A creative thinker with a sweet life, the former speaker just wasn't ready for the repetitive grind of a White House bid
These days, it's painful talking to longtime friends and admirers of former House speaker Newt Gingrich. The overwhelming view is that they hate to see what is happening to the Georgia Republican, yet all knew that his campaign would end up a train wreck.
Whether one likes or agrees with Gingrich (I like him but don't necessarily agree with him that much), he clearly is one of the brightest, most thoughtful, and engaging political figures to come along in a generation or two.
He has a thousand ideas a month, some good, some not so good, but always thought-provoking. His brain is always working, and he is the living embodiment of thinking outside the box.
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Gingrich has created a unique brand: a one-man think tank, concept-promoter, and intellectual provocateur. Name anyone in either party or any part of the ideological spectrum that plays the role he plays.
Yet even many who like him the most knew from the beginning that this campaign wouldn't end well. Creativity and discipline are pretty close to mutually exclusive.
Gingrich soars off the charts on the former but can frequently stray from the latter and sometimes roam off at the worst moments.
That's one of the reasons he is always fun to listen to. He is not like the jukebox-style politician that we so often see, punch a pair of buttons and you know exactly what they will say and how they will say it.
He has developed a great life since stepping down as speaker in 1999. There is an array of entities that make up what has commonly become known as Newt Inc.: a staff, vehicle, and platform to promote his ideas and travel around the country supporting causes he believes in and allowing him to make a ton of money.
He's debating policy wonks one minute and Fortune 500 CEOs the next. Let's face it: He's built a sweet life.
Watching him with his wife, Callista, by all appearances he has a great marriage and was quite happy with his new life.
I bumped into them a few years ago at the Ritz Carlton in Naples, Fla. After a speaking engagement elsewhere on the Gulf Coast, they were spending a weekend at the Ritz, just having a nice weekend, sitting around the pool, reading, and relaxing.
He seemed to have it all and was happier and more content than I ever recall him being as speaker.
Another time sitting over drinks at another resort, I walked away with a cocktail napkin full of book recommendations from him and ideas for my website. I have seen few political figures with the zeal and enthusiasm for life and ideas he has. He seems happiest when he is holding court about ideas, issues, and alternatives.