Who knew that Newt Gingrich, the candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, is mad for dinosaurs? He even kept the head of a Tyrannosaurus Rex mounted on a plinth in his office when, as the Speaker having an adulterous fling with a member of staff, he tried to destroy Bill Clinton over the Lewinsky affair.
"I would love to go and collect dinosaur fossils for a while," he told an interviewer. "Why not aspire to build a real Jurassic Park?" he wrote. "Wouldn't that be one of the spectacular accomplishments of human history?" Yes it would. So would that other Gingrich master plan, to found a human colony on the moon.
If there is nothing peculiar about a lifelong passion for dinosaurs, the oddity with Gingrich is that he also appears to believe – and luckily so, given the electoral power of the fundamentalist Christian far right – in Creationism. "I believe that Creation as an act of faith is true and I believe that science as a mechanical process is true," he informed a Minnesota Family Audience when invited to take sides. "I don't think there is necessarily a conflict between the two." He asks any friend who dismissed Creationism, meanwhile, whether it was pure chance that they weren't born a rhinoceros instead of a human.
It pays tribute to Gingrich's famous intellect that he can muse on how God made the world from nothing 4,000 years ago, as Creationists hold, while drinking coffee from his favourite dinosaur mug. Previous candidates aren't so expert in the Orwellian art of doublethink. Of all the eccentric characters to challenge for the nomination, only one (Jon Huntsman) openly trusts Darwin. And remember Sarah Palin, whose vice-presidential run inspired a brilliant televised rant from Matt Damon in 2008. "It's a really terrifying possibility," was his take on the chances of Palin being that one heartbeat from leading the free world. "I really need to know if she thinks that dinosaurs were here 4,000 years ago. I wanna know that, I really do. Because she's gonna have the nuclear codes."
Gingrich's rapid rise to the top of the would-be presidential pile quickly fizzled out, and his candidacy may be declared extinct after 'Super Tuesday' in three days time. The consolation, if he does officially become a political dinosaur, is that he can get back to dreaming in peace of the day he declares that real-life Jurassic Park open for business. On the moon.
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