A farewell to Newt

  • Article by: FRANK BRUNI , New York Times
  • Updated: March 27, 2012 - 11:28 AM

Republican presidential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaks during a campaign rally in Rome, Ga., Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012.

Photo: Evan Vucci, Associated Press

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It's not easy letting him go. Not easy at all. Sort of like swearing off bedtime Ben & Jerry's: there's valor and the promise of self-improvement in the sacrifice, but also the sad awareness that the world just got a little less naughty. A little less fun.

No matter. It's time to cut Newt out of our diets.

He has no nutritional value, certainly not at this point, as he peddles his ludicrous guarantee of $2.50-a-gallon gasoline, a promise that would be made only by someone with his own bottomless strategic reserve of crude. Doubly oily entendre intended.

There were calls for him to desist two weeks ago, after he lost Alabama, which abuts his home state of Georgia. But they fell on a deaf Newt.

There were fresh appeals last week, when he failed to wring even one measly delegate from Illinois on Tuesday and then Louisiana on Saturday. But Newt doesn't need anything as prosaic as delegates, so long as there's still pocket lint from Sheldon Adelson and the warmth of Callista's frozen smile.

If he refuses to quit, we in the news media must quit him. Starve him of his very sustenance: attention. Exert a kind of willpower that we've lacked in this primary, which we turned into too much of a circus by encouraging too many clowns.

We've begun. As the weekend came to a close, The Times' Trip Gabriel reported that Gingrich's "full-time traveling press corps is down to a handful of embedded television reporters."

The Associated Press, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and even Politico had packed up their bags.

I envision Newt as a larger, grayer, windier version of the little boy at the end of "Shane," watching the last of these stubborn scribes recede into the horizon, begging them for one last sweet tweet, promising a tasty sound bite about Trayvon Martin or Robert De Niro or ... "The Hunger Games!"

There must be some harbinger of cultural decline to rail about there! Do "Hunger Games" contestants use food stamps? Those are always good for a diatribe or three.
I implore Fox News to pull up its drawbridge, CNN to bolt its doors.

If a Newt falls in the forest and not a single news anchor listens, can he really hang around?

He says he's propelled by a desire to promote "big ideas," but his candidacy has devolved into ever smaller talk and ever more desperate sideshows that drag an already undistinguished debate ever lower.

Late last week he actually resurrected the Obama-as-Muslim bile, saying the president's policies raise legitimate suspicion in voters' minds.

In truth Newt 2012 has never been a lofty enterprise. Although he loves to tout his intellectualism, he got what brief traction he did for visceral and theatrical reasons, with fits of rage and flights of fancy.

He took off when he lashed out at "the elites," pretending not to be one of them. He soared when he savaged the news media. He rocketed to a colony on the moon.

And he illustrated a dynamic that will survive this campaign season and that we should all think about: how much the profusion of cable channels, Web outlets, other news platforms and commentary of all kinds (including this column) rewards flamboyance, histrionics and a crowded field.

A brash candidate is never more than a bellow away from three minutes of air time or two paragraphs somewhere. The beast is ravenous, and I don't mean Newt.

Yes, the serial surges of the Republican contest since August had grounding in a fickle electorate and changeable polls. But we eagerly abetted them. En route to our beige destiny of Mitt, we craved color. And showcased it.

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