"I'm not a natural leader. I'm too intellectual; I'm too abstract; I think too much."
- Newton Leroy Gingrich
Poor Newt should have realized it was over last week when he was bit by penguin, but he's slow to process these things. You know, because he's an abstract intellectual and has to think things through. Even after losing five more primary contests yesterday, he's still officially in the race for another week, with plans to likely drop out on May 1. My guess is that he bet somebody that he'd make it through April.
But it reminds me of how, after he resigned the post of Speaker of the House in disgrace, in November 1998, following investigation into his ethics violations, he still hung around Congress another couple of months, clinging to his seat there till January 1999. And then all America figured that, like Dick Nixon, we wouldn't have Newt Gingrich to kick around anymore.
At the time, I was working for an organization called HandsNet. We were kind of like a nonprofit AOL for human services professionals. It was a fun and exciting time, and somewhere between surviving the Y2K scare of 1999 and not surviving the dot-com bust of 2001, my boss, Michael, and I were invited to participate in a forum on public policy and the Internet.
It was a fairly intimate group - no more than 100 people - assembled in a meeting room at San Jose's Fairmont Hotel, with tech execs, local politicians, and Michael and I representing the nonprofit ".org" space. We were taking our seats and looking over the agenda when a gnome-like little round man with sunken cheeks came waddling into the room with a small entourage. I turned to Michael and said, "Poor SOB has to go through life looking like Newt Gingrich." We each laughed.
Then the introductions started... Oops. It was Newt.
My memory of the day was that, much as I would have liked to confirm his evil bastardness with some heinous statement or another, he turned out to be a good participant. He did not try to dominate the conversation, and when in dialog with others he listened respectfully, and his responses showed that he heard the other person's points - even if he didn't agree.
At the end of the day I felt that his leaving Congress had humbled him. I also felt that I had gotten a glimpse of Professor Gingrich, and that he wasn't quite so bombastic and egotistical as Speaker Gingrich had been. His full political rehabilitation to where he would be considered by many to be a semi-plausible contender for the Republic Presidential nomination would take another decade. And, as we've seen, in that decade his arrogance was fully recovered as well.
I mentioned this meeting a couple of weeks ago, when I was catching up with Michael over lunch. He had no recollection of either the forum or of crossing paths with the former Speaker. So it goes.
And so we bid farewell to the 2012 Presidential campaign of Newt Gingrich. We'll miss him. Well, Michael won't, but somebody will, I'm sure.