Paul Krugman says what UD‘s thought as she’s watched Newt Gingrich over many, many years.

Gingrich has the worst traits of the worst stereotypical professor: Vain, irritable, cynical, superior, verbally fat and polemically thin.

Yet stupid people read his fast-talking smooth-operator thing as smart; they think being a smug and dismissive know-it-all is what it means to be a smart person.


On the first – and last – day that Mr UD attended one particular graduate course offered by the University of Chicago, the professor cast his eye ’round the seminar table and began the semester with the following statement: “You’re looking at the world’s most distinguished living political philosopher.” That’s a stupid person’s idea of a smart person – farcical self-regard plus a James Deen-hard conviction that you’re right about everything.


UPDATE: This is what a smart person sounds like.

At a Natural Resources Committee hearing Friday on oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) mistakenly addressed the professor as “Dr. Rice“ while calling his testimony ”garbage.”

Brinkley interrupted, saying: “It’s Dr. Brinkley, Rice is a university,“ and ”I know you went to Yuba [Community College in California] and couldn’t graduate — ”

Then it was Young’s turn to interrupt. “I’ll call you anything I want to call you when you sit in that chair,” he told the witness. “You just be quiet.”

Brinkley countered: “You don’t own me. I pay your salary. I work for the private sector and you work for the taxpayer.”

I recognize that Brinkley looks pretty irritable and self-regarding in this exchange. But I’d like to suggest that there are good reasons for his insolence, having had his ideas called garbage by a congressional bully. Young insults not just Brinkley, but the entire discussion, calling it “futile.” He calls Brinkley an elitist when it is Young (“I’ll call you anything I want to call you…”) who’s the elitist throughout the exchange. Brinkley’s what a smart guy sounds like when he’s speaking truth back to power (“You just be quiet.” – Infantilizing power at that.). Brinkley is one of Paul Fussell’s X‘s – people “impelled by insolence, intelligence, irony, and spirit.” Gingrich may share the insolence, but the rest of his list is very different.

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3 Responses to ““A stupid man’s idea of what a smart person sounds like.””

  1. theprofessor Says:

    “Gingrich has the worst traits of the worst stereotypical professor: Vain, irritable, cynical, superior, verbally fat and polemically thin.”

    Ah. Gingrinch and The One are brothers from a different mother, eh?

  2. University Diaries » Young v. Brinkley… Says:

    […] continues (background here), with Brinkley reporting that his Rice University students applauded when he returned to the […]

  3. University Diaries » Douglas Brinkley is having SUCH a good day today. Says:

    […] watching his dunce-nemesis, Alaska Rep. Don Young, twist slowly in the wind after having made his contribution to the […]

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