Thursday, January 26, 2012

Go tell the Democrats: the golden Newt-goose is dead

Newt was tamed and shamed tonight -- not only by Romney but by Wolf Blitzer. It was fascinating to see him reach for an old trick -- one that brought him glory just a week ago -- and find his hypocrisy stripped so bare that an attentive eight year old could catch it.

Immediately after attacking Romney's investments, Gingrich was asked by Wolf Blitzer if he was satisfied by Romney's release of his tax returns (for 2010, with 2011 promised). Gingrich's response, according to a partial transcript:

GINGRICH: This is a nonsense question. Look, how about if the four of us agree to talk about issues that matter to the American people? This is a national debate. We have a chance to talk about important things.
That was an attempt to replay the glory of having savaged John King (to raucous applause) for asking him about his second wife's allegations. This time, since he'd just attacked Romney's finances in detail, the effect was like hearing the newcaster in 1984 reverse enemies and allies in mid-sentence. Doublethink!  Personal finances crucial! Personal finances inappropriate subject!

Blitzer, moreover, had the advantage of having witnessed Gingrich's takedown of John King, and he didn't stand for it (just found another partial transcript). He sustained a defense through two rounds:
BLITZER:  But, Mr. Speaker, you made an issue of this, this week, when you said that, "He lives in a world of Swiss bank and Cayman Island bank accounts."  I didn't say that.  You did.

GINGRICH:  I did.  And I'm perfectly happy to say that on an interview on some TV show.  But this is a national debate, where you have a chance to get the four of us to talk about a whole range of issues.

BLITZER:  But if you make a serious accusation against Governor Romney like that, you need to explain that.
Then Romney delivered the coup de grace -- something to the effect of, if you make accusations behind someone's back, you should be willing to defend them to his face.

That was only the centerpiece; Romney basically won every personal confrontation with Gingrich -- on his own finances (though it seems he lied about the blind trust), on Newt's influence peddling, on Newt's semi-repudiated claim that Romney is "anti-immigration."  After a few hard rounds, Romney felt comfortable enough to start agreeing with his rivals' policy pronouncements and focus on lying about Obama.

Also noteworthy was that Santorum managed an even more sustained and specific assertion that Romneycare was structurally akin to the ACA than he put forward last week.  I can only hope he's blazing a trail here that will be effectively picked up by the Democrats, because I fear that the brief glorious season of the Republican candidates deeply goring Romney is done. Gingrich is done. He may hang around a while, but his attacks will be more muted after he decisively loses Florida.  Santorum, as someone noted on Twitter tonight, may already be angling for the veep slot; he can make a plausible case that his attacks on Romney were principled policy points, and that he's made Romney a stronger candidate by challenging his policy choices rather than his wealth or integrity.

The ready-made attack ads for Democrats may be over; they will have to make their own case against Romney.

P.S. Remember when Romney's campaign cut an ad that quoted Obama in '08 saying "if we talk about the economy, we'll lose"-- conveniently leaving out the fact that Obama was quoting the McCain camp talking about its own prospects -- and Romney's top aides defended the deliberate distortion?  Tonight Romney showed that he agrees with them in principle. Gingrich called him out for an attack ad claiming that Gingrich called Spanish "the language of the ghetto." Romney, shamefully, claimed not to have seen the ad -- which, unlike the Super Pac attack ads he claimed not to have seen a couple of weeks ago, was created by his campaign and had his "I approved this message" imprimatur. On top of that dishonesty, Romney added the 'fuck context' defense (finally, a complete transcript):
We did double-check, just now, Governor, that ad that we talked about, where I quoted you as saying that Speaker Gingrich called Spanish “the language of the ghetto” — we just double-checked. It was one of your ads. It’s running here in Florida in — on the radio. And at the end you say, “I’m Mitt Romney and I approved this ad.”
So it is — it is here.
ROMNEY: Let me ask — let me ask a question.
Let me ask the speaker a question. Did you say what the ad says or not? I don’t know.
GINGRICH: It’s taken totally out of context.
ROMNEY: Oh, OK, he said it.

Democrats, take note: by Romney rules, Romney likes to fire people.

P.P.S. I see Newt (excuse me, NewtPac) is out with another slasher film against Romney. Could his personal rage at Romney's Iowa assault be so intense that he'll continue to tear down the nominee if/when it becomes clear that he has no chance?  Why would Biblical imperialist Sheldon Adelson sign on to such a crusade? Does he want to elect Obama?  In any case, the perhaps the advent of mute Newt is not imminent after all. A Democrat can hope!

P.P.P.S. Re the subject of Newt's new Devil in Mr. Romney film, the large-scale Medicare fraud that Damon Corp., one of Bain's portfolio companies, engaged in while Romney sat on its board: we can anticipate Romney's defense by his response when challenged about one of his allegedly deceitful ads:

I haven’t seen the ad, so I’m sorry. I don’t get to see all the TV ads. Did he say that?
Coming: "I wasn't involved in day-to-day operations, I'm sorry. I didn't get to see all that went on. Did they do that?"  In fact, he's already said that -- after saying that he got wind of the fraud and took steps to clean it up.  This is all replay for Romney, so presumably he'll get his story straight -- that is, thread some tortuous syntactic needle that explains how he was both aware that something was fishy and unaware of what it was. Sort of like being in favor of rescuing the financial system without bailouts, or being for state-imposed individual mandates but mortally opposed to federal ones, or calling for managed bankruptcies for GM  and Chrysler without any money being put up...

No comments:

Post a Comment