A study in contrasts tonight from Romney and Gingrich. Romney moved immediately into general election mode, and was off to the races attacking Pres. Obama for all matters, whether or not grounded in reality. More than anything, I was struck by how Romney completely ignores the George W. Bush legacy–not that Bush Jr. is, to be fair, all that that beloved by movement conservatives. But by taking Obama’s State of the Union line (“remember how we got here”) and attempting to use it against Obama is a true looking glass move: What the President was saying is that the economic morass–noted by Romney tonight over and over again–were created by 8 years of ill-advised adventurism and overspending abroad and economically blind, doctrinaire tax cuts at home. “How we got here” is not about the last three years, which have been a cleanup effort. Romney either doesn’t understand that or he is engaging in a truly Orwellian manipulation of language and fact.
The brutal personal attacks Romney launched against Gingrich this past week are apparently also a prelude to what he plans for the President should he be the nominee. According to Romney, the President does not appealing to the “best in us,” but rather trying to turn us into the “worst of Europe.” He, like the rest of his effete intellectual snob friends in the “faculty lounge,” thinks he knows better than us. (This is rich [no sic] coming from the scion of American political and economic royalty, the wealthiest man ever to run for the Presidency.) Also, Romney continues, Obama is destroying the American military and our standing in the world. In this case I’m with Jon Stewart, who has noted over and over again that the GOP is simply ignoring reality and creating a fictional opponent; it’s not what we in communications call “re-framing,” it’s simply invention. To say that “our role as a global military leader is a thing of the past” and that Obama’s polities represent “appeasement and apology” is just false. The aggressiveness shown by Obama in his own foreign adventures, from Libya to bin Laden to the drone raids all over the world which many on the left object to (along with our allies) do not align with the parallel universe Romney is apparently encouraging his audience to embrace.
But no matter. Mitt mouths the words. One really does wonder what this individual has at his core; or if we are truly watching a Hall of the Presidents audio-animatronic.
And then there was Newt…
Blasting away, “grandiose,” and showing no sign of getting out of the way…the signage saying “46 states to go.” Gingrich’s first announcement was that this is now a “two person race” between himself and Romney. He was off and running not against Obama but against Romney, the “Massachusetts Moderate,” a phrase he backed off on in Florida for some reason. But the word of the Gingrich speech was “establishment,” which we can look for to be a recurring theme. Newt, for all is time in Washington politics, is running as the insurgent.
Newt’s rhetorical enthusiasms know no bounds, and his strength of delivery belies the contradictions in his reasoning; the gang on MSNBC tonight was calling it “delusional.” I think that’s going a bit far, but not in all respects. The irony of having Gingrich use as a them tonight his new catchphrase of “people power” and a “peoples’ campaign”…all the while attacking Saul Alinsky as an anti-American radical. Really? Cue Jon Stewart on this one. Alinsky’s community organizing was all about confronting “money power” by “people power.” Woops, I just quoted Newt Gingrich. (The serious point here, made by David Gregory on Sunday, was that serious conservatives like William F. Buckley Jr. years ago, was that Alinsky’s ideas were just as applicable to conservatism as they were/are to progressivism.)
There was chatter on twitter and TV in the postgame that Gingrich’s retinue of policy dreams that he moved to in the second part of his speech, repealing laws, moving embassies, the Keystone pipeline etc., were more of his “delusion.” But consider the contrast to Romney, who discussed absolutely no specific policies in his speech. Gingrich may be off the wall (and wrong) at times, but, as Richard Cohen wrote recently, he brings ideas to the table and moves the debate. Romney does not do this.
Newt jabbed at Pres. Obama as well, for his golfing and his Al Green renditions. But Gingrich delivers in a totally different way than Romney, able to pivot from those jabs to invocations of Lincoln. The rhetorical contrast between these two candidates could be more start.
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