Newt Gingrich talks algae at the 2012 California Republican Convention in Burlingame on February 25, 2012. (Photo: Bob Calhoun)
Newt Gingrich is really into algae.
"By the way I'm pro research into algae," he said during his campaign speech today at the California Republican Convention in a suburb of San Francisco where he name checked the stuff that collects in your fish tank ten times. I went there hoping for the space talk like his grandiose plans for making the moon into the 51st state, but instead I heard a lot about algae.
"I think that probably if you did all of the algae development you could, by the end of this decade you could be fueling 12 airplanes, 20 airplanes, 30 airplanes," he said after saying that he "absolutely" wants to do research into algae.
But the real reason that Newt was bringing up our favorite grouping of photosynthetic organisms was to hang so much kelp around President Obama's neck for even speculating on the possibilities of research into it as a potential fuel source, something which Gingrich is actually all for.
While he was riffing on the subject of algae, the former House speaker went into a strange stream of consciousness rant where he verbally grappled with his perception of President Obama's mindset: "The president keeps finding these things which would work someday if only they work, but they don't work. But they should work, and if only they work, we'd really feel much better about them working. He doesn't want the things that do work, because those things make you feel bad so we can't do the things that do work because we want to do the things that don't work."
What's nuts is that this series of verbal contortions actually generated raucous cheers from the 480 or so Republicans seated in the dining hall of one of those depressing business hotels that's main feature is its closeness to the airport. Now remember, it was only one month ago that Gingrich was campaigning on his permanent colony on the moon and a “continually operating propulsion system capable of getting to Mars within a remarkably short time."
During a speech in Florida on January 25th, he pledged, "by the end of my second term, we will have the first permanent base on the moon and it will be American." According to MSNBC.com this line also brought cheers from the crowd of 700 people just like his remarks did earlier today. However, less than a week after that Florida speech, Mitt Romney was able win a crushing victory in the Florida primary by questioning the sanity of Gingrich's lunar aspirations, and a few days after that, "Saturday Night Live" reduced Newt's former applause lines to punch lines with a skit titled "Newt Gingrich: Moon President."
So a month ago Gingrich was sounding like the contents of an old issue of "Astounding Science Fiction" from the 1950s, but now the aggrieved candidate is lambasting President Obama for being "out of touch with reality."
"The president is for any fantasy that doesn't work today as opposed to any practical thing that works today," Gingrich added after touting his plan to "drill here, drill now, pay less" that he promises will bring gasoline prices down to $2.50 a gallon.
A month ago, Gingrich bemoaned "being told we have to be limited to technologies that are 50 years old," but today he was just giving us the latest version of "drill baby drill," a Republican gambit that failed John McCain in 2008. Gingrich's touted grandiosity was still there, but it was decidedly more earthbound with his promises that the US could "be the largest oil producer by the end of this decade."
"Bigger than Russia, bigger than Saudi Arabia," he claimed.
Gingrich's strange speaking style and offbeat phrasing was reminding me of something, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it until he uncorked another one of his unique verbal contortions.
"But wind is green so it's good, so it didn't really kill the birds because if it killed the birds it would be bad but it can't be bad because it's good," he said, mocking wind power.
Gingrich was sounding an awful lot like my favorite bit of inane dialog from "The Robot Monster," a 3-D clunker from 1953 where the producers couldn't afford to build a robot prop so they just stuck a guy gorilla suit topped with an antique diving helmet and filmed him wandering around Bronson Caverns.
"I cannot yet I must," Ro-Man the titular Robot Monster moans in a moment of existential crisis, "How do you calculate that? At what point on the graph do must and cannot meet? Yet I must, but I cannot!"
You can take the Newt out of the bad science-fiction, but you can't take the bad science-fiction out of the Newt.