How does Newt Gingrich do it? No, I'm not talking about his three wives. I don't even want to think about that. But how does such a morally and ethically corrupt bag of sleaze appeal to those self-proclaimed "values" voters on the right?
Apparently, Gingrich won big in the South Carolina Republican primary today, even after one of his ex-wives reminded everyone of what a slime-ball he is. True, I suppose we have to consider the competition. But still,... Newt Gingrich? Really?
When it comes to Gingrich, there have been no new revelations. His character has been evident for decades. Here's an article written in Mother Jones almost thirty years ago which reads like it could have been written today:
I was unprepared for what I found in Carrollton, the prosperous west Georgia town where he launched his bid for Congress. I expected great pride in a native son; instead, I found great bitterness. To many of his former supporters, Newt Gingrich is not the cutting-edge politician one sees in Washington. He is a man who campaigned on themes of ethics and morality, then betrayed his words; a candidate who speaks constantly of restoring traditional values, but whose private life tells a very different story. ...
L.H. Carter was among Gingrich's closest friends and advisors until a falling out in 1979. "You can't imagine how quickly power went to his head," Carter says. The first time Gingrich flew back to the district, Carter remembers, he "pitched a fit" because Carter was still walking up to the gate to greet him when he arrived, rather than standing and waiting for him. Soon after, they were discussing a supporter who had complained to Gingrich about one of his votes. "I was sort of chiding him about not staying in touch with 'the people'," Carter says. "He turned in my car and he looked at me and he said, 'Fuck you guys. I don't need any of you anymore I've got the money from the political action committees, I've got the power of the office, and I've got the Atlanta news media right here in the palm of my hand. I don't need any of you anymore.'"
"The important thing you have to understand about Newt Gingrich is that he is amoral," says Carter. "There isn't any right or wrong, there isn't any conservative or liberal. There's only what will work best for Newt Gingrich.
"He's probably one of the most dangerous people for the future of this country that you can possibly imagine. He's Richard Nixon, glib. It doesn't matter how much good I do the rest of my life, I can't ever outweigh the evil that I've caused by helping him be elected to Congress."
Gingrich pioneered the kind of vicious, mendacious politics which is destroying our country today, and he's all too skilled at it. Steve Benen showed how this worked two nights ago:
The very first question in last night’s debate was directed to Newt Gingrich, and it dealt with the gossip that had generated so much chatter throughout the day. CNN’s John King noted that Gingrich’s second ex-wife claims he asked for an “open marriage,” and asked the disgraced former House Speaker, “Would you like to take some time to respond to that?”
The answer led to two standing ovations from the Republicans in the audience. ...
Gingrich clearly expected the question, and swung at it as if it had been set on a tee for him.
“I think the destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country, harder to attract decent people to run for public office. And I am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that.
“Every person in here knows personal pain. Every person in here has had someone close to them go through painful things. To take an ex-wife and make it two days before the primary a significant question for a presidential campaign is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine…. I am frankly astounded that CNN would take trash like that and use it to open a presidential debate."
When King mentioned that the story didn’t come from CNN, Gingrich hit him again, saying, “John, it was repeated by your network. You chose to start the debate with it. Don’t try to blame somebody else. You and your staff chose to start this debate with it.”
Gingrich then denied the allegations, before concluding, “I am tired of the elite media protecting Barack Obama by attacking Republicans.”
Over the course of just three minutes, we learned exactly why Gingrich is a competitive presidential candidate: he understands the Republican id perfectly.
The right really does believe they’re victims. As Steve Kornacki explained very well, “It’s no mystery why the audience of Republicans so instinctively and passionately rallied to Gingrich’s defense. His final line was the key: that the liberal media is out to get Republicans and will stop at nothing to destroy them is an absolute article of faith on the right…. What Gingrich did brilliantly on Thursday night is to articulate this paranoid victimhood in a clear and compelling (for his audience, at least) way. It’s the same basic trick he pulled in this week’s other debate, when he connected with another strain of the persecution complex: that honest, tax-paying Republicans are the victims of a dependency class of poor people and minorities that Democrats intentionally enable.”
Conservative voters hate the media, so Gingrich exploits that hatred. Conservative voters don’t like feeling defensive about race and policy, so Gingrich tells them why they shouldn’t. His debate performances are like dopamine for the right-wing soul.
And because Gingrich understands this so well, the nature of the story shifts — it’s not about Gingrich’s scandalous personal life and his habitual adultery; it’s about those media scoundrels trying to keep Republicans down. GOP voters should feel sorry for Gingrich, the argument goes, because they feel sorry for themselves.
Gingrich can apparently play the right-wing like a fiddle.
And he knows his audience. Here's Kevin Drum:
Public Policy Polling is out with their 3rd annual TV news trust poll. Among Republicans, as the chart [below] shows, the shape of the river is simple: they don't trust anyone except Fox News, who they adore. These numbers are spreads, with NBC, for example, garnering 17% trust vs. 69% distrust. Fox News, conversely, garners 73% trust vs. 17% distrust.
Well, you say, maybe this just means that trust in the media is really low these days? Nope. Democrats and Independents may not trust Fox, but they do trust everyone else. The percentages vary, with more skepticism toward some outlets than others, but what non-Republicans don't do is simply dismiss television news en masse as a bunch of lying corporate shills. ...
Liberals don't immediately dismiss as a conspiracy everything they hear from the news media that doesn't fit their preconceived notions. They might downplay unwelcome news or even ignore it, but they're still willing to listen to it. Increasingly, conservatives simply aren't. They want to believe the world is a certain way, and they're just flatly not willing to countenance anything that might challenge those beliefs. This is not a healthy development for a modern democracy.
Well, the same people who somehow believe they have to "defend" the institution of marriage from homosexuals, who just want to ... get married themselves, are eager to let a slime-ball like Newt Gingrich, who cheated on his first two wives (at least), do the defending.
It's completely crazy, yes, but that's the Republican Party these days. I just hope it's not America.