CIRCULAR FIRING SQUAD, READY YOUR WEAPONS!

I usually struggle to give two of my least valuable craps about pundit commentary during election season. Most of it is for entertainment purposes only, and not even very successful to that end. What we have seen so far during the GOP primaries is neither surprising nor in need of extensive explanation. The most religiously conservative candidate did well in Iowa (as Mike Huckabee did, winning the state in 2008), the most moderate and libertarian-leaning candidates mopped up in New Hampshire (Romney wins, followed by Paul), and the most garishly unreconstructed racist won South Carolina. Oh, how exciting.

While these events don't lend themselves to deep analysis, two pieces of commentary regarding where the primaries go from here stood out. Common wisdom dictates that Gingrich and Santorum have had their 30 seconds in the limelight and now the upper hand will return to the candidate with the most money and people on the ground (Mittens). Joe Scarborough, who in fairness has rarely seen a hole in the ground that he could correctly distinguish from his own ass, disagrees. He believes that Romney is in real trouble:

"There’s no doubt about it," Scarborough agreed (ed: with Chuck Todd of Meet the Press). "The party base is revolting, but they are revolting against the Washington Republican establishment anointing Mitt Romney. Just like Herman Cain was not about Herman Cain. It was a rejection of Mitt Romney. Rick Perry, a rejection of Mitt Romney. Michele Bachmann, a rejection of Mitt Romney. Newt Gingrich wave one, a rejection of Mitt Romney. Now we have Newt Gingrich wave two, a rejection of Mitt Romney."

Hmm. Well the GOP base certainly is revolting, Joe! Oh, wait. You meant that as a verb. Fair enough. I'm not sure I buy his premise – after all, this is the kind of OMG THIS IS HUGE SO IMPORTANT!!! analysis that the networks trot out in the wake of every raindrop during election season. For a moment, let's suppose he's right. Why would that lead anyone to Newt Gingrich? Former House Republican Scarborough:

Mitt Romney could attack Newt for not being a conservative because Newt is not a conservative. Google it! We [Republicans] ran him out of Congress in 1998 because he sold us out on taxes, he sold us out on spending, he went to the floor and he sided with Democrats on his last speech, calling us the perfectionists caucus. He called us jihadists. He’s not a conservative, he’s an opportunist. But here is the problem: So is Mitt Romney.

Hmm. So it's the smarmy, polished opportunist versus the corpulent, hissing bridge troll opportunist. That seems like a pretty easy choice, right? I mean, you pick the one who can get elected, provided we can all agree that Ron Paul and Rick Santorum fail to reach the threshold of viable, Serious candidates.

Steve Schmidt (a relatively sane strategist responsible for the McCain campaign and now counted alongside Frum and Andy Sullivan as a heretic) reads from the Book of Revelations regarding Gingrich:

Look, I think, not only are we not moving towards a coalescing of support by the Republican establishment for Newt Gingrich, we're probably moving toward the declaration of war on Newt Gingrich by the Republican establishment. And if Newt Gingrich is able to win the Florida primary, you will see a panic and a meltdown of the Republican establishment that is beyond my ability to articulate in the English language.

People will go crazy and you will have this five week period until the Super Tuesday states which is going to be as unpredictable, tumultuous as any period in modern American politics. It will be a remarkable thing to watch should that happen in Florida.

HOLY SHIT THAT SOUNDS AWESOME! I am suddenly very excited for Team Gingrich to win the Florida primary.

As entertaining as this idea might be, it doesn't make a ton of sense. If Gingrich and Romney are both rank opportunists, what difference does it make to the GOP establishment? They're certainly not up in arms over Gingrich's "subtle racist appeals." That's part of the lingua franca of today's GOP. No, the issue boils down to a simple but important difference in personalities.

Newt Gingrich has high name recognition and staggeringly high negatives – sort of like Hillary Clinton in 2008, but much more despised. He is so repugnant as a person that he could actually accomplish the unlikely feat of dragging the entire party down with him in the general election. This is a guy who was run out of town on a rail in 1998 by his own party, and who in the interim seems to have devoted himself to getting meaner and eating pie thrice daily. The Establishment realizes that its field is crap this year and the chances of beating even a weakened Obama are 50-50 at their absolute best. Their odds of holding on to the House and taking the Senate, however, are good. Provided some venom-spewing Rancor beast doesn't come along and alienate every half-witted voter to the left of Joe McCarthy. The empty vessel with the polished smile and lots of money is a much better face to put forward in an election such as this one. It's plausible that Romney could win. It's plausible that if he falls short, he won't leave a smoldering pile of wreckage that was the Republican Party in his wake. Gingrich, on the other hand, would not only make his own kamikaze run at the White House but also bring the rest of the party with him against his will.

I'd be thrilled to see Schmidt's scenario play out – a Gingrich win in Florida followed by GOP: Beyond Thunderdome – if part of me wasn't terrified that enough of the American public is dumb enough to vote for Gingrich in the general election. Given his level of charisma, I think I'm willing to risk that.

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36 Responses to “CIRCULAR FIRING SQUAD, READY YOUR WEAPONS!”

  1. HoosierPoli Says:

    Aw, and I was looking forward to Romney getting beat like a third-place mule in November.

  2. J.D. Says:

    I had the GOP debate on in the background tonight while doing work. I must say that Newt is a very talented politician. It's just that he's such an abhorrent person that the politician in him isn't good enough to cover for it.

  3. jgalt Says:

    The real problem with Mittens and Newt: they both are their own man. Where's the eminence grise, the svengali? Who's got hold of their strings, tight enough to make the establishment truly comfortable?

    Where's Dick Cheney when you need him?

  4. Chris E. Says:

    I'd vote for Newt in a heartbeat. Long ago I gave up on the hope of good government; now all I ask for is funny government. Newt Gingrich at the controls of the most powerful government on earth would be catastrophic, but profoundly, fundamentally, transformatively, world-historically funny. (See this deathless description of Newt's management style: http://www.stiftungleostrauss.com/bunker/newts-quiet-day/ ) Why suffer through the decadence and decay of a fading empire? It's been done. Why not go out with a bang and leave 'em laughing?

    By the way, Ed, thank you for cutting so cleanly through the bullshit, as ever. This blog is indispensable.

  5. Middle Seaman Says:

    For reasons of safety and survival I stopped reading, watching or listening to pundits. One is not perfect, yesterday I was driving the roads of our capital and on the experts were pontificating on Mitt and Newt. It sounded like Martians commenting on Shakespeare's sonnets. The crap avalanche could bury Mexico city.

    Similarly to cigarettes, pundits should have a sticker on their forehead stating: "listening to this guy is hazardous to your well being."

  6. buckyblue Says:

    One downside of Newt gaining the nomination will be that Romney will start running for the 2016 nomination even before this November's election. He'll put together his exploratory committee sometime, say, late August/early September.
    At night, I pray for Newt's nomination. If the American people can't figure out who's not going to get us in wars with Iran and China, and turn all of us middling earners into serfs, then fuck 'em, they get what they deserve.

  7. Fiddlin' Bill Says:

    Watching the "debate" last night it struck me that Romney exposed Newt's very thin veneer of bluster for what it is–and nailed Gingrich over and over again with something closer to the truth about his past than Newt ever admits to himself. It was not something Gingrich could deal with. His hands were shaking–literally. His "explanations" of what happened to him at the end of his speakership were rather obviously lame excuses, spins. While I thought (like many) that Newt might well carry the field after SC because of his ability to channel hate, I'd predict on the basis of last night's debate that Romney will win Florida by a fairly narrow margin, ending the Newt bubble.

    Meanwhile, what Romney is offering is an economic policy of utter disaster and ruin for millions of Americans–a full on let it all collapse and then rebuild from there plan that probably makes sense if you're a guy like him, sitting on top of the pile and unexposed–and if you have zero sense of empathy for what will happen to millions of real Americans.

    Romney is more dangerous because Romney might convince enough voters that he's an actual alternative–that he's "responsible." If Romney can make Newt's hands shake with a few words of more or less reality, the only question with a Newt candidacy would be, is America really that racist? My guess is, probably not.

  8. c u n d gulag Says:

    Mitt needs to wait to get out of The South – there is such a deep-seeded hatred for Mormons there.

    Add that to Newt ability to channel the racist, homophobic, misogynistic, xenophobic, fears and hatreds of The South, and you've got the perfect candidate there.

    Mitt's prospects improve in March.
    And he can be a very viable candidate in the general election. He's a former CEO in a culture that has long been trained to revere them, he looks like a President, and he's white. Hopefully, OWS comes back, and takes a more active role in politics. But, just getting those people back, front and center, may do some good things that are bad for Mitt.

    And besides, the most important person in this election is not even running for US President.
    A lot may depend on what Angela Merkel does to keep Europe from going in the shitter. Unsurprisingly, the much vaunted "Austerity" program is feeding the looming disaster, not helping to avert it.

    And if Europe has a big financial meltdown, all bets are off. It may be a global 1929 Depression all over again – only worse, since all of the worlds economies are much more intertwined than back then.

  9. Mr. Prosser Says:

    Yes, indeed Bill. Right on all counts. Ed, you touched on a subject I'd like to see covered more. What about the down ballot choices? Who's going to Congress, the crackers and Bain lovers or those on the president's coat tails?

  10. Tim H. Says:

    Well, as long as we're getting screwed anyway, newt's got a lot of experience doing that sort of thing…

  11. Hawes Says:

    Hey, Chris E. say what you will about National Socialism, at least it's an ethos…

    I actually find Newt more charismatic than Romney. I played with the mute button during the latter third of the debate, because I simply couldn't stomach listening to Romney. He oozes a falseness that makes my hair stand on in. Newt speaks in paragraphs, which makes him sound like "a stupid person's idea of what a smart person sounds like." Romney speaks in sound bite gibberish. With Newt, you have to go back and read what he said to realize it's nonsense, with Mitt it's apparent in the moment that he's spinning wild BS.

    I do think that Bruce is right that Gingrich will imperil the entire GOP ticket, although I could see a scenario where the GOP establishment revolts. (I think they hate him as much as they hate Obama if possible. I mean, hate is what gets them out of bed in the morning.)

    I just want the blood letting to continue for another two months or so.

  12. anotherbozo Says:

    "I'd be thrilled to see Schmidt's scenario play out – a Gingrich win in Florida followed by GOP: Beyond Thunderdome – if part of me wasn't terrified that enough of the American public is dumb enough to vote for Gingrich in the general election."

    That's what I've been saying – if only this weren't REAL, it's such great farce! (While Romeny is hemming and hawing his way through debates, ask if he sounds "presidential." Picture THAT guy with world leaders)

    "…Given his level of charisma, I think I'm willing to risk that."

    We need somebody coming back from the future to tell us (a) everything went to hell, anyway, or (b) we survived after all. THEN we can cheer on Newtie and the great, dumb beast he's courting.

  13. Hazy Davy Says:

    To be fair, one of Gingrich's strong *positives* for the GOP is his ability to piss of Democrats.

    That's why you can't compare Gingrich to H. Clinton. The GOP sincerely values pissing off the other side. Sarah Palin's success? Entirely the result of the other side hating her. By contrast, the Dems don't value pissing off the other side nearly as much.

    So Gingrich may have some negatives, but ultimately, the GOP would like to see him "dress down" Obama in a debate, and they'd get off on how much the Dems hate him (more than they do Romney) and…

    Oh, God, I can't believe you lured me in to talking about the primaries…

  14. Major Kong Says:

    "To be fair, one of Gingrich's strong *positives* for the GOP is his ability to piss of Democrats."

    It's not a bug, it's a feature.

  15. JohnR Says:

    "We need somebody coming back from the future to tell us (a) everything went to hell, anyway, or (b) we survived after all. THEN we can cheer on Newtie and the great, dumb beast he's courting."

    I look at it this way – right now, without anything else going on, we're well along the road to Real American Fascism. Putting up old Mitt wouldn't stop that, but getting the most repugnant individual I could hope for to be the face of the GOP in 2012 just possibly could result in the dissolution of the Republican Party and some sort of Reformation or at least schism. People are overwhelmingly visual and most people get their input from non-verbal sorts of TV stuff. Newt is perfect for that, especially with his stunningly, disturbingly plasticized wife at his side. (Surely I can't be the only one who keeps seeing Jack Nicholson's post-plastic surgery character in Batman whenever her image is posted?). Add in that Uncle Newtie seems to have a sort of egotistical, apocalyptical "Bring on Armageddon!" attitude about it all, and I can see him cheerfully (even maniacally) dancing a 1-2-3-kick back and forth, arms flung wide, as the building crumbles and collapses around him. I don't know about you, but I'm on the "Gingrich 2012 Express to Hell" bandwagon already, and I've been busy for a week now doing the door-to-door campaigning that a man of his stature needs.

  16. "Fair and Balanced" Dave Says:

    Sarah Palin's success? Entirely the result of the other side hating her.

    I disagree. Palin's short-lived success was due primarily to her ability to stir up the deep-seated hatred within the conservative base. In retrospect, I think progressives should be grateful to Palin: she showed the conservative movement for the bunch of narrow-minded bigots they are, she had no real chance of getting elected, and she gave Tina Fey's career a huge boost.

  17. acer Says:

    The GOP primary trudges along like a weak sitcom in its fifth season, after all the best characters have gone on to Hollywood. But it's not over. The GOP couldn't make Mittens happen in '08, either, and it knows he's in trouble again.

    If I were Barack Obama (which, by luck, I am not), I'd be very concerned about the idea of running against the Newter. General voter turnout will be pretty anemic and, best case, a lot of younger and more thoughtful people who pulled the donkey lever last time will not be seen again. If the economy gets worse, and particularly if the dollar goes over a cliff, it will be perfect weather for demagoguery. Romney, like McCain, is basically a decent person who lacks the stomach for drumming up nationalistic hatred. Gingrich has no such limitations.

    It could be gruesome, or hilarious, or some combination.

    @Davy:
    Palin was originally pitched as a tough, independent-minded reformer who could appeal to jilted PUMAs, of all things. That went well.

  18. acer Says:

    @Davy:
    I do see your point: Gingrich, like Palin post-Couric, appeals to a particularly self-destructive impulse in modern conservatism: the drive to champion absolutely anything that those coastal uh-leets find abhorrent. If the cared about swinging gullible progressives, they'd nominate Ron Paul. The danger for Obama is that progressives learned nothing in 2010 and won't show up at all.

  19. Sluggo Says:

    The Mayan's said that the world is scheduled to end a month before the inauguration. Just enjoy the show until then…..so root for Newt!!!

  20. JohnR Says:

    @Acer: "Romney, like McCain, is basically a decent person who lacks the stomach for drumming up nationalistic hatred."
    I'm reminded of the great Kliban cartoon which had as the caption "Same planet, different worlds". In what parallel universe do your characterizations apply? Or. perhaps to take it in another direction, for what values of N does your definition of "decent" intersect the personalities of either Romney or McCain? As far as I am able to make out, they are both rather unpleasant, greedy and thoroughly self-centered men who will stop at little to get what they want. Neither of them may 'have the stomach' to get down and fire up the Brownshorts the way Palin and her male equivalents do, but I can't believe that has anything to do with any sort of inherent "decency". Neither has shown much evidence of that trait over the course of their lifetimes. I'd be stunned, to be honest, if you could anyone still in the GOP who qualifies as anything close to "basically decent", unless you're setting the baseline at somewhere south of the Spotted Hyena.

  21. mothra Says:

    Well, all this discussion has inspired me to come up with a yard sign:

    "Gingrich 2012: If we're going to hell, we might as well make it a quick journey." or:

    "Gingrich 2012: Why wait for Jesus to declare the Apocalypse?"

    or:

    "Gingrich 2012: Come on. You KNOW you want a racist narcissist in the Oval Office."

  22. bb in GA Says:

    @JohnR

    Was that a typo "Brownshorts" – or do you think we on the Right don't change our underware regularly?

    It reminds me of Biden and the "clean, articulate" line about our Pres when he was a candidate.

    //bb

  23. acer Says:

    @JohnR:
    It's a steep, steep curve, granted.

    He's been a bitter old hack for years, but John McCain's concession speech in '08 was classy, maybe the right's last classy moment for awhile. And although I think Mitt is an empty asshole, I can't picture him as a dog-whistling populist. I'm sure he would try it on if he could, but Newt's kind of evil doesn't seem to be part of his OS.

  24. JohnR Says:

    @bb – no typo; both a little shout-out to PGWodehouse and a sneaky reference to the Right-wing focus on Shrieking Fear of Everything as a fundamental policy plank. Good catch!

  25. JohnR Says:

    @acer; sorry – forgot to include this. Well, I've never been accused of bias (what, never? No, never! What _never_? Well .. hardly ever…), but I have to say that any time anybody like McCain or Romney does anything "classy", it crosses my mind to wonder how calculated the action is. In other words, when somebody shows a behavior that is at odds with his normal patterns, and there's a plausible personal benefit to play-acting, what are the odds that it's a genuine behavior?

  26. Da Moose Says:

    There's only one reason that the GOP establishment doesn't want a Gingrich nomination: Gingrich is unpredictable and could overturn the status quo as president. President Romney's, on the other hand, main MO would be to preserve the status quo. This is why I think Gingrich has a real chance to win the nomination. The rank-n-file love this possibility. Hell, I love this possibility. A Gingrich presidency would be so F'in entertaining.

  27. mothra Says:

    Or how about this yard sign:

    "Gingrich 2012. Bringing blowjobs back to the oval office"

  28. JazzBumpa Says:

    The big difference between Newt and Mitt is that Newt wears his sociopathy as a badge of honor, while Mitt hides his behind a veneer of polyurethane.

    Well, there's another: Newt has the polyurethane wife.

    They are both rich, elitist assholes who have no more concern for the people of this country than does Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

    And I'd say the same about McShame.

    That's why I call them Repugnicants.

    @acer -

    The dollar has been in decline since 1986. It did very badly during the Bush years, but I doubt if even 0.01% of the population have any awareness of that.

    It hasn't hit a new low since 2008, and is now on the rebound (maybe), but nobody knows that, either.

    http://www.tradingeconomics.com/united-states/currency

    Cheers!
    JzB

  29. Bernard Says:

    yes, Newt would be the best thing to happen. enrage all the Southern hatefilled amoral hypocrites enought to get out and vote. Obama couldn't ever beat Newt at the game. At least it looks that way now. anyway, Obama is a Republican mole. i know many who'd never vote for the Kenyan Usurper again. Who needs another Romney with different colored skin? so it's for the Newt to lose.

    Southerners/rednecks are the ONLY way to win for the Republicans, and the Southerners won't vote for a Mormon as Pres. fun watching the "religious" throw all those stones in their glass house.

    and Newt is pissed and motivated. Romney appears to not even have a clue. after all this time Romney is still having trouble talking!!!!

    Romney won't get the Southern vote no matter how desperate the R's are. so to win the R's need Newt to continue. and Newt is sooo good at it. it is such a "freak" show, so overwhelmingly good at throwing PR red meat to the Red Wingers. i only hope Newt carries on. The Southerners are just salivating with the "hope" Newt fights the "Elites" for the Good ole Boys.

    the greatest gift i could ever hope for was the phrase, "the Socialist Kenyan Usurper". and the reaction to anything he does for these "anti Socialist Kenyan Usurper" haters. tickles me to no end to see the Right go ballistic. if they only knew how much of a Right winger Obama was/is, well. but they don't get it and to watch them go off time and again, manna from heaven. so even if Obama wins, that part of the show continues and red meat for ever and ever.

    Palin was/is the touchstone for the Right. She knew how to connect all the right moves and stand as the "light" of the Zombies. The perfect symbol of Republicanism, devoid of anything worthwhile other than the Con job these satanists are agents of.

    The GOP Elites hate/detest Newt since he has "upset" their white Obama/Romney's role. Obama is the Black way to keep control and the Mitt is the White way to keep control.

    The vile hatred, moral duplicity and corrosive vinegar that is Newt is so much more capable of winning than any suave/debonair Mitt the Elites have "created."

    let's face it. Mitt is and always has been a Corporation, not a person. So un human in behavior. He truly acts like a corporation.

    Newt has the wiles and the smarts to get Obama.
    and i hate Obama worse than Newtie and his plastic wife. Newt is obviously evil and duplicitous. and morally amoral like most Republicans.
    the Kenyan Usurper is jsut a Manchurian candidate that really works, while Mitt is just a bit player who can't even sell their "Con" like their hero, St. Ronnie.

  30. bb in GA Says:

    @Bernard

    Perhaps you don't have mutually exclusive positions in your rant, but

    "i know many who'd never vote for the Kenyan Usurper again. Who needs another Romney with different colored skin? so it's for the Newt to lose."

    Are you one of those people who wouldn't vote for BHO again?

    You don't want Newt, but you appear to be running from BHO and in your non-support blaming Newt for having people who support him (??)

    If Newt is satan's eldest son, I would work against him at every turn by supporting Romney, Santorum, or Paul on the R side and working hard for BHO in the general.

    //bb

  31. Bernard Says:

    im not voting for the white or black version. and i don't believe in Satan. Newt is the perfect foil, as i have said. Since i don't have any money, whatever these con artists do, R or D, i have limited ability to respond other than to figure out their "scam." and deal the best i can with what they do to "us" as a people. what i can do is sit back and watch the game. i would prefer none of the above, if i had a choice . i don't see much of a choice. Money marketing and all the rest is who and what makes America Politics work. so I sit back and enjoy the ride, as best as i can.

    i'm a commie pinko left wing fag, a hippie from the '60s. A DFH and proud of it. so i sit and watch Newt spew pious BS for the Red wing nutters and Obama scam the blacks and other poor to please Wall St. Sad, sad, sad. so perverse, way more perverse than any story of fiction i have ever read.

    really only difference between these Con Artists is who is getting scammed. the Plantation is still there. just the working people/slaves today are a larger pool than during the CSA. To watch Obama screw the Blacks (irony of ironies), i bet the Right is happy about that part though. "Damn The Other!!" Keep them in their "place." though as i said, the Kenyan Usurper is such a wonderful gift to the "show." and Palin, God what a gift/grifter. i hope she never goes away. She's sooo good.

    Watching George Wallace scam the Southern whites as i grew up in the South was quite educational. some people will do anything for money/power. Watching who buys their "shtick" is what is to learn from these "types" of "psychopaths." that's about the only difference here. The quality of the Con Artist is much better nowadays than in George Walllace's day, i do say!

    As i said, This is a much "better show" than the early days of American Politics/'60s. more nuanced and subtle than the "good" old days. worse for the general public, but then who gives a damn about them, right? Not many from the looks of it. i read that the average income was something about $26,000. I hope i misread that and am wrong about that figure. Feudalism is something we shall learn about in the near future if this type of "American Dream" continues on its' present track.

    Now that education has been privatized to keep us all ignorant about what we "had" before. The Good ole Days when the Straight White Male ruled it all. Before the Complicit Left and Relentless Right sold us out to the Corporate Lords.

  32. Mollie Says:

    First as tragedy then as farce?

  33. jayinbmore Says:

    "The party base is revolting…" Why yes it is Joe, yes it is.

  34. jayinbmore Says:

    Ah cripes. Should have read the whole post before commenting. Sorry….

  35. Ruthie Says:

    Romney is "unemployed" yet he made over $21 MM last year. At least Newt pretends to work for a living.

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