Newt Gingrich elicited a flood of ridicule the other day when, in the wake of criticism of Donald Trump that he spends much of his time watching TV and tweeting, he compared Trump with Winston Churchill. This piqued my interest since I am now reading "Churchill: Walking with Destiny" by Andrew Roberts, a more than 1,000-page, half-million-word hugely entertaining biography of a man who strode like a colossus — but a colossus with a great sense of humor — across the first half of the 20th century.
You can find superficial resemblances between the two men — Gingrich's was that Churchill liked to sleep late and take naps. Presumably, his point was that Churchill wasn't working hard all day, either. The truth is, Churchill didn't sleep late, but he liked to work in bed in the mornings, and he did take naps, because he often worked, and partied, too, past midnight. His energy and his work habits were legend, and younger members of his staff complained privately they couldn't keep up with him.
Also, in the way of superficial resemblances, Churchill could be obstreperous and impossible, he was stubborn and sometimes clung to bad ideas, he looked to England's past as a glorious empire for inspiration — defending colonialism — and he had some odious prejudices.
But the two men are not even superficially that similar — Churchill was funny and charming, he loved to read and to write, he smoked cigars and drank a lot of brandy and wine and champagne, he loved animals, he was devoted to his wife and he was a journalist in his early years as well as a soldier and politician. Also, Churchill loved danger and battle and volunteered for combat when he could easily have avoided it. Trump has not one of those qualities, except he is a politician.
Beyond the superficial level, there is little similarity between the two men. Churchill was a brilliant student of history and master of the English language. His wit, historical knowledge, command of English and inspiring oratory were the keys to his political success. His books stand as some of the best works of history ever written by a political leader and his speeches as among the greatest of all time. Trump's books weren't written by Trump and his speeches, while they seem to motivate his supporters, are best passed over in silence when it comes to literary or any other sort of merit.
I'm about three-quarters of the way through the book, with only the wrap-up of World War II and the post-war years yet to read, and I'll write more after I finish.