"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.
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.. .
Then the problem is left to fester, producing only a whole new layer of bureaucracy. This isn't problem solving, it isn't even delegation. It's the most expensive form of procrastination. It's denial wrapped in red tape.
Cabinet secretaries may have to be approved by Congress, but not these privileged characters called czars. Russians would recognize their type in an instant even if, after the Revolution, they were known as commisars.
In the happy event a Republican is elected president in November -- Mitt Romney may now be in the lead for that possibility -- then he ought to take at least one piece of advice from The Newt:
Do away with these unaccountable czars/bosses/little dictators. Without delay or ceremony or further ado. They're a plague.. .
Newt Gingrich also had some good things to say about the Keystone pipeline. Why in the oil-producing world should we keep importing the stuff from Arab oildoms and caudillo-prone Venezuela when we can (1) create jobs here, (2) lower the price of oil, and (3) deal with a friendly, stable democracy and even friendlier neighbor just to the north? Let's hear it for the Canadians. Never has dull been so attractive.
Mr. Gingrich is also for the good kind of pro-choice. In education. Why do we force parents to keep sending their kids to failing schools? Newt Gingrich opposed any limits on the number of charter schools each state could have -- so long as they met the high standards their charters called for. Education is the great unexplored issue of this presidential campaign.
The Newt is now headed back on tour, and is sure to make the news now and then with a new idea or eight. And the occasional outrage thrown in at no additional cost. If only he had as much judgment as he does imagination.
In the end, the Gingrich candidacy, along with Rick Santorum's, helped Mitt Romney prepare for the main event this fall. Thank you, Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Santorum, and now Mr. Obama, for toughening him up. Mitt Romney will need it.
Thank you, too, Mr. Gingrich, for telling off the media-ocracy a thrilling time or two. The whole New York Times-National Public Radio-MSNBC axis of gliberaldom deserved every word.
But most of all, sir, thank you for dropping out at last. Now the country can have a serious debate between a couple of serious candidates.