Newt Gingrich is looking to be the William Henry Harrison of presidential candidates: out after thirty-two days, through a failure to stop talking.
William Henry Harrison, our ninth president, died of pneumonia within a month of taking office after delivering the longest inaugural address on record — nearly two hours, in the rain, without a coat or hat.
If Harrison had made the wiser decision to shut up and put on a hat, he might not be a footnote to history. But he didn’t and there we are.
They speak of rats leaving sinking ships. But was this ship even in the water? It seems to bear more resemblance to a beached whale.
In terms of its remarkable ability to say all the wrong things and self-destruct, Newt Gingrich’s campaign resembles Charlie Sheen more closely than almost anything. First he upstaged his own announcement by calling Paul Ryan’s plan “right-wing social engineering” and igniting a firestorm. Then he tried to perform time-bending magic and insist that this remark could not be used against him in the court of public opinion.
Then the Tiffany’s bills started surfacing. They say that three things are of the essence in campaigns: timing, timing, timing. Newt’s was 0 for 3, and the two-week vacation he and his wife insisted on taking at the start of the campaign didn’t help. Nothing says “I am committed to putting time in on the ground in key states” like “The sheer effort of declaring my candidacy has left me prostrate and requires that I take two weeks off immediately.”
Gingrich is clearly a smart man overflowing with ideas. But like most people in love with the sound of their own voices, he sometimes finds it hard to stop. Brit Hume called him a “promiscuous talker.” That failure has marked the start of his campaign — and seems as though it’s going to push him down at least the William Henry Harrison path, if not the Charlie Sheen one.
Hobbes called the condition of the life of man outside society “nasty, brutish, and short.” So far, Newt’s campaign has been the first two, and the third seems increasingly likely.
Maybe he’ll be able to recruit new senior aides. But even if he does, he will still need to learn the Harrison lesson: Put on a hat and stop talking.
You know what they say about men with long harangues: short terms.