When many in the mainstream media and far too many conservatives who should know better swoon over his pronouncements, the cannier on the right and left justifiably roll their eyes in disgust. Gingrich’s mind is an attic of throwaway, unusable and downright goofy ideas, piled high like newspapers in the room of a troubled subject on “Hoarders.” The volume is great, the quality is shoddy. His hobbyhorse is technology, or rather gimmickry. (“The coming rush of high technology will dismantle the welfare state and provide a replacement that is humane and efficient; it will free the poor from government dependency, take apart a failing educational establishment, relieve the drudgery of industrial labor and provide a steady supply of pleasant jobs, defrock out-of-touch elites in every corner of the ruthlessly secular society, clean up the environment and bequeath to us an America that is ‘safe, healthy, prosperous and free,’ as he wrote in ‘Winning the Future’ and, with slight variation, in most of his other books too.”)

But, ironically, what he never masters is politics. His collapse as speaker is more understandable once you grasp the full extent of his egomania and grandiose visions (“Muddling through — which is the default option of our constitutional system and the one that most Americans, latently conservative as they are, seem to prefer — never surfaces in the swirling mists of his crystal ball.”) Daydreamers and narcissists can make (in small doses) amusing writers and entertaining cocktail party guests, but lousy political leaders. And as president? Shudder.