Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Newt Gingrich Counterattacks

By now everyone knows that Newt Gingrich made a mistake when he decided to turn the other cheek. Faced with a barrage of attack ads Gingrich chose not to fight back. 

Even Gingrich now knows that he erred. He has discovered that turning the other cheek sometimes make you look like a human punching bag. Turning the other cheek does not mean that you should not defend yourself.

It’s good to turn the other cheek, but what happens when you run out of cheeks.

Television talking heads have concluded that Gingrich could not fight back because he lacked the money and the organization.

Yet, it would have cost him nothing to attack Romney during the debates. If he didn’t, his failure made him look like he was afraid.

Moreover, Gingrich can go on television any time he wants. And he knows how to make news when he wants to.

Witness an interview he did this morning with Bob Schieffer and Norah O’Donnell on CBS.

There he defended himself vigorously. He attacked Romney brutally. Unfortunately, the Iowa caucuses will most likely drown his message… for today, at least.

In the interview Gingrich made news by calling Romney a liar. He refused to accept Romney's denied that he had anything to do with the Political Action Committees that were running the attack ads.

In Newt's words: “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."

When challenged by Bob Schieffer, Gingrich added: “Well, I'll let you go and check his record, Bob. Look, you're a professional reporter. Did he support Reagan in the '80s or not? The answer is no. Did he vote as a Democrat for Paul Tsongas in '92 or not? The answer is, yes, he did. Did he say that he didn't want to go back to the Reagan-Bush years in '94? Yes, he did. Did he run to the left of Teddy Kennedy? Yes he did. Now, why is it politically incorrect to tell the truth?

"You're saying in the traditional Washington pattern it's better to be sweet and honest and have this face of saying, 'Oh, gee, we want to be nice to each other no matter what happens to the American people.' I think the American people deserve the truth. I think the next couple of debates are going to be very interesting. I am prepared to defend every single thing I've said to you this morning. And candidly, I wish Mitt would just, you know, level with the American people, be who he really is, and let's have a debate about a Massachusetts moderate versus a real conservative."

Reading this we see that Gingrich made a tactical decision to take the high road. Perhaps he was concerned that voters see him as being too negative and nasty. If he believed that voters would reward him for engaging in a more elevated politics, Gingrich was clearly mistaken.

If you don’t respond to attacks on your character and your record the public assumes either that you are weak or that the attacks are true.

By shifting course now, Gingrich risks being labeled as desperate. His spirited attack on Romney may be too little, too late.

On the other hand Gingrich might have been playing rope-a-dope. Perhaps he was allowing his opponent to exhaust himself throwing punches. Like Mohammed Ali he might be waiting to counterattack when his opponent is too exhausted or too complacent to defend himself.

Beginning with Mitt Romney, everyone seems to believe that the nominating process is over. And yet, let’s give some credence to contrary opinion here.

In financial markets, we can state with some confidence that a near-unanimous consensus is almost always wrong. Why wouldn't the same be true here?

As Yogi Berra said: "The game isn't over until it's over."

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