The Cost of No More Newt

Chatterbox can understand the psychological calculus that led Newt Gingrich to decide that he had no interest in hanging around the House for the next two years like the Ghost of Christmas Past. But Chatterbox also remembers how Newt used to wax ecstatic over the penny-ante savings that he had achieved in running the House, ending such spendthrift practices as free daily ice deliveries to congressional offices. The implicit message in such parsimonious reforms: Even small savings can help lift the burden breaking the backs of America’s beleaguered taxpayers.

Carrying this penny-saved principle to its logical extreme, Chatterbox called Georgia to find out the price of a special election to fill Gingrich’s seat. The best estimate, according to a spokesman for the Georgia secretary of state’s office, is about $70,000 for the not-yet-scheduled special election and another $70,000, in the likely event that no candidate garners 50 percent of the vote and a runoff is needed. That means that the hard-pressed Georgia taxpayers will probably have to spend $140,000 to maintain Newt’s psychic health.

Yes, Chatterbox believes that laudable cause would be a bargain at even double the price. But for $140,000, all the voters in Gingrich’s old district could have, at least, gotten a free delivery of ice.

Walter Shapiro