Despite frenzied prognostications from the political commentariat about Newt Gingrich’s inadequate war chest, lack of an actual campaign operation in the early voting states, potential absence from key ballots and even burdensome debt, they matter little as long as the former House Speaker continues to snooker GOP voters into thinking he can beat President Obama.
New polls showing Gingrich at the top of the field in Iowa, South Carolina and Florida explain why his sudden vault to front-runner status is genuine and durable; how (at least for now) Gingrich has surmounted the insurmountable and convinced voters who know him well that he is viable in a general election.
In focus groups Democratic pollster Peter Hart conducted for the Annenberg Public Policy Center last week, respondents characterized Gingrich as “grandfatherly.” In some polls voters have called him “authentic,” and a new New York Times/CBS News poll found that Iowa voters think Gingrich has the best chance of defeating President Obama, is most empathetic, the strongest commander in chief and best prepared for the job of president. Evangelical Christians, who don’t trust Mormons like Mitt Romney, are throwing their support by 3-to-1 behind the twice-divorced Gingrich, also an admitted adulterer.
Although Gingrich would conclude that his new popularity is a testament to his brilliance or at least to his powers of persuasion, it actually reflects an unrelenting resistance to Romney that has caused GOP voters to swerve chaotically from Sarah Palin to Donald Trump to Michele Bachmann to Rick Perry to Herman Cain. Gingrich was always a choice, but never a palatable one until the circus had finally folded tents and left town. Unlike the favorites before him, in Gingrich voters have someone steeped in critical policy matters, deeply interested in the problems the nation faces and effective at debating. But as a general-election candidate he is far more damaged than all of the other candidates combined.
Most who know him expect Gingrich to soon perform a campaign-ending act of self-destruction, with his trademark recklessness. No one will be surprised by new reports in The Washington Post that Gingrich has spent $3 for every $2 he raised in his campaign and that he paid himself back $42,000 for a mailing list his business gave the campaign, before paying back other vendors.
He sure doesn’t plan to stop running his mouth — just capturing the lead in polling last week led him to boast he would be the nominee, take credit for defeating communism in Congress and then suggest that poor people don’t work and are raising their children to be criminals. Indeed, Gingrich is just getting warmed up, and feels free to say almost anything at this point. After all, he practically embraced amnesty for illegal immigrants and didn’t see even a slight dent in his support. The voters have decided to overlook his personal failings, policy flip-flops, questionable ethics and even his attempts to explain that making more than $100 million representing interests like Freddie Mac in Washington wasn’t lobbying because he never needed the money because he makes $60,000 every time he gives a speech.
Unless they change their minds, Tea-infused Republican voters are opting for everything they have criticized: Gingrich is a controversial insider their party already turned away once because of his failed leadership and who has enriched himself with his access ever since. He isn’t a pure conservative, he isn’t fresh and he has no credibility as someone prepared to cut off the stranglehold of special interests.
Republican primary voters might be comfortable gambling on Gingrich, but it’s not a gamble independent voters are likely to feel comfortable with next year.
By: A. B. Stoddard, Associate Editor, The Hill, December 7, 2011
Most of the Affordable Care Act won’t take effect for a few years — and if court rulings and the 2012 elections go a certain way, it may not take effect at all — but there’s already evidence that the reform law is working.
It’s also, as Jonathan Cohn explained, saving seniors quite a bit of money on prescription medication.
Under the terms of the Affordable Care Act — yes, Obamacare — pharmaceutical companies provide a 50 percent discount on name-brand drugs for seniors who hit the “donut hole.” The donut hole is the gap in coverage that begins once an individual Medicare beneficiary has purchased $2,840 in drugs over the course of a year. At that point, the beneficiary becomes completely responsible for prescription costs — in other words, he or she has to pay for them out of his pocket — until he or she has spent another $3,600.
It may not sound like a lot of money. But the seniors who hit the donut hole are, by definition, the ones with the most medical problems. Saving a few hundred dollars, on average, makes a real difference. And that’s precisely what’s happening, according to data the administration released today. According to its calculations, 2.65 million seniors hit the donut hole — and then saved an average of $569 each. The data runs through October. More seniors will hit the donut hole through year’s end, so the total number of beneficiaries who take advantage of the discount in 2012 should end up higher.
In an interview with USA Today, Jonathan Blum, director of the Center for Medicare, added, “We’re very pleased with the numbers. We found the Part D premiums have also stayed constant, despite predictions that they would go up in 2012.”
Seniors have been some of the biggest skeptics of the Affordable Care Act, but they’ve also seen some of the most direct benefits. Indeed, USAT’s report went on to note that as of the end of November, “more than 24 million people, or about half of those with traditional Medicare, have gone in for a free annual physical or other screening exam since the rules changed this year because of the health care law.”
If Republicans repeal the law, all of these benefits will simply disappear. It’s something voters may want to keep in mind.
By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, December 7, 2011
Are Republicans forgetful or just forgiving?
It’s odd how Republicans view former speaker of the House Gingrich as a Washington outsider. This is a guy who was a career politician for over four decades before he fled to the wilderness. This is a man who burned more bridges than most Republicans in my lifetime within his own party; a guy who was asked to step down as speaker and some believe pushed out of the House of Representatives entirely. This is also a man who, against the wishes of many in his party, pushed for the impeachment of President William Jefferson Clinton for carrying on a sexual tryst in the Oval Office, while he, Newt was committing adultery himself. A man responsible for not one, but two government shutdowns, a man who lost his party seats in Congress. And let us not forget the image of Mr. Gingrich handing his wife divorce papers while she was in the hospital being treated for cancer. He’s on marriage number three, divorced two times, and is a born-again Catholic—his words, not mine.
Despite all of this, Newt’s biggest critics in his party are now silent. Those who would not back him have their checkbooks out, because, after all, he is not former Gov. Mitt Romney. Even the evangelicals are buying the fallen man speech Newt’s been giving with respect to his numerous marriages, two of which failed. And how about him being Catholic instead of an evangelical Christian, a Protestant? Well it would seem the evangelicals prefer Catholics to Mormons–again, anyone but Romney.
Some say Newt has changed, that he is a new and improved and more humblefigure. I disagree. I might have bought that when his poll numbers were down; but now that he is ranking in the top two depending on the poll you read and the time of day it is, the old Newt is back and just as bold as before.
Here are a couple of examples:
- Gingrich saying Rep. Michele Bachmann was like a student, he being the teacher, who was “factually challenged”
- He also stated that kids “in poor neighborhoods have no habit of working” (Odd, I don’t consider busting my butt at work a habit! It’s a necessity!)
And I believe as Newt’s numbers grow, so will his ego. As a GOP member stated: “His hand is never that far from the self-destruct button.”
So I’m not sure if Republicans are very forgiving or just forgetful. Did they forget the ethics violations, which resulted in a six digit fine?! Did they forget that Newt encouraged voters to contact their congressional members regarding climate change in a televised ad seated next to former Speaker Nancy Pelosi in 2008 and now he has changed his mind? Come on, this guy taught environmental studies! He knows climate change is real and humans have contributed to it!
The bottom line is, the Republicans have to decide if they want the best candidate, the candidate that represents their people and their party, or anyone but Romney. If the Republicans want Newt, I guess they’re appealing to their non-ethical, adulterating, divorced segment of the population.
By: Leslie Marshall, U. S. News and World Report, December 7, 2011
Rep. Trent Franks established his credentials as a civil rights leader last year when the Arizona Republican argued that, because of high abortion rates in black communities, African Americans were better off under slavery.
But the congressman doesn’t just talk the talk. On Tuesday, he chaired a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on legislation he is introducing that would protect African American women from themselves — by making it harder for them to have abortions.
“In 1847, Frederick Douglass said, ‘Right is of no sex, truth is of no color, God is the father of us all and all are brethren,’ ” Franks proclaimed as he announced what he calls the “Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act of 2011.”
Drawing a line from the Civil War to the suffragist movement to defeating Hitler to the civil rights era, Franks determined that “there is one glaring exception” in the march toward equality. “Forty to 50 percent of all African American babies, virtually one in two, are killed before they are born,” he said. “This is the greatest cause of death for the African Americans.” Franks called the anti-abortion fight “the civil rights struggle that will define our generation.”
Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), who, unlike Franks, is African American and a veteran of the civil rights movement, took a different historical view. “I’ve studied Frederick Douglass more than you,” said Conyers. “I’ve never heard or read him say anything about prenatal nondiscrimination.”
Orwellian naming aside, the House Republicans’ civil rights gambit (which follows passage of a similar bill in Franks’s Arizona and marks an attempt to get an abortion bill to the House floor before year’s end) points to an interesting tactic among conservatives: They have taken on a new, and somewhat suspect, interest in the poor and in the non-white. To justify their social policies, they have stolen the language of victimization from the left. In other words, they are practicing the same identity politics they have long decried.
Newt Gingrich, now threatening Mitt Romney for the Republican presidential nomination, tried a similar argument when he argued for the elimination of “truly stupid” child labor laws and suggested that students could replace the janitors in their schools. He further explained that he was trying to help children in poor neighborhoods who have “no habits of working.”
Developer Donald Trump, who owns a Virginia country club that counts Gingrich as a member, announced this week that he would join with Gingrich to help “kids in very, very poor schools” — by extending his “Apprentice” TV reality show concept to all of 10 lucky kids. “We’re going to be picking 10 young wonderful children, and we’re going to make them apprenti,” Trump said. “We’re going to have a little fun with it.”
This “fun” might sound less patronizing if these conservatives displayed a similar concern for the well-being of the poor and the non-white during debates over budget cuts. But, whatever the motives, lawmakers and conservative activists were not bashful when they held a pre-hearing news conference Tuesday, standing beside posters directed at Latinos and African Americans (“black children are an endangered species”).
“It is horrific that in America today, babies are being killed based on their race and based on their sex,” protested Penny Nance of Concerned Women for America. Other participants in the news conference suggested that Planned Parenthood is “excited to take money specifically earmarked to kill a black baby” and linked abortion-rights advocates to eugenics, euthanasia and the Holocaust.
These conservatives raise a good point about the troubling implications of abortion based on gender selection — although the problem exists mostly in places such as China, beyond the reach of the House Judiciary Committee. Harder to follow is the logic behind the argument that African American women are racially discriminating against their own unborn children.
“As John Quincy Adams so eloquently stated,” Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.) said, “how can we expect God to keep blessing America when we’re treating brothers and sisters this way simply because of their race?”
“This morning, you can walk into a clinic and get an abortion if you find out your child is African American,” said Patrick Mahoney, a conservative activist.
If you find out your child is African American? So a black woman would have an abortion because she discovers — surprise! — that her fetus is also black?
Before the audience had a chance to digest that, Mahoney began shouting about how abortion is “lynching” — frightening a child in the front row, who cried out and hugged his mother.
By: Dana Milbank, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, December 7, 2011
Politicians reveal themselves by the language they use. Not simply the intricacies of their policy positions or even the quality of their intellects, but something closer to the human core. Today’s lesson in the laws of political grammar involves the indiscriminate employment of adverbs (Newt Gingrich) and the smarmy use of the first-person plural (Mitt Romney).
“In our time it is broadly true that political writing is bad writing,” George Orwell wrote in “Politics and the English Language.” The same is true of political rhetoric.
Indeed, as Orwell noted, “when one watches some tired hack on the platform mechanically repeating the familiar phrases . . . one often has a curious feeling that one is not watching a live human being but some kind of dummy. . . . The appropriate noises are coming out of his larynx, but his brain is not involved as it would be if he were choosing his words for himself.”
Has Orwell been watching the Republican debates?
But, to switch from Orwell to Tolstoy, all bad political rhetoric is bad in its own, telling way.
Let’s take Romney and the first-person plural first, shall we?
The most telling part of Romney’s disastrous interview with Fox News’s Bret Baier involved his bristling response to Baier’s entirely predictable — and entirely fair — questions about the former Massachusetts governor’s shifting policy positions.
“One,” Romney began, in the bulleted manner of a man who loves his PowerPoint — although he never actually made it to two. “We’re going to have to be better informed about my views on issues,” he continued, his face fixed in a tight smile.
We’re going to have to be better informed?
There is, in politics, an appropriate, energizing, even uplifting use of the first-person plural. This is the “we” as in “we Americans,” pulling together, part of a greater whole. That is not Romney’s “we.” Romney’s is not even the royal we, as in “we are not amused,” which would be bad enough.
It is the patronizing, faux “we” of the middle school principal who has just found the boys scribbling graffiti on the wall and wants to know what we are going to do about it — before he calls our parents.
At that moment of the Baier interview, you — is that we? — could see the father, church leader, investment banker, politician unaccustomed to being challenged and none too pleased with it. Indeed, according to Baier, after Romney returned to his holding room, he came back to tell Baier that the questioning was “uncalled for.”
Sorry, Principal Romney. Bret will write on the chalkboard, 100 times, “I will not ask difficult questions.”
If Romney’s “we” illuminates his attitude of unchallengeable authority, Gingrich’s profligacy with adverbs exposes his grandiosity.
The former speaker is the “Truly, Madly, Deeply” of political candidates, except his movie would be titled, “Fundamentally, Profoundly, Deeply.” Dan Amira of New York magazine conducted a heroic Nexis search of Gingrich transcripts back to 2007 and found 418 separate uses of “fundamentally” or its adjective cousin “fundamental,” including 18 in a single 2008 speech to the American Enterprise Institute.
“Most adverbs are unnecessary,” William Zinsser advised in “On Writing Well,” but adverbs are essential to the grand Gingrichian enterprise.
“We need somebody with very substantial big ideas,” Gingrich told Fox News’s Sean Hannity the other day, and you know who that somebody is.
He wants to “fundamentally rethink the federal government,” “fundamentally change unemployment compensation,” “fundamentally change the culture of poverty in America.”
Conversely, in Gingrich’s view, his opponents are equally, fundamentally wrong. President Obama “is a person who is fundamentally out of touch with how the world works,” Gingrich said in September 2010, in the course of suggesting that only a “Kenyan, anti-colonial” worldview could explain the president’s behavior.
If the president “gets reelected with this economy, this deficit, these problems,” Gingrich warned Saturday at a candidate forum, “he’s going to think it vindicates his Saul Alinsky radicalism and his commitment to fundamentally change America.”
This adverbial outpouring represents both the allure of Gingrich and his downside. Gingrich is bursting with ideas. Yet his self-regard is similarly immense, and his inclination to rhetorical extremes presents a constant danger of overstepping.
Romney’s language suggests his distaste for being challenged and his barely concealed sense of superiority. Gingrich’s language illustrates his egotism and indiscipline. As Romney and Gingrich might say, we’re going to have to work to fundamentally transform that.
By: Ruth Marcus, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, December 6, 2011