The end of a campaign is too often treated like the death of a person—say something nice, at least for now, or keep your mouth shut. In the case of the much-belated official demise of Newt Gingrich’s presidential bid, the kid-glove treatment might be considered especially appropriate, given that it also represents the final passage of his long political career. But as Newt said himself, debating Mitt Romney, “Can we drop a little bit of the pious baloney?” As when a truly terrible human being expires, the only thing worth celebrating here is the death itself. And the thing to mourn is not the loss of Newt on the national political stage, but the time that he spent on it.
Belying his Michelin Man looks and those fabulously nutty notions of moon colonies and such, it’s worth remembering that Gingrich did more damage to the tenor and substance of American politics than anyone alive. Leading the impeachment of President Clinton while he was also having an affair was just the ticket for deepening the public’s cynicism about the hypocritical rottenness of politicians (as is trading on your former office to get filthy rich). As House speaker, Gingrich also brought us government shutdowns as a political tactic—just one of the ways that heError! Hyperlink reference not valid. political polarization and dysfunction the defining characteristics of the way Congress operates. Jonathan Chait sums up the legacy well: “He redefined the Republican Party as an ideologically disciplined, parliamentary-style party. And, in particular, he made it a party of anti-tax fundamentalism.”
In his surpassingly strange presidential bid, Gingrich had a few moments worth savoring—when he was eviscerating Romney. (The Obama campaign wants to make sure everybody remembers them.) Along the way, he also helped revived the not-so-lost art of race-baiting with his description of Obama as “the food-stamp president.” And who will soon forget his declaration that child labor laws are “truly stupid”? This election year—already long, brutish, and nasty—may yield few moments worth celebrating. But seeing Newt Gingrich exit the political stage for good, in utter defeat: We'll drink to that.
So They Say
"Politics is weird, and creepy, and—now I know—lacks even the loosest attachment to anything like reality."
—Fox news anchor Shepard Smith, after reading Mitt Romney's statement about his "friend" Newt Gingrich leaving the presidential race
Daily Meme: Good Night Ladies, Good Night, Sweet Ladies
- An excerpt from David Maraniss' new biography of Barack Obama was released today.
- Yep, it's about his college girlfriends.
- And yep, he kind of squished them all together in Dreams from my Father for brevity's sake.
- But we knew that already, so chill out.
- The truly important revelation? Obama apparently thinks T.S. Eliot literary criticism is hot.
- "My favorite part: the admission that he never checked all the footnotes [in “The Waste Land”]. I mean, he's not a nerd."
- Unfortunately, his criticism wasn't even that good, according to a Columbia professor. "Considered as homework, I'd give the future President a B-minus. ...This isn't so much literary criticism as flirtation."
- Any predictions as to what old Obama facts will be unearthed from his memoir next week?
What We're Writing
- Jamelle Bouie: “At the end of the day, Obama will be able to pose a simple question to the American public—‘Do you want a president who has brought peace, security, and good relations with our allies, or do you want a president who has called for extending our wars, and starting new ones?’”
- Paul Waldman: “It's possible to have a lot of negative ads and still have a relatively positive campaign, believe it or not.”
What We're Reading
- Hoping to weather a primary challenge from the right, six-term Republican Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana brings out the big guns: John McCain and Pat Boone.
- Americans Elect cans its first round of online voting for a third-party presidential candidate—not enough clicks on the site for any candidate to qualify.
- El Kilgore: Why Obama must run as a populist.
- Conor Friedersdorf: No, this is not the most important election ever.
- Timothy Murphy predicts what the topic of Newt's next alternate history novel will be.
- Who will win the NASCAR vote?
- Error! Hyperlink reference not valid. surprisingly has strong opinions about a company that pays him money.
- The definitive guide to why Obama is not cool.
Poll of the Day
Obama leads Romney in two key Southern battleground states, North Carolina (4 points) and Virginia (8 points).