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January 26, 2012 8:20 AM Gingrich’s Moon Shot

By Ed Kilgore

I had really hoped to kick off my blogging career here by focusing on some serious, meaty policy issue that happened to be politically relevant today.

But then late yesterday Newt Gingrich had to go and promise voters on Florida’s NASA-dependent Space Coast a “permanent Moon base” by 2020. He even spoke of this lunar colony becoming large enough to petition for statehood, proudly calling himself a “romantic” as opposed to “so-called practical people.” Gaze in awe:

I’ve been watching Gingrich from a pretty close vantage point since the mid-1970s, and it is so like Newt to combine his sci-fi fantasies with the crassest kind of pandering. From the very beginning of his career, he has always had the mind of an undisciplined grad student and the soul of Boss Tweed. It’s not always easy to tell if he wants raw political power in order to peddle his pseudo-scientific theories, his revisionist historical notions, and his bad fiction—or the reverse. He definitely has a queasy affinity for schemes to wield terrestrial power from beyond the earth’s atmosphere, from his early enthusiasm for space weaponry to his lifelong admiration for Asimov’s Foundation trilogy.

His lunar colony pledge might be harmless or at least amusing if he were not in the habit of lecturing poor people on the hard realities of personal responsibility, and scoffing at those types of public investment that don’t engage his interest in warfare or some other form of domination. As it is, his speech down in Cocoa is mainly a sign that he’s now confident enough of victory in Florida primary that he’s inviting voters into his private club house and showing them his comic books.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

Comments

  • Danp on January 26, 2012 8:25 AM:

    At some point he will have to reconcile this promise with the goal of balanced budgets. But for now, he's still living in a fact-free utopia.

  • DAY on January 26, 2012 8:32 AM:

    Welcome, sir!

    And, with this bit:
    " he has always had the mind of an undisciplined grad student and the soul of Boss Tweed."
    you may go to the head of the class.

  • pol on January 26, 2012 8:33 AM:

    Being that the Florida Space Coast is struggling these days, since there's no more shuttle, this will definitely be welcome news to the people of east Central Florida. The promise is worth a few votes to him.

    Not that I believe him.

  • pol on January 26, 2012 8:35 AM:

    Please excuse my bad manners....

    Welcome, Ed!

  • Andy Hall on January 26, 2012 8:36 AM:

    Heh. Kesha Rogers, a Larouchie, won the Dem primary in the Texas 22nd, which includes the Johnson Space Center in Houston, on a platform that included building military bases on the lunar surface. (That's her, with the Obama-as-Hitler picture.) She may have lost he bid for Congress, but I dare say in a Gingrich administration, she'd be short-listed for NASA Administrator.

  • TR on January 26, 2012 8:39 AM:

    Nice start to your tenure here.

  • estamm on January 26, 2012 8:47 AM:

    He is a LIFELONG fan of the Foundation Trilogy? Yeah, I read that when I was young and going through a sci-fi craze. It was an ultimately forgettable series that fell apart due to the basic premise that the future can be predicted with scientific accuracy. I mean, who could have possibly predicted 10 years ago that Newt would be the the Republican frontrunner (let alone the nominee) in 2012. I have great respect for Asimov, but that series was a load of crap that even a 16 year old kid could poke holes in.

  • bdop4 on January 26, 2012 8:49 AM:

    It's great how he invokes the accomplishments of the Space Race of the 1960's, but neglects to mention how we PAID for it.

    Hey Newt, what were the marginal tax rates back then?

  • berttheclock on January 26, 2012 8:50 AM:

    I read somewhere Dr Edward Morbius III is his science advisor and will be named to lead the colony. He has that Walter Pidgeon look about him.

  • Peter C on January 26, 2012 8:51 AM:

    "... on what planet do you spend most of your time?"

  • mtboy on January 26, 2012 8:53 AM:

    eastman: Foundation and Gingrich are a perfect fit. Both are "a load of crap that even a 16 year old could poke holes in." Unfortunately, the Republican base has a mind of a 12 year old.

  • Anonymous on January 26, 2012 8:54 AM:

    Welcome, Ed -- You're already taking the edge of my panic about losing Steve.

    PS- Captcha = Society Iddiet. Clearly it knows we are talking about Newt.

  • monocle on January 26, 2012 9:01 AM:

    Agree w/ DAY: excellent turn of phrase. Keep up the good work.

  • martin on January 26, 2012 9:03 AM:

    "petition for statehood?"

    On what planet, so to speak?

    Anyone care to ask him how he feels about statehood for DC?

    I'm guessing Newt plans for the moon colonists to be white republicans/

  • Bo on January 26, 2012 9:05 AM:

    I, for one, am happy that Newtie has announced his support for a permanent moon base. Now we can correctly refer to him as a lunatic with impugnity . . . and we have a sound-bite to prove it.
    Welcome aboard, Ed. Please engage your seatbelt. It's going to be a bumpy ride!

  • Journeywoman on January 26, 2012 9:06 AM:

    Welcome, Ed! I enjoyed your guest-blogging stint in December, and I was so hoping they'd pick you as a replacement.

    A minor request, though: I know you said you didn't want to continue Steve's signature features, but is there any chance you could continue his habit of quoting or summarizing video clips for those of us who can't watch them where we are? It would help a lot.

    Thanks, and looking forward to reading your contributions!

  • Kevin Ray on January 26, 2012 9:11 AM:

    "... the mind of an undisciplined grad student and the soul of Boss Tweed." Hell, I'd much rather start a blogging career with a line like that.

  • mellowjohn on January 26, 2012 9:24 AM:

    "I am Gingrymandias, romantic of romantics:
    Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!"

  • j on January 26, 2012 9:27 AM:

    A base on the moon and Sarah Palin with an important role in his administration - I can't wait!!~!~!!

  • T2 on January 26, 2012 9:32 AM:

    wouldn't it be great if President Obama would ask Newt "will you raise taxes on the Rich in order to pay for your Moon Experiment? Or will you eliminate Social Security to do it?
    How do you plan to pay for it?"

    welcome Ed. Steve was going to get rid of Captcha...did he tell you?

  • Ron Byers on January 26, 2012 9:32 AM:

    I was 16 a few years after Newt. I too loved Asimov, and thought the Foundation Trilogy was fantastic. It wasn't until I studied sociology as an undergrad that I realized predicting the future of a society with mathematical precision is as crazy as predicting the weather more than a week off and for the same reason. Maybe he should read about chaos theory. That was pretty popular back in the 80s and 90s.

    Oh, before I forget. Welcome to the Animal Ed.

  • Speed on January 26, 2012 9:32 AM:

    Welcome, Ed!

    Say, wasn't Asimov an atheist? Hmmm...

  • N.Wells on January 26, 2012 9:34 AM:

    "he has always had the mind of an undisciplined grad student and the soul of Boss Tweed"
    Day & Monocle beat me to it: what a great way to hit the floor running.

    More, please.

  • CJ on January 26, 2012 9:41 AM:

    Maybe a debate moderator can ask Speaker Gingrich why he believes that we're better off doing nation building on the moon than we are here at home.

    I support the space program, but only to the extent that it benefits us down here on Earth.

    Come to think of it, I would support a base on the moon, if Gingrich would commit to spending quality time up there...indefinitely.

  • kama on January 26, 2012 9:41 AM:

    The "mind and soul" quote, as others have stated, is an instant classic.

    Welcome!

  • Werewolf on January 26, 2012 9:45 AM:

    Asimov wrote some stories early on about a league of planets to which Earth was applying for membership. The main characters were the sociology or psychology department of a university, who were studying Earth to see if they were ready for membership. One of the professors had postulated "Kraut's Law", which said that one could not panic more than five humanoids at once. He was disconcerted that this didn't apply to Earth humans.

  • Gummo on January 26, 2012 9:46 AM:

    As it is, his speech down in Cocoa is mainly a sign that he’s now confident enough of victory in Florida primary that he’s inviting voters into his private club house and showing them his comic books.

    Welcome, Ed.

    That's some A-list level snark, right there. Well done!

  • John in TX on January 26, 2012 9:49 AM:

    But then late yesterday Newt Gingrich had to go and promise voters on Florida’s NASA-dependent Space Coast a "permanent Moon base" by 2020.

    Actually, I would love for this moonbase to become a reality; just imagine, Newt could be it's leader and all the hardcore rightwingers, religious fanatics, teabaggers and other assorted nutcases who claim to just hate the U.S. government and paying taxes so much could go (or get sentenced to go) there. Shuttle flights would leave monthly until that entire noxious element of the population is gone, and the rest of us that are sane could get busy fixing what they've managed to ruin over the past 30 years.

  • RL Alitheia on January 26, 2012 9:53 AM:

    "His lunar colony pledge might be harmless or at least amusing if he were not in the habit of lecturing poor people on the hard realities of personal responsibility, and scoffing at those types of public investment that don’t engage his interest in warfare or some other form of domination."

    ...or scoffing at those types of investments that, you know, fix a crumbling bridge or dilapidated road. Gingrich's rank opportunism continues to manifest itself: as visionary to Space Coast residents, as everyman populist to blue-collar voters, or as a slyly droll racist to remnants of Wallace's South. Gingrich as nominee is distressing in this way: should a European financial crisis befall us and negatively affect President Obama's election numbers, the country is left with Gingrich.

  • Mary on January 26, 2012 9:58 AM:

    Ed Kilgore = funny. Good move, Washington Monthly.

  • TG Chicago on January 26, 2012 10:06 AM:

    Pretty funny that Gingrich is calling himself a "romantic". I would think that his romantic escapades would be something he'd want to refrain from discussing.

    Can't wait for the ad that juxtaposes his many wives with Newt calling himself a "romantic".

  • Forrest Leeson on January 26, 2012 10:10 AM:

    The only fantasy in which Gingrich is indulging is the notion that he can persuade the Congress to fund mere necessities.

    "It was an ultimately forgettable series that fell apart due to the basic premise that the future can be predicted with scientific accuracy."

    Written 40 years before the emergence of chaos theory; also postulates vastly more advanced sociology and mathematics, which would include notional developments post-chaos-theory.

  • sparrow on January 26, 2012 10:11 AM:

    Lordy. And just how's he going to do that if his party won't even pay for fixing our roads and bridges? As some comment or said on anotl-her blog, 'All blackboard and no chalk.'"

  • golack on January 26, 2012 10:21 AM:

    Welcome Ed--nice job...and keep having fun!

    Now I have to stand up for undisciplined grad students everywhere....Someone has to plumb the depths of Asimov's writings...which I do like, but there is a difference between suspension of dis-belief and the suspension of reality that has taken hold of the Republican party...

  • Grumpy on January 26, 2012 10:24 AM:

    A permanent moon base might happen someday.

    A second term for President Gingrich never will. That's the "sci-fi fantasy."

  • emjayay on January 26, 2012 10:26 AM:

    I thought Newt summed himself up pretty well the other day when he said he wanted a "3 hour Lincoln-Douglas style debate" (= I'm a big time intellectual historian, allusion to famous historical figures and events) with Obama, who could use a teleprompter if he wants although Newt won't need one. (= stupid irrational Tea Party imaginary complaint about Obama who isn't really qualified [affirmative action, also black] to be president and is only pretending and has to read stuff he wants to say).

    Of course in reality all presidents for fifty or sixty years have used teleprompters when giving TV speeches, and Obama has shown that he can go on forever quite coherently and correctly about just about anything relevant. You don't even have to be a big time intellectual historian to notice the actual facts, but Gingrich was more than willing to go there right after equating himself with Lincoln.

    Also he cheated on his wife for years and years because he was just so darned patriotic

  • Werewolf on January 26, 2012 10:27 AM:

    Newt should keep in mind that the Moon, like Callista, is a Harsh Mistress.

  • ORgone on January 26, 2012 10:30 AM:

    Great start,Ed. Glad you're here.

    Being a million dollar historian, what Gingrich failed to mention is that this moon city would be populated by free labor for the first 100 years as a penal colony just like Florida.

  • Skip on January 26, 2012 10:33 AM:

    There's no accountability for spewing crap like this. He'll just say God's forgiven him again... for lying... again.

    Hi, Ed and welcome...


  • Anonymous on January 26, 2012 10:50 AM:

    Sci-fi fantasies, crass pandering, and don't forget the gratuitous put-down of non-specified others:

    “so-called practical people.”

  • Mark on January 26, 2012 10:59 AM:

    Newt Gingrich is as likely to be the next president as a fruit bat is likely to become a star pitcher for the Mariners. I very much doubt he will be the Republican nominee, and if he is that would speak less to my inability to predict the course of events than to the disturbed nature of the conservative base, and he could no more beat Obama if he were the nominee than he could spontaneously take wing and fly around the room like a UAV.

    Nope; Romney keeps projecting inevitability because he IS inevitable, and so is his loss. I cannot imagine the calamity, real or engineered, that could be sprung just before the vote that would convince America that Romney spelt resolution of it. Unless it was money falling from the sky and burying people. He could probably come up with a solution for that.

  • wvmcl on January 26, 2012 11:17 AM:

    Didn't Newt once use Han Solo as an example of good old American individual initiative. After all, anybody with a few bucks and a dream can cobble together an interstellar space ship.

  • Elie on January 26, 2012 11:51 AM:


    If gnoot wins Florida or even finishes a close second, hold onto your hats folks! The pathology that is going to roll out will make this moon grandiosity look measured and level headed by comparison. This man has a faulty microchip -- when placed in certain operational modes, you get "performance problems".

  • G.Kerby on January 26, 2012 11:54 AM:

    Now if Newt says that he wants to be Prez "to serve man", I'll REALLY be worried.

  • Crusty the Clown on January 26, 2012 12:12 PM:

    Heh. I'm pretty sure the old Newtster has been "mooning" the US public for decades.

  • emjayay on January 26, 2012 12:23 PM:

    Someone made the "grandiose" accusation in a question to Newt and he said yeah, I'm grandiose, America is a grandiose country, etc. and he has repeated that.

    Maybe he should look it up.

    gran·di·ose   /ˈgrændiˌoʊs/ [gran-dee-ohs] adjective

    1. affectedly grand or important; pompous: grandiose words.
    2. more complicated or elaborate than necessary; overblown: a grandiose scheme.
    3. grand in an imposing or impressive way.
    4. Psychiatry . having an exaggerated belief in one's importance, sometimes reaching delusional proportions, and occurring as a common symptom of mental illnesses, as manic disorder.

    I guess he was sort of thinking of #3, but #1, 2 and 4 pretty much sum up the Newtser.

  • TCinLA on January 26, 2012 1:47 PM:

    As someone who had the great good fortune to be a friend of Ike Asimov, probably the smartest writer I ever met (the way he took the 5th Foundation Trilogy book and connected every s-f story he'd ever written was genius), I am sure he is spinning in his grave to think that the likes of Newt the ignoramus is a fan. Newt must be planning to pave over Earth the way Trantor was, since the job he wants is Emperor, though he thinks he has Hari Seldon's equations figured out. He'd be one of the characters in the first book, a local planetary warlord taken out of action by his own stupidity, cupidity and ignorance.

  • 2Manchu on January 26, 2012 2:00 PM:

    Oh sure, scoff now. But when the dastardly Red Chinese team up with the sneaky still-kind-of-Commie Russians, along with their Axis of Super Evil cronies the North Koreans and Iranians, and establish Fortress Luna on the moon, the genius of Professor Newtonian will be sorely missed.

    Our national security simply cannot afford a Moon Base Gap!!

  • Keith M Ellis on January 26, 2012 5:18 PM:

    This is sort of funny because Hari Seldon and the Foundation books were the self-attested inspiration for Paul Krugman's desire to become an economist. Krugman's often written about this and he's a lifelong science-fiction geek.

    Granted, I'm pretty certain that Krugman would (or does) now disavow as either silly or ethically wrong some of the ideas in those books, but it's not clear to me that this isn't also true of Gingrich.

    Of course, Gingrich really does have the mind of an undisciplined student (I think "grad student" is giving him too much credit) and so it's entirely possible that it's fair to tar him with the Foundation brush. But done indiscriminately, it's also tarring Krugman.