Paul Greenberg

"All newspaper editorial writers ever do is come down from the hills after the battle is over and shoot the wounded."

--Attributed to Murray Kempton, among many others.

Newt Gingrich finally made it formal. He's now ended his presidential race with characteristic bombast. The real news, the big surprise, was that he made it this far. And resisted dropping out for this long. The man has a real talent -- for ignoring reality.

If character really is fate, the Newt should have been done as a presidential candidate as soon as his dubious connections with Freddie Mac became common knowledge. But there's no underestimating the taste of the great American public. (Mencken, H.L.) Joe Biden is still vice president, isn't he?

Once it became clear that the Newt's formal concession was only a matter of time, the commentariat began carving him up with the greatest delight. There's nothing pundits love more than hitting a politician when he's down and about to be out.

Where, one wonders, were all these people when the Newt was wowing 'em in South Carolina, which has fallen for every danger to the Republic since John C. Calhoun -- not to mention ol' Strom Thurmond, the Dixiecrat-in-chief back in that Trumanesque year 1948.

Newt Gingrich is now less a presidential candidate than a target. He's a natural for all the slings and arrows sure to come his way. Why? Let us count the ways.

First, as has been noted before, he's not so much a man with an ego as an ego with a man.

Ex-wife problems. Multiplied.

No filter between brain and mouth.

Moon colony?

But today I come not to bury Mr. Gingrich but to praise him. Sort of. Because now that he's safely out of the race, and therefore stands no chance of becoming president of the United States, let us review the high points of his campaign. It won't take long.

Because, yes, Mr. Gingrich did have a couple of good ideas over the course of his entirely too quest for the presidency. You just had to find them amidst all his random musing and public brainstorming.

For example: He said that on his first day in office in a now only theoretical Gingrich administration, he'd eliminate the White House czars who are all over Washington, D.C.

That idea deserves five stars. Because whenever a problem arises, this administration has developed the unwholesome habit of appointing a czar to handle it, complete with as much untrammeled power as this White House thinks it can get away with.

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Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.