There are probably many reasons why Newt Gingrich has suddenly found his political fortunes dropping off a cliff faster than Hosni Mubarak's, not the least of which is equating his own self-inflicted failure to get on the Republican presidential ballot in his home state as a fate comparable to the worst military defeat in a single day in American history.
It was Gingrich, displaying all the grasp of U.S. history of an Afghan goat herder, who argued that his inability to submit 10,000 valid signatures to get on the Virginia ballot was somehow a tragedy on a par with the Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, which claimed 3,000 lives, decimated the Pacific Fleet and plunged the nation into World War II.
And this silly man insists on referring to himself as a "historian"?
Sigh. Gingrich's illiterate hubris makes John Travolta's Vinnie Barbarino on Welcome Back, Kotter look like Arnold Toynbee.
Gingrich described his ineptitude as an "unexpected setback," as if a man aspiring to oversee the federal government had no idea that state law requires 10,000 signatures to qualify for the primary.
It could very well be that even Iowans, getting ready to caucus in one of the phoniest, most contrived political exercises on the election calendar, won't abide a level of amour propre that would make Charles de Gaulle, Muhammad Ali and Donald Trump look like whimpering wallflowers.
Elections scholars years from now may well alight on what to call the 2012 campaign for the presidency. "The Politics of Stupid" may well win the day.
In recent weeks, I've been obsessed with wondering how other Republican icons might react to this bunch of Bowery Boy dunces vying for votes.
Really now, can you remotely fathom Dwight Eisenhower, or Abraham Lincoln, or Barry Goldwater, or Teddy Roosevelt, or Bob Dole, or Ronald Reagan or even Richard Nixon sharing a debate dais with the current crop of GOP candidates and not thinking to themselves: "Holy Toledo! These people are certifiably full of twaddle."
How long do you think Ike would have put up with Gingrich juxtaposing his Virginia ballot screw-up with the sacrifices of the Greatest Generation before he pulled a George Patton and slapped the former House speaker silly into next Sunday?
But Gingrich, who makes the paranoid gadfly Lyndon LaRouche seem downright intellectually rigorous, is hardly alone.
For years all manner of racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic claptrap showed up in the pages of numerous newsletters associated with the grumpy, libertarian Ron Paul. The newsletters have become a sort of "Lunatic Fringe for Dummies" manifesto for white supremacists, anti-Zionists, survivalists and, well, the entire Hedley Lamarr gang recruitment scene in Blazing Saddles.
And what has been Paul's defense for his appeal to the black helicopter/Trilateral Commission/Federal Reserve-as-Lucifer crowd? For the most part, the candidate has insisted he had no idea who was contributing to the newsletters published under his name and never bothered to read them.
And yet Paul, who possesses all the attention to detail of Mr. Magoo, feels he is uniquely qualified to manage the complexities of the federal government?!?!
Still, Paul seems to get a pass, maybe because he comes off as the addled uncle, who believes he is Teddy Roosevelt, racing through the house yelling "Charge!" in Arsenic and Old Lace. Yet just a few years ago Barack Obama was held to account by the mouth-foaming right wing when his former minister Jeremiah Wright went all H. Rap Brown on everyone and said a bunch of goofy stuff.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry barely knows what state he governs and has no idea how many U.S. Supreme Court justices there are.
Poor Minnesota U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, the Gracie Allen of the hustings, can't seem to open her mouth without flunking the FCAT.
Meanwhile, former Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum has steadily risen in the Iowa polls, essentially by convincing people he should be president of the United States because he says grace before every meal.
Little wonder then that Mitt Romney continues to be the default candidate whenever one of the literal front-runners du jour reveals himself to be more uninformed, unfit and unelectable than Archie Bunker.
Tuesday night, Iowans will deliver their verdict in a political endeavor more closely akin to selecting Miss Congeniality. If the polling holds its course, New Gingrich, the Bluto of the hustings, will probably wind up somewhere between Who's on First and What's on Second, a defeat of historic proportions.
Think of it as the "The Louse That Bored."
Daniel Ruth can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.