When his campaign fell apart this summer, the only thing that gave Newt Gingrich hope was the cartoon elephant in his wife's kids' book Sweet Land of Liberty. "Literally, Ellis was sort of a ray of light," Gingrich told The New York Times Magazine's Matt Bai. Really?! Bai asked. "Happy, positive... Interesting. Creative. It gave you an oasis psychologically." It's funny, because Gingrich's descriptions of Ellis the Elephant sounds a lot like Gingrich's descriptions of himself.
Is Callista Gingrich's best-seller just a thinly-veiled tribute to her man? The Atlantic Wire investigates.
World Historic Figure
Gingrich has famously compared himself to great figures of world history -- Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, Theodore Roosevelt, Ho Chi Minh, the Iron Duke, Charles de Gaulle. In Sweet Land of Liberty, Callista literally places Ellis into great moments in American history, from the first Thanksgiving to the Wright Brothers' first flight. Further, Gingrich has ranked Callista's book up there with the greatest Western works, Slate's Dave Weigel points out. The candidate told voters in October, "It's very difficult to get political reporters to understand that maybe cultural documents are really important. The most important brochure in American history is an entire book called the Federalist Papers... Lincoln's speech at Cooper Union was 7200 words, took two hours to deliver. They actually had something worth listening to. And Callista has a brand new children's book out for children four to eight years old in which Ellis the Elephant takes them through American history."
Ellis is an animal. Gingrich is an animal lover. He's even starting a site called "Pets with Newt." We found many, many photos of Gingrich posing with mammals.
Gingrich says little Ellis is a happy, positive creature. That's how Gingrich sees himself too. In fact, he pledged not to get into any negative attacks against his fellow Republicans. (Sticking to that promise proved difficult.) Gingrich's daughter, Jackie Gingrich Cushman, who has recently been defending her dad on family matters, calls him a "happy warrior." So does the Daily Caller. So does Rick Tyler, the Gingrich staffer who quit and then begged to come back. He told the Associated Press' Shannon McCaffrey, "Newt is a happy warrior. He's optimistic. As long as he has an audience to talk to and feels his ideas are making a difference he will keep plugging away."
Callista's book opens with these words: "Ellis the Elephant was a smart little guy, with a curly grey trunk, and a twinkling eye. He liked asking questions, he was eager to see how America became the land of the free!" Gingrich, too, thinks he's pretty smart. He's embraced the "ideas man" tag in his TV adsas Politico points out, saying "I believe bold ideas and new solutions will unleash America’s creative spirit." He told a Harvard audience in November, "I don’t think it hurts to have a president who is reasonably smart," Politico reported. He noted reviews of his debating skills used "various phrases about smartest guy in the room."
When Ellis wants to learn about America, he goes to the library. Callista writes, "Ellis went to the library, an amazing place, and looked at the books with a grin on his face. 'These books hold the secret, I'm sure it is true, why America is special, full of red, white, and blue.'" Gingrich has long been a fan of libraries. In the 1990s, he tried to make going to the best libraries in America easier by pushing for the New York Public Library's contents to go online helping to create the Library of Congress' THOMAS system, which puts all congressional action online.
Callista is writing a sequel. Will Ellis become president? "Ellis will remain a patriotic elephant, an elephant that loves American history," she said, according to Politico's Ginger Gibson. (Did we mention that Newt loves history!) But, Gibson explained, "In addition to getting a more in depth history lesson, Gingrich joked Ellis may get a girlfriend named Ellie." The plot thickens.