By Boris Volkhonsky
While the fight for Republican nomination intensifies, and Newt Gingrich’s chances at the moment seem better than those of Mitt Romney, the focus of attention has naturally shifted to Florida where the primaries are to take place on Tuesday.
Most probably, it is Florida that will, among few other states, determine the general outcome of November 6 national elections, as was the case in 2000. Therefore, one cannot underestimate the importance of this fourth-largest state in the U.S.
Since a large portion of the state’s population is of Cuban origin, the candidates could not avert from mentioning Cuba as one of the priority topics. Newt Gingrich went probably farther than his opponents, definitely promising that he will support an uprising against Fidel and Raul Castro regime there. He also was not shy in comparing himself to Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and even Pope John Paul II, who made an immense contribution to the cause of overthrowing the socialist regimes in the USSR and Eastern Europe. Gingrich promised to use the very methods used by the great politicians and public figures of the recent past – that is, psychological war, covert operations and toughest possible economic and political sanctions.
The addressee of this message was obvious – the immigrant Cuban community of Florida. But it wasn’t Gingrich’s remarks on Cuba that attracted the utmost public attention. Another idea, probably as fabulous (if not more) than his plans to overthrow the Cuban regime has taken the prime time. Gingrich announced that by the end of his second term (of which he seems to have no doubts) he will build a special base on the Moon.
The addressee of this message is less obvious. It is true that NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center is located in Florida, and some space scientist praised Gingrich for his visionary attitudes. But the space scientist community hardly constitutes an important faction of the electorate. So, the message was clearly addressed to the whole nation.
The peculiar thing about this is that many commentators started discussing the prospect very seriously. His Republican rivals blasted the idea saying that “it is enormous expense” (Mitt Romney) and that “it’s a great thing to maybe get votes, but it’s not a responsible thing” (Rick Santorum).
But Gingrich was adamant in his vision, and compared himself to other great men of the glorious American past.
“I would just want you to note: Lincoln standing at Council Bluffs was grandiose. The Wright Brothers standing at Kitty Hawk were grandiose. John F. Kennedy was grandiose. I accept the charge that I am grandiose and that Americans are instinctively grandiose,” he said.
What has somehow been omitted in Newt Gingrich’s speech is the further possibility of going far beyond a base on the Moon. The idea itself is dubious from the legal point of view since it is not a part of the U.S. territory yet and fantastic from the pragmatic point of view – not only in terms of expenses, but also in terms of sustainability and livability on the alien surface).
Why did he not promise to plant apple trees on Mars? The idea might seem even more visionary and resounding in a sharp contrast with the dull and boring campaign President Obama is pursuing.
Or crossbreed a snake and a snail, or a spider and an adrone collider? Well, maybe there is still time for that when Gingrich tours other states. There are 46 (excluding Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida) left, so let’s wait and see. New visionary ideas are sure to follow.
But maybe it would be advisable for Mr. Gingrich to get back on earth and find some more homely and close-to-the-heart ideas?
In doing this, I would recommend him to use the tactics often employed by Russia’s flamboyant politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky. He has the right words for every ear. For example, during one of the previous campaigns he promised to guarantee that every woman will have a partner under his presidency. Newt Gingrich as a thrice-married man is quite experienced in the mater, so the electorate might believe him. Of course, being politically correct, he might change the promise and say that every American under his presidency will have a partner, without specifically mentioning the gender of either of the would-be partners.
But he is a visionary, so let him go ahead. The Moon is definitely not the limit!
Boris Volkhonsky, senior research fellow, Russian Institute for Strategic Studies