“A lot of us who were around him before and didn’t think this was a good idea from the beginning were worried this was the way it was going to end. He’s in danger, I think, of becoming a laughingstock.”
– Rich Galen, former staff member for Newt Gingrich, quoted in Politico
The sense of personal destiny that has driven Newt Gingrich throughout his life, the deep and defining belief that he was fated to do great things and write his name in large letters upon the history books, has finally run aground on the sharp shoals of reality. And that is a hard thing for the former speaker and Georgia congressman to accept.
He has no money and in fact his campaign is deeply in debt. He lacks the resources to travel, let alone buy campaign ads, and the press has abandoned him, raising the age-old question: If a man utters pearls of profound wisdom, and no one is there to hear him, did he really utter them at all? Yet still he presses on, insistent against all evidence that he remains relevant. As he told Fox this week, “I have no incentive to get out because I have a set of ideas that include $2.50-a-gallon gas, etc. So I have every incentive to stay in.”
I’m sorry: “$2.50-a-gallon gas” is not an idea, it is an ill-disguised pander inconsistent with reality. Newt’s inability to distinguish between an idea and a pander betrays a lot about how he thinks, and about why he has fallen so short of his dreams.
To give the man his due, Gingrich has fashioned a political career that by most standards would be considered a huge success. He truly did shock the political world when he led a Republican revolution in 1994 that ended the Democrats’ death grip on the House of Representatives. He was enormously gifted, possessed with a clever mind and one of the sharpest tongues in American political history. And his strong sense of personal destiny insulated him against doubts that might have haunted other men.
But a clever mind is not a wise mind. A man so easily distracted by shiny intellectual objects, flitting from one idea to the next, can never attain the depth suggested by the most prominent words in the Gingrich vocabulary, such as “profound” and “fundamental.” And those who are equipped to lead heady revolutions are almost never equipped for the day-to-day drudgery required to govern and to build.
However, the fatal flaw that ensured that Gingrich would never satisfy the ambition that burned within him was his basic lack of respect for other people. The contempt that he showered upon opponents in public life was reflected in his private life as well, and also in how he treated colleagues and staff. He showed little loyalty and earned little loyalty, and in politics as in life, that makes long-term success very difficult.
– Jay Bookman