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Tim Murphy is a senior reporter at Mother Jones. Email him with tips and insights at tmurphy@motherjones.com.

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Your Daily Newt: Mighty Morphin' Gingrich

TK: Tk/TK; TK/TKThe path not taken: James Colburn/ZumaPress; Andrea Renault/Globe Photos; photo illustration by Tim Murphy.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's big ideas about killer-lasers and Moon colonies and highway-illuminating space mirrors do tend to make him sound like a super-villain. But on his first day as Speaker of the House in 1995, Gingrich solidly aligned himself with the forces of truth and justice and tights by inviting the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers to perform for the House Republican Caucus (and their families). As the Los Angeles Times reported:

After going through their high-kicking, fist-throwing and crime-fighting television show routine, the Power Rangers stood, arms akimbo, as Gingrich rushed onto the stage.

Linking the Power Rangers' popularity with youngsters to his appeal with their parents, the Speaker noted that the Rangers' emphasis on "family values" and "anti-drug" messages fit nicely with GOP political themes. And, he added, "they are multiethnic role models with male and female characters."

Because it was the 1990s, Gingrich faced mild criticism for endorsing a television show that promoted violence—violence against the evil and often inept forces of Lord Zedd and Rita Repulsa, but violence nonetheless. The show had been pulled from the airways in Norway, Denmark, and Sweden, and banned by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council. But Gingrich was undeterred. "You ride the waves in America, and if something's hot, it's hot," he told his fellow Republicans. Yes, there's video:

Gingrich, has elsewhere warned that the United States is under attack from gay and secular fascism, so we suppose it's worth pointing out that the blue ranger, "Billy," is gay.

Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas)

Even as he's climbed to the top of the polls in Iowa and gone so far as to preemptively claim victory in New Hampshire, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) has spent much of the last week distancing himself from racist and homophobic articles that appeared in his eponymous newsletter in the 1980s and early 1990s. In part, that's because anxious conservatives have decided to make an issue of it—last week, the Weekly Standard dispatched James Kirchik to rehash his original 2008 bombshell on the newsletters. It's also because, as Dave Weigel explains, Paul has failed to put together a coherent response. On Wednesday, Paul walked out of an interview with CNN's Gloria Borger when she pressed him on his role in publishing them.

The story hasn't gone away, and now Reuters has the latest: A newly unearthed subscription pitch circa 1993, this time bearing the signature of Paul himself. It reads like a caricature of the conspiratorial, unhinged, early '90s militia movement, the kind of thing that would make the John Birch Society blush. Written in the first person, it warns of threats from the "demonic fraternity" we know of as Yale's Skull and Bones society, the Trilateral Commission, the "perverted, pagan" rituals at Bohemian Grove, a global government, "the coming race war," the Council on Foreign Relation, and FEMA. Paul (or his ghostwriter, at least) carefully explains that you can trust his view that the federal government is behind AIDS, because he's a doctor:

 

 

It's plausible enough that Paul didn't write the newsletters he published, and that he doesn't agree with all of the opinions expressed therein, and that he was lying in 1996 (when he endorsed the opinions contained therein) and not in 2001 (when he first claimed ignorance). That's the case Weigel and Julian Sanchez made, anyway.

But even setting all of that aside, there's another element to the story.

Hipster Newt Gingrich was into protesting banks before it was cool.

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 won the gratitude of the tech world—and smut-loving Americans everywhere—when he fought against an Internet censorship provision in the 1996 Communications Decency Act. But his career as a free speech activist actually began some 28 years earlier, when the former speaker launched a campus occupation in defense of the student newspaper's right to publish nude photos.

Although he had refrained from partaking in the counter-culture movements of the time, young Gingrich, while a graduate student at Tulane, became a rabble-rousing activist when the school administration censored two sexually explicit photos from a student newspaper. (One image depicted a nude male art professor standing in front of a sculpture of two figures engaged in intercourse). Gingrich denounced the administration for unfairly censoring materials that had been produced by students and funded by student activity fees. To correct the injustice, he formed a new activist organization, Mobilization of Responsible Tulane Students, to force the powers that be to step back.

With MORTS, which included members of the more radical Students for a Democratic Society, Gingrich led a march of 700 students to the school president's house—where, according to Tim Wise's account, Tulane president Howard Longenecker was hanged in effigy. He followed it up by leading boycotts against a number of local businesses whose executives sat on the Tulane board of trustees, among them Merrill Lynch and another local bank. When he secured a meeting with Longenecker, Gingrich played hardball:

He threatened the university president with disrupting campus life for weeks if he did not relent. "It is now a question of power," the brash young man told university president Herbert Longenecker, according to minutes of the meeting that NEWSWEEK discovered in Tulane archives. "We are down to a clash of wills."

As Gingrich explained to the alumni magazine Tulanian in 1995, "Our argument was that it ought to have intellectual freedom because it was a student newspaper...I told [the school president] that we were paying for it and had a right not to be censored by the people who were not paying for it." MORTS' agenda extended beyond nude photography. As Steve Gillon reported in The Pact, Gingrich's followers later occupied the student center, demanding that (among other things) the administration turn the school's swimming pool into a public bath. Gingrich also pushed to give students a role in the hiring and firing (and promoting) of faculty and all major university decisions—an assault on the Ivory Tower that's echoed in his more recent broadsides.

Despite his feverish protests, the nude photos were ultimately not published, and Gingrich's taste for activism was short-lived. After leaving Tulane, his views on student activists have changed considerably. In a 1984 book, Window of Opportunity, he blamed the "social decay and disorder" of the 1970s and 1980s on the Free Speech Movement. By November, he'd descended into outright hippie punching. Asked about the Wall Street Occupiers at a forum in Des Moines, he had a simple message for th 99-Percenters: "get a job, right after you take a bath."

Newt Gingrich gazes into the future—but what does he see?

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 touts himself as a "conservative futurist"—and although most futurists recoil at the suggestion that they're in the business of predicting the future, Gingrich wasn't quite so careful. His 1984 book Window of Opportunity is packed with predictions of what America might look like in the year 2000 (hint: a lot of it would be on the moon). For someone whose political rhetoric is so steeped in sweeping statements about transformative political developments, though, Gingrich was way off on one of the most transformative political developments of his day:

We must expect the Soviet system to survive in its present brutish form for a very long time. There will be Soviet labor camps and Soviet torture chambers well into our great grandchildren's lives: great centers of political and economic power have enormous staying power; Czarist Russia lasted through 3 1/2 years of the most agonizing kind of war; the Nazi state did not collapse even when battlefield defeats reduced its control to only a tiny sliver of Germany.

We must therefore assume the Soviet Union will survive as a dangerous totalitarian state.

The Soviet Union collapsed seven years later.

Courtesy of Fox NationCourtesy of Fox NationThe 2011 White House Christmas card features a content looking First Pup Bo Obama sitting by a roaring fireplace, flanked by Christmas presents and festive Christmasy ribbons and pine wreaths and bulbs. If you listen hard, you can almost hear sleigh bells.

It's all pretty non-controversial. Boring, even. Unless, of course, you're Fox News—in which case the bookshelf is filled with Lenin's B-sides, the Constitution is burning in the fireplace, Winston Churchill's bust is conspicuously absent, Bo has become dependent on the federal government for handouts, and the empty seat is a stirring reminder of President Obama's nonexistent leadership. I'm exagerrating, but only slightly:

Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin told Fox News & Commentary that she found the card to be a bit unusual.

"It's odd," she said, wondering why the president's Christmas card highlights his dog instead of traditions like "family, faith and freedom."

...

Palin said the majority of Americans can appreciate the more traditional, "American foundational values illustrated and displayed on Christmas cards and on a Christmas tree."

As for the Obama card, she replied, "It's just a different way of thinking coming out of the White House."

Why does Sarah Palin hate puppies?

Update: But since Fox News has brought up the subject of Christmas cards, perhaps we should take a look at the official Fox Business Network Christmas card this holiday season. Here's one, via New York Times media reporter Brian Stelter:

Courtesy of Brian StelterCourtesy of Brian StelterThat's a pair of foxes roasting the NBC peacock over an open fire—which, for you non-Christians out there, is an oft-overlooked aspect of the of the story of the first Christmas. And via reader Jason Sparks, take a look at Ronald Reagan's White House Christmas cards. They're nearly identical to Obama's, except there's no puppy. "Family, faith, and freedom" are, presumably, represented by the antique furniture, fireplaces, and tacky lighting.

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