The Slatest

Newt Gingrich Probably Just Gave the Last Major Speech of His Career

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich delivers a speech at the Republican National Convention on Wednesday in Cleveland.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Newt Gingrich spent most of his speech on Wednesday night talking about the menace of what he would demand I call “radical Islamic terror.” Taking a page from his own playbook—which recommends expounding on things like Sharia, which he knows nothing about, and proposing Muslim Americans take a religious test that could potentially lead to deportation (to where?)—Gingrich brought up terrorist attack after terrorist attack with the droning consistency of Ferris Bueller’s apocryphal high-school lecturer.

But Gingrich performed one other service: He “clarified” the remarks of Ted Cruz, who preceded him onstage, declined to endorse Donald Trump, and got roundly booed for it. Cruz had told the delegates to support someone who would protect the Constitution but did not name that someone. Well, Newt began, there is only one candidate who would do that: Donald Trump.

On social media and television, one popular theory was that Gingrich was trying to cover for Cruz.

But he wasn’t aiding Cruz; he was serving Trump.

For months now, in the hopes that he would be chosen as vice president, Gingrich has been moving toward Trump. His obsequiousness hasn’t rivaled Chris Christie’s, but it has nevertheless been pretty striking. He’s been a talk-show fixture; he amended his position on trade; he even told me, when I asked during an interview I conducted with him in May how he could support a Trump presidency, to read The Art of the Deal.

Newt’s ambitions, one might think, would demand that he not play second fiddle to anyone. (He once freaked out over seating arrangements on Air Force One during the Clinton years.) But Gingrich’s political career is essentially over; no non-Trump Republican would put him in charge of anything. A Trump victory is his only hope for one last taste of power. (He would not be speaking on the Wednesday night of the Republican convention if someone else had been the nominee.)

Tonight, then, may mark the de facto end of Gingrich’s time in the spotlight. Cruz, whatever else there is to say about him, has refused to endorse Trump. Gingrich has supported Trump with fawning passion. Assuming Trump loses and the republic survives, Gingrich, too, will be toast. Even a fake intellectual should know better.

Read more Slate coverage of the 2016 campaign.