Newt Gingrich

Gingrich, explaining that he didn't mean all that stuff he said back in the '80s.

Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign is dead in the water and he is soon to return to richly deserved obscurity, where he can spend his time consulting for banks and swindling gullible right-wingers out of their money. So it’s important for those of us who love mocking him to act quickly.

On that note, I would direct your attention to this 1995 open letter to Gingrich from then-Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope. Gingrich had just taken over as speaker of the House and Pope was eager to remind him of his environmentalist principles. Yes, really.

It seems that, from 1984 to 1990, Gingrich was a member of the Sierra Club. And he filled out the questionnaire that the Club sends to all politicians. Here are some of the results, from Pope’s letter:

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As a Sierra Club member, Mr. Gingrich, you opposed drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, calling it a “188-day quick fix” for America’s energy future. “Fuel efficiency and conservation measures have a greater potential for providing long-term energy security for our nation,” you said in response to a Sierra Club questionnaire. “The dramatic increases in fuel efficiency seen in America’s automotive fleet are evidence of how we can meet energy needs of the future.” The Sierra Club applauded those sentiments then, and the American people would do so now.

You bluntly stated your opposition to the way the U.S. Forest Service manages the national forests. “I oppose below-cost timber sales and uneconomic roadbuilding in our national forests, period,” you said. “Subsidized logging operations, as well as subsidized forest roadbuilding, at the U.S. taxpayer’s expense, should cease. It’s unfortunate that national forest management yields too often to local special interests.”

You also pledged your support for federal programs to protect wetlands. “The ecological significance of freshwater wetlands, and the significance of the rapidly declining acreage of wetlands in the United States, cannot be overemphasized,” you warned. “It is vital that our wetlands are protected.”

In 1988, you joined a majority of your colleagues in pledging support for the tough Clean Air Act that Congress later passed. You specifically advocated strong controls on toxic emissions — controls that would require the EPA to set deadlines for regulating cancer-causing poisons in our air. In all these positions you had the full support of the Sierra Club, leading us to endorse you for election on several occasions.

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Bet you didn’t know all that, huh? Even worse than sitting with Nancy on a couch!

Now, some 20 years later, Gingrich is airing a 30-minute ad in which he advocates for scrapping EPA entirely, opening up all of America’s coasts and public lands to drilling, and driving the cost of gas down to $2.50 a gallon (through magic!).

Gingrich’s willingness to jettison beliefs in the name of political advancement is, frankly, fundamentally profound, on three different levels. On the moon!

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