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Chad Lowe | Tribune Media Services

Sorry, Newt, but attention must not be paid

These can't be easy times for the grunion in winter, Newt Gingrich, a man who wakes up every morning and sees himself in the same historical rarified air as Charles de Gaulle, Gandhi, Henry Clay, Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and the Wright brothers and still couldn't get Will Ferrell's bumptious anchorman Ron Burgundy to pay any attention to him.

Instead, the public sees Gingrich in the same hapless light as the Boss Hogg, Grand Duchess of Fenwick, Freedonia's Rufus T. Firefly and Bluto of the hustings.

Jeepers, Gary Busey isn't this disconnected from reality.

Apparently even Las Vegas sugar daddy Sheldon Adelson, who has been financing Gingrich's super PAC, "Americans Stupid With Money," with his spare pocket change to the tune of $16.5 million, finally has acknowledged his guy's presidential prospects are about as sunny as Alf Landon's were against Franklin Roosevelt in 1936.

And so it has come to this. To add a new and exciting funding source to his wheezing campaign, Gingrich has started charging his adoring supporters $50 to have their picture taken with him. Say, that ought to raise, oh, $50? And that's the one Callista paid for.

What's next? Will a man who deludes himself into thinking he could be the next leader of the free world charge his flock $20 to sneer in their general direction; impose a $15 surcharge for a lock of his hair; or for $100 treat his admirers to a 20-minute discourse on colonizing the Planet Zoltar 7?

At the moment, Gingrich's press entourage pretty much consists of reporters from the Tiffany's catalog, the Two Egg Tribune and the Hubris Channel.

There is a simple reason for this. For a man who preens and primps and revels in his own self-described towering intellect, Gingrich cannot grasp that he is doing poorly in the Republican presidential primaries because — and this is a highly technical political science theory — voters would rather cover themselves in honey and sit on a hill of fire ants than cast a vote for him.

Before the rise of the unaccountable super PACs, such as Gingrich's "Gullible Americans for a More Gullible America," ill-fated, ill-conceived and ineptly run campaigns like the former House speaker's would have quietly disappeared long ago.

Now these groups only encourage freeloading pols like Gingrich, R-The Man Who Came to Dinner, to stick around because they have nothing else better to do with their time, and someone else (for the moment) is willing to pick up the bar tab.

And then perhaps there is this.

Once upon a time and a wife or two ago, Gingrich was a big shot, the second most politically powerful figure in the nation. Now he's been reduced to the campaign trail equivalent of a strip mall photo booth.

When you stare into a mirror and see St. Thomas Aquinas, Winston Churchill and Mount Rushmore staring back, it's not easy to accept that the body politic has rejected you.

So Newt Gingrich, the Norma Desmond of the stump, continues to annoy people. He knows the moment he officially ends the campaign his moment in the limelight, no matter how dim and flickering, is over for good.

No more crowds of one. No more invites to appear on television. No more chances to debate. No more opportunities to bloviate even if it is into a cone of indifference. No more.

It's hard to walk away, even though knowing that staying brings only more rejection, embarrassment and failure.

Despite Gingrich's ditsy logic that somehow, with only a smattering of delegates he can play some significant role at the Republican National Convention, even the candidate has to realize about the only reason for him to come to Tampa would be to go to Busch Gardens.

So, what to do? This is only partly facetious.

Can you think of a better potential figure to take over from Philip Seymour Hoffman when his Broadway run in Death of a Salesman comes to an end?

Has not Gingrich become the political culture's pathetic Willy Loman?

He would be perfect in the role. After all, Newt Gingrich was once very well liked in Washington.

Sorry, Newt, but attention must not be paid 03/29/12 [Last modified: Thursday, March 29, 2012 6:35pm]

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