Political Animal


December 05, 2011 9:55 AM The wrong spokesperson for ‘bipartisanship’

By Steve Benen

Newt Gingrich, believe it or not, is comfortable presenting himself as someone who could forge bipartisan solutions in Washington. “There are a thousand small things that create bipartisanship even if you disagree about big things,” Gingrich said over the weekend. “And it’s really important to remember that, all the little human things that a good leader can do to get the city of Washington to work again.”

Kevin Drum was gobsmacked, and highlighted some examples to bolster the fact that Gingrich is largely and personally responsible “for the poisonous state of partisan politics in America today.”

1978, speaking to a group of College Republicans: “I think that one of the great problems we have in the Republican Party is that we don’t encourage you to be nasty.”

1989, speaking about the Democratic leadership in Congress: “These people are sick….They are so consumed by their own power, by a Mussolini-like ego, that their willingness to run over normal human beings and to destroy honest institutions is unending.”

2011, speaking about the current Democratic president: “Obama is the most serious radical threat to traditional America ever to occupy the White House.”

Those are, to be sure, three gems, and we could probably put together a list of hundreds of related examples, each as jarring as the last. But the one example that stands out for me came in 1994.

Just a few days before the ‘94 midterm elections — the cycle that would represent the “Republican Revolution” — a deranged woman named Susan Smith drowned her two young sons in South Carolina. It was a horrifying crime that captured significant national attention.

In his desperation to exploit literally any opportunity for partisan gain, Gingrich quickly made infanticide a campaign issue and publicly equated Smith’s murders with the values of the Democratic Party. Gingrich told the AP at the time, “The mother killing her two children in South Carolina vividly reminds every American how sick the society is getting and how much we have to have change. I think people want to change and the only way you get change is to vote Republican.”

That someone would think this is offensive. That someone would say it out loud, on the record, is just twisted.

Calling Gingrich “one of the nastiest, most malignant pieces of work ever to grace American politics,” Kevin concluded, “Newt Gingrich extolling the virtues of bipartisanship is like Hannibal Lecter promoting the value of good nutrition.”

That’s a terrific line that happens to be true.

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.


Post a comment
  • MattF on December 05, 2011 10:03 AM:

    The 'New Newt' is even less believable than the 'New Nixon' was. Which, for those with a short memory, was not believable at all.

  • berttheclock on December 05, 2011 10:13 AM:

    Chris Matthews has said the only person in Congress Tip O'Neill hated was Newt because Tip claimed Newt doesn't just want to beat you, he wants to demonize you.

  • Danp on December 05, 2011 10:15 AM:

    Bi-partisanship? Newt can't even manage intra-party cooperation.

  • Jack McGrath on December 05, 2011 10:16 AM:

    It's worth remembering, too, that Susan Smith's father (or step father) was a local top gun in the SC GOP.

  • K in VA on December 05, 2011 10:17 AM:

    Newt Gingrich is just about the only person in politics that can make me think, "You know, Dick Nixon wasn't all that bad."

  • Jack McGrath on December 05, 2011 10:17 AM:

    It's worth remembering, too, that Susan Smith's father (or step father) was a local top gun in the SC GOP.

  • low-tech cyclist on December 05, 2011 10:20 AM:

    Newt's also the guy who came up with a list of derogatory words for Republicans to use to describe Democrats whenever possible.

    As Newt's memo says, "This list is prepared so that you might have a directory of words to use in writing literature and mail, in preparing speeches, and in producing electronic media. The words and phrases are powerful. Read them. Memorize as many as possible. And remember that like any tool, these words will not help if they are not used."

    It provides "[c]ontrasting words to help you clearly define the policies and record of your opponent and the Democratic party."

    It includes words such as:

    abuse of power
    criminal rights

    and I haven't gotten as far as the letter D yet.

    The entire list is at the link.

    So Kevin is spot on, though I'd modify it slightly: Newt praising bipartisanship is like Hannibal Lecter extolling a vegetarian diet.

  • jcricket on December 05, 2011 10:26 AM:

    In Newt's case, it helps that Conservatives has redefined 'bipartisanship' to something like: "The R position is unmovable, the D's have to relent. If they don't, then we go into scortched-earth-policy".

    Bipartisanship is the new oppression.

  • Hedda Peraz on December 05, 2011 10:27 AM:

    There you go again, demonizing the Old Newt.
    Why can't we talk about the New, Catholic, Happily Married, Public Servant Newt?
    Why can't we just all get along?

  • mellowjohn on December 05, 2011 10:37 AM:

    @ Jack McGrath:
    iirc, it was her step-father, and (again, iirc) there had been a history of molestation.
    nothin' says "family values" like that.

  • gf120581 on December 05, 2011 10:38 AM:

    "It's worth remembering, too, that Susan Smith's father (or stepfather)was a local top gun in the SC GOP."

    Stepfather and it's far worse than you think. He also had been molesting his stepdaughter for many years, since she was a teenager. The whole story was sick.

    And the mere fact that Newt tried to use it to score points is perhaps the most striking example of how loathsome he is.

  • ComradeAnon on December 05, 2011 10:51 AM:

    The commenters on the National Review article linked to above are just drooling over the prospect of Newt winning the Whitehouse and confident of a republican majority in Congress. They believe he'd be bi-partisan. Of course he would. You give me everything I want and we'll call it bi-partisan.

  • Grumpy on December 05, 2011 10:57 AM:

    Drum says, "If there's a single person in the country more responsible than Newt for the poisonous state of partisan politics in America today, I don't know who it is."

    Grover Norquist? Frank Luntz? Rush Limbaugh? Heck, let's go for the long bomb and blame Morton Downey, Jr.

  • FriscoSF on December 05, 2011 11:16 AM:

    WHAT happens to Romney's supporters if Newt gets the nomination ?
    Where do the Mormons go ?
    Do they dutifully vote Republican ?
    For an Adulterer? for a Grifter?

    or do they see the Republcian party biased against Mormons?
    Do they see fundamentalist Christians as biased against Mormons?

    Newt Gingrich may be the greatest gift to the Democrats ever invented

  • N.Wells on December 05, 2011 11:53 AM:

    For Newt, bipartisanship is when lobbyists get to purchase the entire Republican Party.

  • Jimo on December 05, 2011 12:47 PM:

    Can you imagine if the Dems Romneyized an ad campaign against Gingrich that interspersed actual quotes with manufactured ones, making it difficult for viewers to guess which are accurate quotes?

    #1 T or F: Gingrich once said, "It is indisputably true that Bill Clinton is just as likely to sodomize and degrade your daughter as Charles Manson. The left-wing Democrats represent the party of total hedonism, total exhibitionism, total bizarreness, total weirdness, and the total right to cripple innocent people."

    #2 T or F: Gingrich once said, “The problem isn’t too little money in political campaigns, but not enough.”

    #3 T or F: Gingrich once said about his wife, “She isn’t young enough or pretty enough to be the President’s wife.”

    Answer: All are Gingrich quotes except #1 adds in the first part about Clinton & Manson with the second part accurate.