The New York Times today (11/29/11) has a somewhat cheeky piece about Republican candidate Newt Gingrich's background as a historian–which, according to reporter Trip Gabriel, means he's unusually smart:
In an election season rife with factual misstatements, deliberate and otherwise, Mr. Gingrich sometimes seems to stand out for exhibiting an excess of knowledge.
I don't know whether he really "sometimes seems" to have an "excess of knowledge"–whatever that might be. The point seems to be that he comes across as smarter than, say, Michele Bachmann. Well, sure.
But what about Gingrich's misstatements? According to PolitiFact, at one debate Gingrich claimed that Sarah Palin was right about the "death panels" in the healthcare law–which earned him a "PANTS ON FIRE" from the site.
Let's give him the benefit of the doubt, though–the healthcare law is not precisely "history." Perhaps the same goes for his claim that the stimulus bill "is anti-Christian legislation that will stop churches from using public schools for meeting on Sundays, as well as Boy Scouts and student Bible study groups." To be fair, that was in 2009–way before he was the smartest presidential candidate in the room.
But PolitiFact also gave Gingrich a "PANTS ON FIRE" for his his Twitter claim that the United States spends less on its military (as a percentage of GDP) than at any time since Pearl Harbor. A historian might be expected to know something about that.
The Times adds:
Fellow historians are generally pleased that Mr. Gingrich brings history into the national conversation, even if some dispute his insights.
It would be odd for historians to be pleased by this–which might explain why the Times can't offer much in the way of evidence for it.