Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Newt Gingrich comes out and says it – Mitt Romney is a liar

Of course, this is a pretty hilarious case of the pot calling the kettle black. But even Newt Gingrich tells the truth sometimes--usually by accident or in a moment of carelessness, but sometimes from a mixture of calculation and resentment.

For a while now, Gingrich has assumed the pose of running a sunny and 'positive' campaign while his Republican opponents attacked him with a barrage of TV ads. (His main reason for taking this tack, so much at variance with the vicious partisanship and rhetorical bomb-throwing that has marked his whole political career, was probably the fact that he didn't have enough money to run his own barrage of negative ads in response.) But in a CBS interview this morning he took the gloves off ... or, if you prefer a different metaphor, let the mask slip.

Some highlights:
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, whose support in Iowa has withered after riding on top of the polls, on Tuesday called former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney a liar who would mislead the American people if elected to the White House - but added that he would still vote for him if Romney won the GOP nomination.

On CBS' "The Early Show" this morning, CBS News chief White House correspondent Norah O'Donnell asked Gingrich about comments he had previously made about his chief rival and the Super PAC whose negative campaign ads have hurt his campaign: "You scolded Mitt Romney, his friends who are running this Super PAC that has funded that, and you said of Mitt Romney, 'Someone who will lie to you to get to be president will lie to you when they are president. I have to ask you, are you calling Mitt Romney a liar?"

"Yes," Gingrich replied.

"You're calling Mitt Romney a liar?"

"Well, you seem shocked by it!" said Gingrich. "This is a man whose staff created the PAC, his millionaire friends fund the PAC, he pretends he has nothing to do with the PAC - it's baloney. He's not telling the American people the truth.

"It's just like this pretense that he's a conservative. Here's a Massachusetts moderate who has tax-paid abortions in 'Romneycare,' puts Planned Parenthood in 'Romneycare,' raises hundreds of millions of dollars of taxes on businesses, appoints liberal judges to appease Democrats, and wants the rest of us to believe somehow he's magically a conservative.

"I just think he ought to be honest with the American people and try to win as the real Mitt Romney, not try to invent a poll-driven, consultant-guided version that goes around with talking points, and I think he ought to be candid. I don't think he's being candid and that will be a major issue. From here on out from the rest of this campaign, the country has to decide: Do you really want a Massachusetts moderate who won't level with you to run against Barack Obama who, frankly, will just tear him apart? He will not survive against the Obama machine."
At the moment, the answer seems to be that Romney probably will emerge as the eventual Republican nominee, and would probably be a stronger candidate against Obama than any of the current alternatives—definitely including Newt Gingrich, whose past record includes at least as many policy flip-flops as Romney's along with a lot of other baggage. But anything is possible, so we'll have to see.
Yet, when pressed by CBS News' chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer on whether he could support Romney if the "Massachusetts moderate" became the Republican nominee, Gingrich replied, "Sure. I would support a Republican candidate against Barack Obama because I think Barack Obama is tearing the country apart.

"But, let's be clear," added Gingrich. "Which part of what I just said to you is false? [....]

"But Mr. Speaker, what you're saying is 'Folks, Barack Obama is so bad that we'd be better off electing a bald-faced liar to the presidency, somebody that we would never know if he was telling the truth.' That is pretty strong stuff," said Schieffer. [....]
Well, yes. But Schieffer was probably even more on-target than he realized, and perhaps a bit naive as well.

True, the widespread (and accurate) perception that Romney is a flagrant hypocrite and "a bald-faced liar", so that we can't believe anything he says, is in some ways a liability for Romney as a candiate. But at the same time, this perception is also one of Romney's greatest assets.

Many of those who support Romney, and who will wind up voting for him in the Republican primaries and the general election, are operating precisely on the assumption that Romney doesn't really mean any of the crazy, extremist things he is currently saying, and hasn't really repudiated his whole previous record and all the things he once claimed to stand for, but instead is just cynically prepared to say or do whatever is necessary to reassure enough of the Republican primary electorate to win the nomination. (That's the only possible basis on which someone like Chris Christie, for example, could have endorsed Romney. Many voters in the so-called Republican "base" liked Christie because of his abrasively pugnacious political style. But Christie himself clearly realized that many of his substantive positions, which he couldn't easily repudiate while being the Governor of New Jersey, would mark him as far too "moderate" to get through the Republican primaries.) We may get a chance to see whether those assumptions are correct. Meanwhile, for many voters, pundits, and politicians, the unspoken slogan of the Romney campaign is, or should be: "Vote for the hypocrite, not the lunatic."

Be that as it may ... it must be confessed that when Newt Gingrich accuses Romney of being a liar and a hypocrite, it's hard to disagree. It takes one to know one, I guess.

—Jeff Weintraub