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The Rich Fantasy Life of Newt Gingrich The Rich Fantasy Life of Newt Gingrich

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The Rich Fantasy Life of Newt Gingrich

Isn't there something a little strange about the way Newt Gingrich keeps talking in ever greater detail about what he will do his first day in the White House? Even in conceding a devastating loss in Florida--one in which many voters spurned him on the basis of moral character and electability, according to exit polls--Gingrich went on and on last night about moving into the WH. He said he'll be so busy his first day--signing,  "two hours after the inaugural address," executive orders abolishing "all of the White House czars," opening the embassy in Jerusalem and "recognizing Israel" (sic), and reinstating Reagan's anti-abortion "Mexico City policy" -- that he and Callista will barely have time to have fun at the inaugural balls.

That's what you might call a rich fantasy life. And not only, by his lights, is Newt all but certain to be president, he will be a world-historical one. "This is //the// most important election of your lifetime," he told his supporters, deploying the usual self-referential superlatives. He embellished his speech with his usual grandiose references to Abraham Lincoln (the Gettysburg Address), Thomas Jefferson ("I pledge to you my life, my fortune, and my sacred honor") and the other Founding Fathers. He even used the royal "we."

If it were just an isolated incident, one might write off Newt's rambling concession speech to exhaustion and shock, and, as he said, the lack of a teleprompter ("I'm going to have to wing this," Newt said). But it's not isolated. As Jacob Weisberg noted in a fine Slate piece ("Is Newt Nuts?"), Gingrich exhibits "certain symptoms--bouts of grandiosity, megalomania, irritability, racing thoughts, spending sprees--that go beyond the ordinary politician's normal narcissism."

All of which suggests that, while Gingrich is unlikely to get the nomination at this point, his enduring fantasy of himself as a great figure in history may propel him to carry on this primary race far longer than reality might dictate. He said last night he's going all the way to the convention. He talked about coming back again and again. I think he believes it.


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