future (2005), and Pearl Harbor (2007), an historical novel which he cowrote.
A college history professor, conservative political leader, and author, Gingrich twice ran unsuccessfully for the House before winning a seat in November 1978. He was re-elected 10 times, and his activism as a member of the House's Republican minority eventually enabled him to succeed Dick Cheney as House Minority Whip in 1989. As a co-author of the 1994 Contract with America, Gingrich was in the forefront of the Republican Party's dramatic success in the 1994 Congressional elections and subsequently was elected Speaker. Gingrich's leadership in Congress was marked by opposition to many of the policies of the Clinton Administration. Shortly after the 1998 elections, where Republicans lost 5 seats in the House, Gingrich announced his resignation as Speaker.
After resigning his seat, Gingrich has maintained a career as a political analyst and consultant and continues to write works related to government and other subjects, such as historical fiction. Recently he founded the think tank American Solutions.
Gingrich was the child of a career military family, moving a number of times while growing up and attending school at various military installations. He ultimately graduated from Baker High School in Columbus, Georgia in 1961. He received a B.A. degree from Emory University in Atlanta in 1965. He received an M.A. in 1968 and a Ph.D in 1971 in Modern European History from Tulane University in New Orleans.
Gingrich taught history at University of West Georgia in Carrollton, Georgia from 1970 to 1978, although he was untenured. He also taught a class, Renewing American Civilization, at Kennesaw State University in 1993.
Gingrich has been married three times. He married Jackie Battley, his former high school geometry teacher, when he was 19 years old (she was seven years his senior at 26 years old). They had two daughters and divorced in 1980. It is alleged that while she was in the hospital recovering from surgery for uterine cancer, he appeared at her bedside with a yellow legal pad outlining the details for their divorce, an action that would later be used against him: In 1992, his Democratic opponent, Tony Center, ran an ad claiming that Gingrich had "delivered divorce papers to [Jackie] the day after her cancer operation," which was not technically true.
In 1981, six months after his divorce was final, Gingrich wed Marianne Ginther. He remained married to Ginther until 2000, when they divorced. Gingrich married Callista Bisek shortly thereafter, with whom Gingrich later admitted to having an affair.
Newt and Callista currently live in McLean, VA.
Although a source of friction in the conservative wing of the GOP (and some pro-union "blue dog" democrats), Gingrich supports a "guest worker program" for Mexican citizens, meaning that an undetermined number of Mexican citizens would be allowed to come to the United States and work for a period of time, then return to Mexico. Gingrich also supports the idea of allowing some of these guest workers to become citizens. In his book Winning the Future, he says:
"Along with total border control, we must make it easier for people who enter the United States legally, to work for a set period of time, obey the law, and return home. The requirements for participation in a worker visa program should be tough and uncompromising. The first is essential: Everyone currently working in the United States illegal must return to their home country to apply for the worker visa program. Anything less than requiring those who are here illegally to return home to apply for legal status is amnesty, plain and simple."
Flynt chose not to run for re-election in 1978, and the Democrats fielded state senator Virginia Shapard in his place. Shapard's support of the Equal Rights Amendmentbackfired against her in the socially conservative district, and Gingrich defeated her by almost 9 points.
Gingrich was reelected six times from this district, facing only one truly difficult race. In the House elections of 1990, he defeated Democrat David Worley by only 974 votes.
In May 1988, Gingrich (along with 77 other House members and Common Cause) brought ethics charges against Democratic Speaker Jim Wright, who was alleged to have used a book deal to circumvent campaign-finance laws and House ethics rules and eventually resigned as a result of the inquiry. Gingrich's success in forcing Wright's resignation was in part responsible for his rising influence in the Republican caucus. In 1989, after House Minority Whip Dick Cheney was appointed Secretary of Defense, Gingrich was elected to succeed him. Gingrich and others in the house, especially the newly minted Gang of Seven, railed against what they saw as ethical lapses in the House, an institution that had been under Democratic control for almost 40 years. The House banking scandal and Congressional Post Office Scandal were emblems of the corruption exposed.
At the same time, they created a new 6th District in Fulton and Cobb counties in the wealthy northern suburbs of Atlanta — an area Gingrich had never represented. However, Gingrich sold his home in Carrollton, moved to Marietta in the new 6th and won a very close Republican primary. The primary victory was tantamount to election in the new, heavily Republican district. Also, Ray narrowly lost to Republican state senator Mac Collins.
In the 1994 campaign season, in an effort to offer a concrete alternative to shifting Democratic policies and to unite distant wings of the Republican Party, Gingrich presented Dick Armey's and his Contract with America. The contract was signed by himself and other Republican candidates for the House of Representatives. The contract ranged from issues with broad popular support, including welfare reform, term limits, tougher crime laws, and a balanced budget law, to more specialized legislation such as restrictions on American military participation in U.N. missions. In the November 1994 elections, Republicans gained 54 seats and took control of the House for the first time since 1954.
Longtime House Minority Leader Bob Michel of Illinois had not run for re-election in 1994, giving Gingrich, as the highest-ranking Republican returning to Congress, the inside track to becoming Speaker. Legislation proposed by the 104th United States Congress included term limits for Congressional Representatives, tax cuts, welfare reform, and a balanced budget amendment, as well as independent auditing of the finances of the House of Representatives and elimination of non-essential services such as the House barbershop and shoe-shine concessions. Congress fulfilled Gingrich's Contract promise to bring all ten of the Contract's issues to a vote within the first 100 days of the session, even though most legislation was held up in the Senate, vetoed by President Bill Clinton, or substantially altered in negotiations with Clinton. The Contract was criticized by the Sierra Club and by Mother Jones magazine as a Trojan horse tactic that, while deploying the rhetoric of reform, would have the real effect of allowing corporate polluters to profit at the expense of the environment; it was referred to by opponents, including President Clinton, as the "Contract on America".
However, most parts of the Contract eventually became law in some fashion and represented a dramatic departure from the legislative goals and priorities of previous Congresses. See Implementation of the Contract for a detailed discussion of what was and was not enacted.
Gingrich inflicted a blow to his public image by seeming to suggest that the Republican hard-line stance over the budget was in part due to his feeling "snubbed" by the President the day before following his return from Yitzhak Rabin's funeral in Israel. Gingrich was lampooned in the media as a petulant figure with an inflated self-image, and at least one editorial cartoon depicted him as having thrown a temper tantrum. Democratic leaders took the opportunity to attack Gingrich's motives for the budget standoff, and some say the shutdown might have contributed to Clinton's re-election in November 1996.
Tom DeLay recounts the event in his book, No Retreat, No Surrender, that Gingrich "made the mistake of his life" and says the following of Gingrich's mis-step of the shutdown:
"He told a room full of reporters that he forced the shutdown because Clinton had rudely made him and Bob Dole sit at the back of Air Force One...Newt had been careless to say such a thing, and now the whole moral tone of the shutdown had been lost. What had been a noble battle for fiscal sanity began to look like the tirade of a spoiled child..The revolution, I can tell you, was never the same."
In her autobiography Living History, former First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton shows a picture of Bill Clinton, Dole, and Gingrich laughing on the plane. Gingrich claims in his book Lessons Learned the Hard Way that the picture was taken on the plane going to Yitzhak Rabin's funeral in Israel rather than on the return trip from Israel, contradicting Clinton's claim.
On July 9, DeLay, Boehner and Paxon had the first of several secret meetings to discuss the rebellion. The next night, DeLay met with 20 of the plotters in Largent's office, and appeared to assure them that the leadership was with them.
Under the plan, Armey, DeLay, Boehner and Paxon were to present Gingrich with an ultimatum — resign or be voted out. Combined with the votes of the Democrats, there appeared to be enough votes to vacate the chair. However, the rebels decided that they wanted Paxon to be the new Speaker. At that point, Armey backed out, and told his chief of staff to warn Gingrich about the coup.
In response, Gingrich forced Paxon to resign his post, but backed off initial plans to force a vote of confidence in the rest of the Republican leadership.
Gingrich suffered much of the blame for the election loss. Facing another rebellion in the Republican caucus, he announced on November 6 that he would not only stand down as Speaker, but would leave the House as well. He had been handily reelected to an 11th term in that election, but declined to take his seat. According to Newsweek, he had lost control over his caucus long before the election, and it was possible that he would not have been reelected as Speaker in any case.
Gingrich has since remained involved in national politics and public policy debate. He is a senior fellow at the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute, focusing on health care (he has founded the Center for Health Transformation), information technology, the military, and politics. Gingrich is also a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the conservative think tank Hoover Institute, focusing on U.S. politics, world history, national security policy, and environmental policy issues. He sometimes serves as a commentator, guest or panel member on television news shows, mostly on the Fox News Channel. He is listed as a contributor by Fox News Channel, and frequently appears as a guest on the channel; he has also hosted occasional specials for the Fox News Channel.
In late September 2007, Gingrich founded the non-partisan organization American Solutions for Winning the Future. The stated mission of the group is to become the "leading grassroots movement to recruit, educate, and empower citizen activists and elected officials to develop solutions to transform all levels of government." Gingrich spoke of the group and its non-partisan objectives at the CPAC conference of 2008 and currently serves as its General Chairman.
In June 2006, Gingrich publicly called for Congressman Jack Murtha to be censured by the United States Congress for what Gingrich claims was Murtha's statement that America was a greater threat to world stability than Iran or North Korea. The paper that originally printed the statement has recently backed away and admitted that Murtha had been misquoted and was merely citing a poll that showed the world believed the United States was a greater threat than either of those nations. Gingrich, however, has refused to apologize or retract his call for Murtha to be censured.
Besides politics, Gingrich has authored a book, Rediscovering God in America, attempting to demonstrate that the Founding Fathers actively intended the new republic to be Christian in character. Since Gingrich has, "dedicated much of his time to calling America back to our Christian heritage", Jerry Falwell invited him to be the speaker, for the second time, at Liberty University's graduation, May 19, 2007. Speaker Gingrich has also collaborated with David Bossie and Citizens United Productions to produce a DVD which shares its name with the book.
Some years later, Gingrich and Forstchen turned to co-authoring an alternate history trilogy of the American Civil War, in which the Confederacy wins the battle of Gettysburg. The trilogy consists of Gettysburg (2003), Grant Comes East (2004), and Never Call Retreat (2005).
In 2007 they published Pearl Harbor: A Novel of December 8th, the first of a new series. The next year he published the sequel Days of Infamy, an alternate history with an identical title and similar basis as successful alternate history novelist Harry Turtledove's own Pacific War novel.
However, on September 29 spokesman Rick Tyler said that Gingrich would not seek the presidency in 2008 because he could not continue to serve as chairman of American Solutions. "It is legally impermissible for him to continue on as chairman of American Solutions (for Winning the Future) and to explore a campaign for president," Tyler said.
Some have speculated that the true reason behind Gingrich's abandoned 2008 presidential bid is the revelation in 2007 of Gingrich's extramarital affair, which took place during the Clinton impeachment (which Gingrich himself has admitted to).
Marc Ambinder, writing for The Atlantic, has identified Gingrich as a top contender for a presidential run in 2012, stating that he 'is already planting some seeds in Iowa and New Hampshire.'