‘Big ideas’ weren’t enough

By Walt Braun

Newt Gingrich, who in recent weeks has been busier visiting zoos — with Secret Service bodyguards — than campaigning for the Republican nomination for president, was kind enough last Wednesday to tip America off that he would be suspending his campaign in a week. That week is almost up.

As for what he has to show for his efforts, he won the South Carolina primary and picked up delegates as well in a number of other states. But mostly, he made news by making noise — the kind of noise associated with sideshows.

He was going to save America from itself with what he described as a moral crusade. Without his leadership, America’s children and grandchildren might grow up in what he called a “secular atheist country” run by radical Islamists.

He was going to build a colony on the moon by the end of his presidency, which he must have presumed would last eight years. He compared his vow to John F. Kennedy’s 1961 pledge to put an American on the moon by the end of the decade. President Kennedy’s pledge was inspiring. Mr. Gingrich’s approached lunacy.

Mr. Gingrich wasn’t afraid to pander. It’s otherwise impossible to explain his promise to cut gasoline prices to $2.50 a gallon. That magic might have impressed the most gullible of voters, but no one else took it seriously.

Among his most dangerous proposals was one that called for doing away with courts whose rulings he considered “radically anti-American.” He even said he’d send officials to Washington, D.C., to arrest the “radical” judges.

The big ideas of this man who considered himself the “big ideas candidate” didn’t end there. They included, most recently, a plan to urge the United Nations to expand American’s Second Amendment rights to the rest of the world. Mr. Gingrich considers “the right to bear arms a human right,” one that ought to extend to “every person on the planet.”

It’s easy now to say Mr. Gingrich never had a chance to win the GOP nomination. That was widely assumed even before he entered the race. If he deserves much credit, it’s for his persistence. Unfortunately, that, combined with his insistence that he was the conservatives’ best option to Mitt Romney, only encouraged Mr. Gingrich to overstay his welcome in a campaign that benefited little from his presence.

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