Newt Gingrich has killed his presidential campaign sooner and more dramatically than some imagined. I, for one, figured he’d make it to the fall before saying or doing something so outrageous as to disqualify himself from serious consideration in the Republican presidential primary. I was off by some months. What’s more, Gingrich’s damage control is proving worse than the original mega-gaffe.
Gingrich attacked Rep. Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan, which has become the House Republicans’ plan. He thereby undermined every member of the House Republican caucus. Not content with that, he went on Bill Bennett’s radio show and bobbed and weaved — to no avail. Then came the apology to Ryan, but with a restatement of his original attack on the House Medicare plan. And then it got really weird. Okay, weirder.
Then came a hysterically overwrought statement from his spokesman:
“The literati sent out their minions to do their bidding,” Tyler wrote. “Washington cannot tolerate threats from outsiders who might disrupt their comfortable world. The firefight started when the cowardly sensed weakness. They fired timidly at first, then the sheep not wanting to be dropped from the establishment’s cocktail party invite list unloaded their entire clip, firing without taking aim their distortions and falsehoods. Now they are left exposed by their bylines and handles. But surely they had killed him off. This is the way it always worked. A lesser person could not have survived the first few minutes of the onslaught. But out of the billowing smoke and dust of tweets and trivia emerged Gingrich, once again ready to lead those who won’t be intimated by the political elite and are ready to take on the challenges America faces.”
In the annals of media griping, that takes the cake. It makes the 2008 John McCain campaign look positively mellow. (Remember the snarl from campaign manager Steve Schmidt: “This is an organization that is completely, totally, 150 percent in the tank for the Democratic candidate, which is their prerogative to be.” Poor dears, as if they were the only conservatives to be attacked by the Times.)
In addition to being ludicrously overwritten and self-pitying, the statement was false. It was not the mainstream media that went after Gingrich. The torrent of criticism came from conservatives — from Bill Bennett, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and virtually every conservative blog. Gingrich’s concocted martyrdom is symptomatic of his underlying character flaws — lack of personal restraint (and don’t get me started on the Tiffany’s bills), self-absorption and a total inability to understand how others regard him.
And sure enough, the talk show host with the biggest megaphone who can hardly be labeled as a captive of the Beltway fired back. Ben Smith of Politico reports:
Talk show host Rush Limbaugh responded sarcastically this afternoon to a suggestion from Newt Gingrich spokesman Rick Tyler that Gingrich’s critics — Limbaugh prominent among them — are simply members of an elite Beltway cocktail party circuit.
“Actually, I am part of the constitutional, free market, individual liberty circuit,” Limbaugh said in an email to POLITICO.
Gingrich has managed to alienate virtually the entire party in just a few days. Gosh, it almost reminds one of his speakership — a lurch from one disaster to another, all having to do with Gingrich’s personal failings and undisciplined mouth. Gingrich has not only lost the primary before it has begun; he’s also lost his place as a respected, or respectable, voice in the conservative movement. At least you can admire his thoroughness and alacrity.