Last Waltz

When I saw the headline–“Gingrich Takes a Break”–I immediately rode the memory train to last summer, when Newt and Callista suddenly took a Mediterranean cruise just as other candidates were hunkered down in Iowa in a teeth-grinding frenzy, getting ready for the Ames Straw Poll. This episode cost Newt most of his staff and nearly all his credibility, though little did anyone know he would arise Nosferatu-like again and again.

Could it be, as I awaited my slow browser’s journey to the article on Gingrich’s new “break,” that he’s off on another “vacation” even as his campaign approaches its final challenge in Alabama and Mississippi? Is Newt, like Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, condemned to an eternal recurrence of the same bizarre mistakes, the same improbable recoveries?

But alas, it turns out the “break” was nothing more than a late-night jaunt with Callista that took them no further than a hotel bar in Jackson, Mississippi:

It was a long day on the campaign trail Wednesday, and Newt Gingrich ended it here with a drink and more than an hour of dancing to a two-piece cover band at a hotel bar.

There was The Beatles’ “All My Loving,” “September,” by Earth Wind & Fire, and, at one aide’s suggestion, Elton John’s “Rocket Man.” (Mr. Gingrich has drawn cheers and mockery this election as he calls for an increased space exploration.) Surrounded by aides and his wife, Callista, the former House speaker appeared to cut loose during the early morning hours — a rare sight for any presidential candidate. A few members of the media, who had just arrived via charter bus from Alabama, ventured into the hotel lobby at around 1 a.m….

Sometimes the former lawmaker and his wife danced slowly, sometimes fast. At several points, they twirled. They stayed out until about 2 a.m.

Since the hotel only sported a two-piece band, they probably could not perform selections from the Gingrichs’ favorite act, ABBA (at at least two campaign events, Newt’s cellphone has rung within earshot of reporters, playing “Dancing Queen.”). If they had, “Waterloo” would have been an appropriate anthem.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.