These things always happen in the nicest hotels. Rick Perry suspended his campaign in a Hyatt Place.
The carpet at the Hilton in Ballston, where the Gingrich Waterloo happened, is clearly expensive. It is covered in primary-colored geometric designs, as though someone shot a Calder mobile and spread it on the floor.
The walls are covered in a series of tasteful cream-colored panels that look like baffled leaves.
It is, in a word, nice. It is the sort of place that you would only leave under duress, especially if there looked to be some unpleasantness on the horizon about paying for it all.
So Newt Gingrich took his time suspending his campaign here.
As the press milled about in the Hilton lobby, one had visions of Newt backstage, flailing petulantly. “Just five more minutes! Just five! Never mind what Andy Warhol said.”
What was this campaign? Was it a book tour? Was it a lecture?
For someone who devoted a small hunk of speech to decrying the inefficiency of the Senate, his whole campaign was oddly like a filibuster. There seemed little point other than to see how long it could go on before people objected. There was much talking. Strange ideas were mooted left and right (but mainly right). Anything to keep the spotlight there for another few minutes!
The speech itself went on for a great length of time, and its main point seemed to be for the speaker to hear his own voice.
It was not an endorsement. He mentioned Mitt Romney only with reference to a question people had asked him, about whether or not Mitt was sufficiently conservative. The endorsement will be later, if at all. No doubt it will be slowly rolled out with great fanfare and six more press conferences.
In the meantime, what a suspension it was.
I was expecting them to bring out a lifesize golden statue of Sheldon Adelson, but, alas, they did not.
One suspected that the Von Trapp family was making a getaway while the speaker spoke and Gingrich was trying to give them as much time as possible.
Newt thanked Callista’s mother for “diligently watching this campaign online.” Which clears up the great mystery of who exactly was watching the Gingrich campaign online.
“A truly wild ride,” he called it. “I could never have predicted either the low points or the high points.”
He mentioned everything under the sun. Moon colonies. The need for government reform, both of the bureaucracy and the congress. “The Senate, in particular, has become a stunningly dysfunctional institution.”
He apologized to the state of South Carolina for ruining its president-picking streak. He regretted not talking more about regenerative medicine. “I’m cheerfully going to take back up the issue of space,” he informed us. Moon colonies! Electromagnetic pulses! Asteroid mining!
He said the fundamental question was whether or not we were still a country with dreams. “I happen to think that’s a better future than methamphetamine and cocaine.” Eh? I didn’t realize those were our options, Newt, but yes, I am with you there. Give me the choice of methamphetamine and cocaine or dreams, and I will pick dreams every time. Except maybe if there is peer pressure.
He ended on a crescendo, pointing to his dutifully standing grandchildren. “I think they will live in a generation that has resolved… the challenge of autism.” They will talk about “the olden days when people didn’t have holograms at home . . . and they had to do so many things manually. . . . I am confident about this. . . . I have written three novels about George Washington and I know what he went through. . . . I have written four novels about the Civil War and I know what we went through.”
Newt has always been an expert in the future. The future has never been as cooperative with his vision as might be hoped. There are no surges in medical efficiency, no space mines and home holograms, only thinning crowds and bills to pay.
No wonder he lingered so long.