Newt Gingrich's Favorite Analogies: Virginia Ballot Edition


He says his failure to gather enough signatures is like Pearl Harbor. At least he didn't call the state an Evil Empire.

On the subject of Newt Gingrich's failure to qualify for the Virginia ballot, there are two things to be said: 1) I'm inclined to agree with him that the failure of so many candidates to qualify is a mark against the current rules. 2) The statement put out by Gingrich campaign director Michael Krull is unintentionally hilarious:

Newt and I agreed that the analogy is December 1941: We have experienced an unexpected setback, but we will re-group and re-focus with increased determination, commitment and positive action.
It's already been widely mocked, but I've yet to see anyone capture just why that comparison is so exquisitely funny. It's because it so closely tracks the standard caricature of Professor Gingrich. Everything must be made into a sweeping analogy. And his instinct for grandiosity is so pronounced that only a small group of recurring subjects are fit for the comparisons that he offers. Would anyone other than Newt Gingrich respond to failing to get on a ballot by asking, "Okay, what's the historical analogy?" Even the "the" is perfect -- as if there is one definitive analogy that fits.

His campaign manager evidently knows by now that "What's the analogy" can have only a few possible answers for Gingrich: either it's just before World War II, when Hitler must not be appeased, or it's just before the Civil War, when the moment demands a series of hours-long Lincoln-Douglas debates, or it's the Cold War, when the Soviet Union must be called an evil empire.

I like to think the internal conversation went something like this.

It is never the moment when Woodrow Wilson goes after wartime dissenters, or Japanese Americans are rounded up, or the J. Edgar Hoover years when Martin Luther King is hounded by the FBI, or the Vietnam era when escalation proves disastrous for the United States.

Lincoln, FDR, Reagan, plus the most prominent of the Founding Fathers: other than an iconic American leader or an event of extreme historic import, what could shed light on the Gingrich candidacy?

That seems to be how he sees it. Knowing Gingrich regards Pearl Harbor as "the analogy" for effectively losing Virginia, what comparison will he think appropriate if he loses the entire campaign. The Bataan Death March? Lincoln's tragic night at the theater? The fall of Rome? Or maybe he'll win, and God help us if so. Has there ever been a politician more inclined to make history? In a president of the United States, that is a dangerous impulse. 

Image credit: Reuters
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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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