Gingrich launches the ultimate vanity project

Disgraced former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has, to one degree or another, been planning a presidential campaign for the better part of two decades. He took steps towards a national campaign in 1995, before walking it back. Gingrich did it again in 2000. And once more in 2008.

When, two months ago, his aides said he would launch an exploratory committee, only to have the former Speaker scrap his own plan in the 11th hour, it started to seem like Gingrich was a practical joker with only one gag: fooling the media into thinking he was serious.

But that all changed yesterday. This time, he’s actually going through with it.

The tweet finally landed at 4:19 p.m. Wednesday. Former House speaker Newt Gingrich, a fixture in the Republican Party for three decades, became a candidate for president.

Though it was long expected, the announcement was something of a milestone in presidential politics — the first such declaration via Twitter, with the requisite link to his video statement.

Like others in the Republican field, Gingrich, 67, has been moving steadily toward a candidacy for months. But in formally declaring, he set himself on an uncertain journey that will test whether his assets can overcome his liabilities.

At the risk of sounding obnoxious, I haven’t the foggiest idea what these purported “assets” might be.

Despite the media’s fascination with the man, Newt Gingrich is a pseudo-intellectual clown who rose to the rank of Speaker of the House, only to be forced to resign in disgrace by his own Republican caucus. Gingrich’s most notable accomplishment during his fairly brief tenure was shutting down the government — twice — and impeaching a sitting president over adultery, while he personally was also committing adultery.

Indeed, Gingrich’s personal life is over-the-top sleazy, even by contemporary GOP standards. He haggled over the terms of his divorce from his first wife while she was in the hospital, recovering from uterine cancer surgery, and had already proposed to his second wife before he was divorced from his first. After his second wife was diagnosed with MS, Gingrich had an affair with a 33-year-old congressional aide, and asked his third wife to marry him before he was divorced from his second.

He later blamed his adultery on his patriotism, and made arguments such as, “The Democratic Party has been the active instrument of breaking down traditional marriage.”

If we’re really going to talk about Newt Gingrich’s “assets” as a national candidate, I’m left to conclude he’s about as credible a presidential contender as I am.

Yesterday, I started perusing some of the recent items I’ve published about Newt, just to refresh my memory, and even I was surprised at how stark raving mad he’s been. Remember in March, when Gingrich spoke at a bigoted pastor’s church and said the left wants to create a “secular atheist country,” which would be “dominated by radical Islamists”? How about the claim that President Obama and his allies represent “as great a threat to America as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union once did”?

With everyone well aware that the campaign kick-off announcement was on the way, several reporters ran terrific summaries this week, featuring some of Gingrich’s greatest hits. Media Matters’ overview is brutal, as is TPM’s. Mother Jones had a very well researched quote collection, spanning 33 years in public life, and Jay Bookman, who’s covered Gingrich up close, had a Top 10 list of his own.

What’s fascinating, though, about reading all of these is that there’s only a little overlap. Gingrich’s record of pure madness is so extensive — America’s only consistent source of limitless, renewable energy — that comprehensive collections invariably leave stuff out. Hell, as much as I enjoyed those greatest hits pieces, some of my personal favorites from Newt’s background didn’t even make the cut.

The man is ridiculous, and he will never be President of the United States.