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December 09, 2011 8:40 AM Desperate Romney PAC panics, unloads on Newt

By Steve Benen

It’s probably safe to say the gloves have finally come off.

Late yesterday, Mitt Romney’s Super PAC, Restore Our Future, unveiled a new ad blasting Newt Gingrich on a wide variety of fronts. It’s arguably the most brutal spot of the campaign to date, and it reflects the panic setting in among Romney and his team.

The ad was removed from YouTube soon after it was posted, and PAC officials said the “unfinished” commercial was unveiled prematurely by mistake. (This is probably untrue. It’s more likely the PAC leaked this, hoped to generate buzz for free, and then pretended it was an accident.)

But what I found truly remarkable was the message Romney’s allies put together. Consider the areas of attack: foreclosures, flip-flops, immigration “amnesty,” climate change, and finally, “Newt supported a health care mandate … the centerpiece of ‘Obamacare.’” The spot then relies on a George Will column.

This is just astounding. Does Mitt Romney’s Super PAC know anything about Mitt Romney? He supports foreclosures; he’s the most shameless flip-flopper in a generation; he’s too big a coward to take a stand on immigration; he used to believe in climate change and supported cap and trade; and George Will thinks Romney is “a recidivist reviser of his principles,” who seems to “lack the courage of his absence of convictions.”

As for supporting a health care mandate, Romney has not only championed the idea and included it in his own health care reform law, Romney has also been among the most articulate defenders of health care mandates.

If Gingrich’s support for mandates is a disqualifier in Republican primaries, Romney should have dropped out of the race months ago.

Indeed, the entire ad is so lacking in self-awareness, it should be nothing short of humiliating for Romney. It’s the kind of attack that should lead sensible voters to point and laugh at the ridiculousness.

And yet, Romney’s team just doesn’t seem to care. Why is that? They’ve already told us why: because to Romney and his boosters, the truth is largely irrelevant, campaign messages necessarily constitute “propaganda” that need not be accurate, televised ads are little more than “manipulative pieces of persuasive art,” and there’s nothing especially wrong with sociopathic standards for honesty in the public discourse.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.

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  • Gretchen on December 09, 2011 8:48 AM:

    I actually got confused when they got to the "every side of the issues" part, and thought "Wait, this is about Romney, not Gingrich?" I associate that phrase firmly with Romney, and can't see why he'd want to go there.

  • c u n d gulag on December 09, 2011 8:51 AM:

    My question is, which one's the pot, and which one's the kettle?

    My guess is Newt's the pot, like in 'tea pot.'

    Newt:
    I'm a tea pot,
    Short and stout,
    Around my gut's my handle,
    And every time
    I open up my mouth,
    I spout.

  • Wall Street on December 09, 2011 8:51 AM:

    campaign messages necessarily constitute “propaganda” that need not be accurate, televised ads are little more than “manipulative pieces of persuasive art,” and there’s nothing especially wrong with sociopathic standards for honesty in the public discourse.

    Washington, meet Madison Ave. He can do for you what he did for men's hair gels.

  • stevio on December 09, 2011 8:55 AM:

    This, my Progressive friends, may be the first full-blown 1984 presidential campaign we will witness. It has all the earmarks of a "make believe" process manufactured by people totally aware that they are lying that is "backed-up" by a press corp being paid by the same people producing the campaign messages.

    One has to wonder who is financing PolitiFact at the St.Petersburg Times...

    If this thing is this ridiculous now imagine what will be thrown against the wall once one of these bozos wins and begins to drive the bus.

  • berttheclock on December 09, 2011 9:07 AM:

    @cundgulag,

    I view Newt as more of a walking talking Teapot Dome figure.

  • DisgustedWithItAll on December 09, 2011 9:08 AM:

    "Does Mitt Romney’s Super PAC know anything about Mitt Romney?"

    That's unimportant. The ad is unconcerned with self-hypocrisy. It relies on an ignorant audience not knowing about Mitt Romney when it delivers its fusillade against Gingrich. Given that the media is committed to keeping its audiences and readership ignorant via its stenography act, the ad will probably work.

    (Arent's upside letters by CAPTCHA a bit over-the-top ridiculous? Jeez...)

  • Aditya on December 09, 2011 9:24 AM:

    You missed the whopper of a lie in it: "Freddie Mac caused the financial crisis". That's one lie that refuses to die. I'm not saying Freddie Mac did the smartest thing by paying Newt a million and more, but that's another lie coming from Chief Flip Flop himself.

  • matt w on December 09, 2011 9:26 AM:

    If you're wondering why George Will is so brutal on Gingrich and Romney, it's worth noting that his wife Mari Maseng is Rick Perry's communications director, and he doesn't feel the need to disclose this when he attacks Perry's opponents. So he's basically a covert paid Perry shill.

    (This is of course par for the course for Will, who in 1980 praised Reagan's performance in a debate that Will helped him to prepare for, not to mention that Will could not but have known that the Reagan campaign had stolen Carter's briefing book. If conservative writers were subject to any restraints on their behavior, Will would have been unemployed for over thirty years.)

  • Speed on December 09, 2011 9:36 AM:

    "The world is made for people who aren't cursed with self-awareness." - from the film Bull Durham

  • Another Steve on December 09, 2011 9:54 AM:

    The problem for Millard here is that the target audience for this thing isn't for mouth-breathing dullards who pay no attention to politics until the day before the election and then just go into the booth and vote for the guy they heard something good about most recently.

    No, those are the "independents" who decide every general election.

    Instead, the target audience for this ad is fire-breathing, panty-bunched, email chain-sending, crazed hardcore Rush-loving Republicans. Calling these people "engaged" is an understatement. They are deranged, but they are obsessive consumers of media content--albeit only content that reinforces and exacerbates their delusions. That's who votes in Republican primaries.

    And none of those people are going to see this as anything other than an insult to their intelligence. They aren't gullible as much as authoritarian. They'll flip to believing that we've always been at Eastasia in a second once someone they recognize as a leader has told them we have, but in a situation like this, where the Republican Minitrue establishment hasn't told them what to think, this ad is only going to do Romney harm.

    But, hey, at least it was totally, absolutely, completely uncoordinated with the campaign. It's just a total coinkeydink that it was prepared and unleashed ten seconds after the official campaign signaled it was going after Gingrich.

  • c u n d gulag on December 09, 2011 9:57 AM:

    berttheclock,
    BETTER!!! :-)

  • matt w on December 09, 2011 10:11 AM:

    I need to correct myself -- Will does disclose that his wife works for Perry in that column. So he's an overt paid Perry shill.

  • Gov't Mule on December 09, 2011 10:16 AM:

    Wait, a Slick Willard-PAC ad that relies on a George Will column. That's hilarious. Don't these idiots realize that the bow-tied Bozo called Job Destroyer TM a "recidivist revisionist"?

  • DAY on December 09, 2011 10:34 AM:

    We had a saying in 5th grade:"I know you are, but what am I?"

  • chi res on December 09, 2011 10:44 AM:

    Does Mitt Romney’s Super PAC know anything about Mitt Romney?

    Of course they do. But if they can even the playing field on these issues, basically saying that Gingrich is AS BAD as Romney, then Romney's much fatter wallet, much stronger on-the-ground organization and much heftier endorsements will win the day.

  • Bruce K on December 09, 2011 10:58 AM:

    "If Gingrich’s support for mandates is a disqualifier in Republican primaries, Romney should have dropped out of the race months ago."

    Love the way you bring it, Steve!

  • daveminnj on December 09, 2011 12:04 PM:

    chi res on December 09, 2011 10:44 AM:

    "Does Mitt Romney’s Super PAC know anything about Mitt Romney?

    Of course they do. But if they can even the playing field on these issues, basically saying that Gingrich is AS BAD as Romney, then Romney's much fatter wallet, much stronger on-the-ground organization and much heftier endorsements will win the day."

    what chi res at 1044 said, but i would also add that this is straight from the karl rove playbook
    1)attack your opponent's strengths (kerry's war record) but also
    2)attack your opponent for your own weaknesses. either way, if you can get away with it, it creates a false equivalency, thus neutralizing issue.

  • ameshall on December 09, 2011 12:26 PM:

    You're right, Steve. Romney's own record doesn't matter, and the election will not be won on the issues. The GOP has proven over and over that reality is just a 7-letter word.

  • sparrow on December 09, 2011 1:20 PM:

    As I look at the Republican field, I think I'm just seeing the political equivilent of TV's The Biggest Loser.

  • MNRD on December 09, 2011 6:54 PM:

    This ad should further conservatives' growing doubts over whether Romney is competent. The impression that seems to be taking hold is that Romney is so aloof and out-of-touch that he actually turns out to be a remarkably incompetent campaigner who makes charges against his rivals that are laughable on their face.

  • Doug on December 09, 2011 9:55 PM:

    Mittens originally seemed to expect it to be a cake-walk over the nutters iin the primaries, much as if he was the reincarnation of 1948's Thomas A. Dewey. However, unlike his estimable predecessor, Mittens seems quite willing to get down in the gutter and fight. Good for him!
    He'll make a perfect 2012 version of Alf Landon...

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