Sunday, June 12, 2011

Newt’s figment III: Abandon ship

Nominal presidential candidate Newt Gingrich left the United States with his wife Calista on a secret two-week Mediterranean cruise to Greece and Turkey aboard the 450-passenger Seabourn Odyssey. While he and his wife returned to this country, his presidential ambitions may have been lost at sea, adrift in something rather like the wreck of the Hesperus, with a NEWT 2012 bumpersticker stapled to the mast.

It was that cruise that was said to be the breaking point for Gingrich’s army of high-talent, highly-paid advisers and strategists, who waited for the candidate to get serious (and waited for themselves to get paid). The Gingrich brain trust walked out en masse on Thursday, citing irreconcilable differences in strategy with the candidate, and dealing another blow to a presidential campaign for which the metaphor “stuck in neutral” scarcely applies.

The gear you’re in doesn’t matter when the engine isn’t on and you’re still in the garage.

Bob Schieffer, veteran CBS Washington correspondent and no friend of bullshit, offered his plain-spoken assessment of the Gingrich experiment on Thursday. “”This hole he’s in just got a lot deeper today. I think he’s done.”

◊ ◊ ◊

Thursday’s was the latest chapter in the saga of the Imploding Plastic Electoral that’s been the Gingrich campaign from the start.

In the month since bloodlessly launching the campaign on a YouTube video, on May 11, Newt has taken a stand against the Paul Ryan budget plan; furiously reversed himself on that denunciation; hamfistedly navigated the embarrassing revelation of a Tiffany’s bill somewhere between the stratosphere of $250,000 and the ionosphere of half a million; and spent eight whirlwind days pretending to campaign with brief visits to three battleground states.

Then, with the campaign he began placed in sufficient disarray, Newt and wife decamped for their long-planned cruise to the Greek isles, including Mylos, Patmos, Rhodes, and Mykonos.

Gingrich came back to empty offices where his advisers used to be; word’s out they’ve jumped over to work for Rick Perry, the governor of Texas and a man said to be considering a run for the White House.

◊ ◊ ◊

Unperturbed and unrepentant, Newt explained everything later Thursday for his supporters, and outlined his next move, via Facebook:

“I am committed to running the substantive, solutions-oriented campaign I set out to run earlier in the spring,” Gingrich said. “The campaign begins anew Sunday in Los Angeles.”

We’ll see how that goes today or tonight. But whatever Gingrich says from the left coast will hardly undo the damage he’s done to a campaign that was quixotic from the jump. Like Sarah Palin’s flirtations with higher office, Gingrich’s passion for the presidency is a fleeting and insincere thing. He may surprise us, and for the sake of his faltering political legacy, he’d better. When the only people that give your campaign credibility walk out on you, there’s no time for cruise control.

When a presumably serious candidate for the presidency spends more time on or near the island of Rhodes than he’s spending in or near Rhode Island, there’s no room for surprises. Not if he’s serious.

Image credits: Gingrich: Gage Skidmore.

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