Ah, yes, Newt Gingrich did in the last days before the Florida primary precisely what I predicted he would do. He hurled wild charges at Mitt Romney that suggested Newt was losing his grip. He charged Mr. Romney with lying and falling into the hands of George Soros and Goldman Sachs, and he did this while seeking the Republican presidential nomination.
Newt quoted Mr. Soros as saying, “We think either Obama or Romney’s fine, but Gingrich, he would change things.” Citing Goldman Sachs’ profiting from the bailout, he linked the Wall Street firm to anti-Gingrich ads, filling in the dots: “Those ads,” he averred, “are your money recycled to attack me.” On Sunday, he suggested that Rick Santorum drop out of the race and support him. Mr. Santorum had left the campaign trail to be with his desperately ill daughter. That is the kind of grace we have come to expect from Mr. Gingrich, who, by the way, supplied no evidence of Goldman Sachs’ or Mr. Soros’ aiding Mr. Romney.
Newt lost support in his last week in Florida because conservatives gave him a closer look. Sure, we loved his one-liners singeing the tail feathers off the liberal media and politicians. Yet we have to put someone up against President Obama who can win. Moreover, we have to put someone in the White House who can govern. With Newt, we would be explaining his gyrations every few days during the campaign. And in the unlikely event that he should win, we would be spending the next four years apologizing for his extravagance. I did it once before in the 1990s, and I can tell you it was a thankless task.
As I wrote last week, Newt is a 1960s generation kid. Allow me to elaborate. That generation - my generation - was the most ballyhooed generation raised in the 20th century, and it was - at least in politics - a failed generation. Mr. Gingrich, the Clintons, Al Gore and the rest of the 1960s hustlers began their political careers in college when they were the first generation to actually believe student government was on campus to govern. The weak liberal administrators went along with them and gave them a say in running their universities. The universities have still to recover. Yet beyond the damage they did to the universities was the damage they did to themselves. They became the most self-absorbed generation of narcissists ever heard of.
From their student government days to their days in national politics, they all lived out a fantasy. Now it is over. It would be eminently fitting if Mr. Romney won the presidency and set the country on course in 2012. He is from the normal half of that generation, a man who was a student in the 1960s and afterward a businessman, until he had secured his fortune and entered public life in middle age. By then, the Clintons and Newt had been supping at the public trough for years.
The unreported aspect of last week’s story of the conservative writers and politicos turning on Mr. Gingrich was the role played by the Episodic Apologists. They are the media types who have been covering for the Clintons for years. They have high hopes for the Clintons’ talents. Then they are crestfallen by one of the Clintons’ scandals: the pilfering of the White House, the last-minute pardons, Monica Lewinsky. Then their high hopes rekindle anew. They were loath to report my attack on Newt as being the Republican’s Bill Clinton, but they jumped at the “conservative establishment’s” attacks on his veracity and his other wayward traits.
Yet Newt’s failure is part of a larger failure - the infantilism of the 1960s generation. In his narcissism, impulsiveness and deviancy, he is at one with the Clintons. Mitt and, for that matter, Rick Santorum, are just the opposite. They are straight arrows and duty-bound. They would not be a riot of scandals in the White House, but is it not about time that we leave the scandals to Hollywood?
This country is facing its worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Mr. Obama offers us what Mr. Romney calls crony capitalism. Mr. Romney is right and crony capitalism means more Solyndras. Rep. Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, has served up a budget to cure the nation’s ills and head us on a course that will not end like Greece has ended. Mr. Romney is not far from the Ryan budget and he can move even closer. Newt can be forgotten.
R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is founder and editor-in-chief of the American Spectator and an adjunct scholar at the Hudson Institute. His most recent book is “After the Hangover: The Conservatives’ Road to Recovery” (Thomas Nelson, 2010).