Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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June 3, 2009

THAT'S NOT MUCH OF A WALK-BACK.... Newt Gingrich became one of the leading faces for ugly attacks on Sonia Sotomayor last week, so much so that some leading Republicans felt the need to distance themselves from the disgraced former House Speaker.

Today, Gingrich kinda sorta backpedaled. But not really.

My initial reaction was strong and direct -- perhaps too strong and too direct. The sentiment struck me as racist and I said so. Since then, some who want to have an open and honest consideration of Judge Sotomayor's fitness to serve on the nation's highest court have been critical of my word choice.

With these critics who want to have an honest conversation, I agree. The word "racist" should not have been applied to Judge Sotomayor as a person, even if her words themselves are unacceptable (a fact which both President Obama and his Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs, have since admitted).

Given this, Gingrich is getting at least some credit for walking back his initial smear.

But let's not go overboard patting ol' Newt on the back. I suspect Gingrich recognized the political problems associated with his over-the-top rhetoric, so he made today's concession to improve his abysmal credibility.

That does not, mean, however, that the former Speaker has turned over a more sensible leaf. For one thing, his efforts to rope in Obama and Gibbs as allies is wildly misleading.

For another, the rest of his lengthy, 1,700-word column features one ridiculous attack after another -- including baseless arguments that Sotomayor bases her rulings on racial preferences. Indeed, the piece reads like a greatest-hits package of far-right nonsense.

So, before Gingrich claims too much credit for coming to his senses, it's worth doing what too many conservatives have refused to do -- consider the context.

Steve Benen 11:15 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (20)

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Comments

Is it just my bias, or is there NOBODY on the right with the brains, intellect, or skills to have a reasonable dialog on the many topics of the moment?

The best they can come up with are variations of "Your mother wears combat boots". . .

Posted by: DAY on June 3, 2009 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

So Newt raves at Sonia for an overstatement/exaggeration/poor word choice in a speech which at the time had little or no press coverage; and now after making a deliberate overstatement/lie about her which received national news coverage non stop for days, he is backing down. So using the media's standards, he and she are even???

Posted by: jen f on June 3, 2009 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

"Since then, some who want to have an open and honest consideration of Judge Sotomayor's fitness to serve on the nation's highest court have been critical of my word choice."

I.e. "I am not one of those who wants to have an honest discussion."

Posted by: Vondo on June 3, 2009 at 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

Newt's tweet wasn't just stupid; for someone who's spent half his life in politics, it was egregiously uncontrolled. And this is hardly the first time he's popped off ad absurdam.

It's long past time for the press to look into whether he is or has been on psychiatric meds, specifically for bipolar disorder.

No snark here; dead serious. Come on, newspapers, do your job.

Posted by: penalcolony on June 3, 2009 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

Well, there is a huge difference between saying that someone has made a racist statement and calling them a racist based upon the fact that they said it or wrote it.

People make racist statements all the time, not realizing that they are connecting race to a particular quality, good or bad, which isn't related to race.

That doesn't mean the person is a racist.

There is also the question of effective racism. For racism to be effective, it has to be institutionalized in society, otherwise you just have a bigot. They can still do damage, but it isn't racism.

If Newt now just claims that the statement was racist, that is a significant retreat. But it seems to me that the statement is somewhat ambiguous. I'm sure that a latina judge could judge some things better than a white man, but better does not mean siding with those like the latina judge, it might mean not buying into their story, so you separate out real injustice from simply not taking responsibility for yourself.

Posted by: tomj on June 3, 2009 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

Newt probably had a sudden realization that if he miraculously becomes the presidential nominee in 2012, he can't become president with 0% of the Hispanic vote. I guess even Newt can count.

Posted by: es on June 3, 2009 at 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

From the desk of Newt Gingrich:

Although Sotomayor is not qualified to be a Supreme Court Justice and although she has shown racist tendencies, let me clarify the record by saying something positive about her. She is not a n*gger.

Posted by: Newted Gingrich on June 3, 2009 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

The right has figured out that Obama can provide a much more liberal candidate for the Supreme Court justice if the thugs scuttle Sotomayer's prompt approval. Obama can make them pay for their wankiness.

Posted by: anonymous on June 3, 2009 at 12:07 PM | PERMALINK

Mr. Gingrich has always been a buffoon, but I wonder if he still harbors delusions of a Presidential run? I'd almost donate money to see it happen.

Posted by: jhm on June 3, 2009 at 12:16 PM | PERMALINK

"But let's not go overboard patting ol' Newt on the back."
Pat him on the back? Your hand might stick.

Posted by: hells littlest angel on June 3, 2009 at 12:16 PM | PERMALINK

So, why are we exposed to this constant turgid stupidity from fat, smooth-faced white men? Can't the MSM find some new faces?

Posted by: Greg Worley on June 3, 2009 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

his efforts to rope in Obama and Gibbs as allies is wildly misleading.

You don't say? Why, knock me over with a feather.

Posted by: ckelly on June 3, 2009 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

Newtster Goddam Gringrich: The Future of the Republican Party!
(yahoo!)

Posted by: neill on June 3, 2009 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

Regarding the title of your post: Newts don't walk, back or otherwise; they slither.

Posted by: exlibra on June 3, 2009 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

The right has figured out that Obama can provide a much more liberal candidate for the Supreme Court justice if the thugs scuttle Sotomayer's prompt approval. Obama can make them pay for their wankiness.

I actually hope Obama has conveyed this message to Republicans, that if they stall on Sotomayor then he'll give them a real liberal to complain about.
I remember reading that Bush 41 did something similar re Clarence Thomas. I think he threatened to nominate a wingnut judge from the fifth circuit in Texas. I guess at the time Thomas seemed less right wing, which we now know is almost impossible considering his "constitution in exile" philosophy.

Posted by: Allan Snyder on June 3, 2009 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

that's a bunch of BS from Newt. He got to go around calling her a racist for a week or so, drum up the racists in the GOP base and get tons of TV time. Now he can appear "reasonable" by saying "well, i didn't mean racists exactly".

Posted by: kahner on June 3, 2009 at 12:34 PM | PERMALINK

So let me get this correct ... A former speaker of the House, a PhD, and someone who has spent his life crafing images just called a presidential nominee a "racist" then says "oops, perhaps I made an initial error in judgment?"

Next he will be telling us that Disneyworld is doomed because Disney admits gay people in its parks, Sponge Bob Squarepants is gay, and we deserved 911 because we are a decadent society.


There once was a retired Speaker named Newt
Who claimed no control when his mouth did shoot
vile things he said
then when the media was fed
"took back" his lies and walked away with much loot.

Posted by: Kurt on June 3, 2009 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

Gingrich's despicable "word choices" used to blame the Susan Smith tragedy on the Democrats should be enough to banish him from public discourse forever.

Posted by: qwerty on June 3, 2009 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

Seems the only thing Newt is apologizing for is not coming up with a proper euphemism before he spoke.

Posted by: martin on June 3, 2009 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

Just look at Newt's old district. It's filled with old John Birchers and other malcontents.

Posted by: MRF on June 4, 2009 at 10:34 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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