Political Animal


January 03, 2012 9:20 AM Gingrich takes off the gloves

By Steve Benen

For the last several weeks, Newt Gingrich has gone out of his way to keep a positive message, making it a staple of his campaign strategy. It didn’t work — while Gingrich refused to go negative, Mitt Romney and his cohorts spent $4 million in three weeks to destroy the former Speaker, causing Gingrich’s support in the polls to plummet.

And so now it appears Gingrich is trying a new approach. His appearance on CBS’s “The Early Show” this morning is a must-see video.

The fireworks start about three minutes in, when CBS News chief White House correspondent Norah O’Donnell asked Gingrich about this recent comment: “Someone who will lie to you to get to be president will lie to you when they are president.” It led to this exchange:

“I have to ask you, are you calling Mitt Romney a liar?”

“Yes,” Gingrich replied.

“You’re calling Mitt Romney a liar?”

“Well, you seem shocked by it!” said Gingrich. “Yes.”

O’Donnell and co-host Bob Schieffer did, in fact, seem completely shocked that Gingrich was willing to say this on national television. That, in and of itself, is a shame — Romney has been lying uncontrollably for quite a long while. Paul Krugman a couple of weeks ago highlighted a series of blatant lies from Romney, and noted that the Republican presidential candidate “seems confident that he will pay no price for making stuff up,” in large part because we’ve entered an era of “post-truth politics.”

The question isn’t why Gingrich would say this; the question is why O’Donnell and Schieffer haven’t said the same thing.

In any case, Gingrich followed up on this exchange by launching an aggressive broadside against the likely GOP nominee, noting, among other things, Romney’s support for taxpayer-financed abortions, Romney distancing himself from Reagan, and Romney running to the left against Ted Kennedy.

“Which part of what I just said to you is false?” he asked the surprised hosts. “Why is it that if I’m candid in person and I wanted to be honest in person, that’s shocking? If [Romney’s] PAC buys millions of dollars in ads to say things that are false, that’s somehow the way Washington plays the game. Isn’t that exactly what’s sick about this country right now? Isn’t that what the American people are tired of?”

Oddly enough, those seem like pretty reasonable questions.

I don’t imagine Gingrich is going to do especially well when the dust settles in Iowa tonight, but if he sticks around for a while longer, I get the sense he’ll have plenty of interesting things to say about Romney in the coming weeks.

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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  • Josef K on January 03, 2012 9:24 AM:

    Oddly enough, those seem like pretty reasonable questions.

    How twisted our politics have become when Newt Gingrinch is the one asking stuff like this.

  • martin on January 03, 2012 9:28 AM:

    while Gingrich refused to go negative, Mitt Romney and his cohorts spent $4 million

    I refuse to believe Gingrich "refused" to go negative. He was just waiting for the right moment.

  • withay on January 03, 2012 9:31 AM:

    I love it that Newt (????!!!) is the one who is going to call out the new W's lies. At least someone is finally doing it.

  • Zorro on January 03, 2012 9:31 AM:

    What Josef said... who'd ever have thought that Newt flipping Gingrich would play the role of truth teller?

    Of course, in comparison to Mittens + the rest of the GOP field, it's easy to look like the honest man. After all, in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

    Or perhaps even President,

  • stormskies on January 03, 2012 9:34 AM:

    Someone should ask Bob Schieffer why, in the past three months, he has had on exactly one Democrat on his "Meet The Nation". And that Democrat was of course a blue dog.

  • c u n d gulag on January 03, 2012 9:38 AM:

    IgNorah O'Donnell and Beltway Bob are just two more morons for whom Santa didn't bring the gift they need the most - SOME F*CKING CLUES!!!

  • T2 on January 03, 2012 9:39 AM:

    MItt can lie with a smile on his face. That's a talent Newt hasn't mastered yet.

  • DisgustedWithItAll on January 03, 2012 9:39 AM:

    The world must be ending. When I'm pulling for Gingrich over the interviewer, the world must be ending. As Brad DeLong would say "why, oh why can't we have a better press?"

    I used to like Schiefer primarily because he seemed to be a decent sort. Now it just seems the guy is flat-out clueless.

  • DAY on January 03, 2012 9:40 AM:

    "Mommy! Look! The Emperor has no clothes!"
    "Hush, dear. Everybody knows that. But it is not polite to point it out.
    Right, Mr. Schieffer?"

  • zeitgeist on January 03, 2012 9:47 AM:

    is popcorn appropriate for breakfast?

  • c u n d gulag on January 03, 2012 9:47 AM:

    I want to clarify one thing, unlike IgNorah, Beltway Bob was once an actual reporter, and a pretty good one - and not just another pretty face that can read a teleprompter, like IgNorah.

    She's useless.

    And as she ages, you don't even want to keep one hand free anymore.

  • Kathryn on January 03, 2012 9:50 AM:

    Amen Josef K, I just read an old story that was listed on the side of today's Washington Monthly regarding Romeny's punishment of reporters who dare to report honest but negative aspects of his many positions. These reporters get no more access from the campaign, they get shut out. Mitt Romney is a dangerous man in a bland package, I think we have found our Manchurian candidate. Norah O'Donnell perfectly represents today's media. Norah and the rest wouldn't speak the truth to power (Republican power, that is) without a gun to their heads and even that might not do it. Newt is deeply flawed, but I hope he sticks around for awhile and shocks the gullible, useless press.

    Furthermore, why do reporters allow the Romney campaign to control their coverage without a whimper, strength in numbers you cowards.

  • wvng on January 03, 2012 9:51 AM:

    T2 said: "MItt can lie with a smile on his face. That's a talent Newt hasn't mastered yet." Are you kidding me? Newt is the most polished liar I have ever seen. His specialty is lying with complete sincerity. He can lie with an absolutely straight face about something he spoke truth about moments before.

  • chi res on January 03, 2012 9:52 AM:

    Gingrich isn't stupid, and he does know how to play this game.

    He's just psychologically damaged.

  • Patrick Star on January 03, 2012 9:53 AM:

    What I wish Newt had said:
    "Haven't you been paying attention? Aren't you guys supposed to be journalists?"
    Oh, to see the looks of embarrassment and shame on their faces!

  • Alton Darwin on January 03, 2012 10:02 AM:

    The true embarrassment was how they giggled like school children instead of picking up the golden opportunity. Leslie Stahl didn't back down when Cantor's flak challenged her about Reagan's tax record in the 60 minutes interview. She played the footage proving her point. She was prepared in her questioning. Schieffer and O'Donnell PREPARED the question about calling Romney a liar. Would it have been so hard to research some of Romney's "questionable" assertions (which are outright lies) and question Gingrinch, point by point?

  • Just Dropping By on January 03, 2012 10:03 AM:

    Gingrich is going "Bullworth"? Is it possible he has incurable cancer?

  • Rathskeller on January 03, 2012 10:03 AM:

    How very weird to hear Newt say anything and to be cheering him on. Romney has had a free pass for so long. Mystifying.

  • Daniel Buck on January 03, 2012 10:05 AM:

    It would have been a sign of sentient, alert activity at CBS if either correspondent had asked Gingrich why he endorsed Romneycare in 2006, and why he trashed Reagan during his presidency, calling him a failure and comparing him to Neville Chamberlain.

    Lies come in many forms.

  • sick-n-effn-tired. on January 03, 2012 10:07 AM:

    @ T2 and wvng
    Next time Mittens comes on your teevee , close your eyes.
    I heard an interview on NPR and the voice accompanied by the hey, hey laugh comes across as the most insincere piece of shit I have ever heard.

  • Ladyhawke on January 03, 2012 10:11 AM:


    How embarrassing was that interview by Norah O'Donnell and Bob Schieffer of Newt Gingrich. Newt was shocked that they were shocked that he called Mitt "Who Am I This Time" Romney a liar. That's what selective hearing and carrying water for the GOP will do. Willard makes stuff up and few in the media challenge his outlandish claims. Why?? Are they afraid of hurting someones feelings instead of doing their job of reporting the facts and letting the chips fall where they may?

    Below is a video of DNC Brad Woodhouse getting some push back from MSNBC Chris Jansing about President Obama going negative. To Chris, pointing out the facts about Willard's job creation claims is negative. Woodhouse schools Chris Jansing by making the obvious point - It's not about being negative, it's about setting the record straight.

    DNC's Woodhouse on Romney's Private Sector Experience: He Wasn't Making Widgets


    DNC's Woodhouse on Romney's Private Sector Experience: He Wasn't Making Widgets

  • biggerbox on January 03, 2012 10:17 AM:

    Newt called Mitt a liar?

    Well, it does take one to know one, I guess.

    Anyone who thinks Newt can't lie masterfully himself needs to go back and look at clips of Newt from during the Clinton impeachment, while Newt was (we now know) doing his own intern.

  • T2 on January 03, 2012 10:48 AM:

    has anyone noticed the strange preoccupation Newt and Calistafromouterspace have with their hair do's?

  • Cap'n Phealy on January 03, 2012 10:48 AM:

    Clearly, if Newt can't be President*, he wants to make sure that Obama is re-elected, which will provide him with more material to sell to the rubes than a Republican Presidency will (at least for the first six months of 2013...)

    *and he can't...

  • david1234 on January 03, 2012 10:55 AM:

    The Romney team needs to point out that Newt is confusing lies with propaganda.

  • JD on January 03, 2012 11:14 AM:

    Go Newt!!!!

    On an unrelated topic, am I the only person who found Cund Gulag's post at 9:37 disgusting and unworthy of this excellent blog? I usually find his posts quite amusing, but that crossed the line IMO.

  • JD on January 03, 2012 11:16 AM:

    Sorry, the comment I was referring to was at 9:47. As should be obvious, it was only the last part of the comment that I found objectionable.

  • Skip on January 03, 2012 11:23 AM:

    I love the part where Bob retorts, "Since you opened the door, Newt, shall we discuss your checkered past while serving in official capacity...?"

    Norah chimes in, as Norah does. "Yes, tell us why the American People should believe your campaign today, given the lies you've told in other more critical circumstances."

    Oh, wait. They didn't say that, did they. Guess shock only rolls one way.

  • booch221 on January 03, 2012 11:28 AM:

    Of course Newt has done his share of lying his over time. Now he's whining about the politics of destruction that he honed and perfected his whole career, are being turned on him. KARMA PAYBACK TIME for Newtie!

  • Anonymous on January 03, 2012 11:40 AM:

    am I the only person who found Cund Gulag's post at 9:[4]7 disgusting and unworthy of this excellent blog?

    Oh yeah, cuz who would DARE suggest that air-headed pretty women on the teevee are just there to help satisfy the sexual urges of the idiots who watch and put more money in the pockets of the 1% that own the media?

  • chi res on January 03, 2012 11:41 AM:

    that was me (like you didn't know)

  • T-Rex on January 03, 2012 11:53 AM:

    It might also have been reasonable and responsible for them to ask Gingrich why he's so "shocked, SHOCKED" that Obama is trying to "govern without Congress" when A) he, Gingrich, has said that he would try to govern without the courts, if they disagreed with him, sending Federal marshalls to drag justices before Congressional committees, if necessary, and that b) since Jan. 2010, the GOP, which doesn't even control the Senate, has been trying to govern without Obama.

  • Marko on January 03, 2012 12:02 PM:

    Poor Newt. I feel SO sorry for him.


  • Crissa on January 03, 2012 12:10 PM:

    I was thinking Newt doesn't feel so good when the shoe is on the other foot, and the lies in the news are his disadvantage. He's no honest man, though, but reporters shocked he'd mention it?

    I'm shocked reporters would know what the word was. They act like it's banned by the FCC.

  • Hurling Dervish on January 03, 2012 12:31 PM:

    Romney is not just lying about the past and present - he's also lying about the future. Every time I go on Youtube, I first have to listen to a Romney ad, in which a seemingly impassioned Romney shakes a Kennedyesque fist and declares that it is a "moral imperative" that we do not spend more than we take in.

    In no way is he serious about running a balanced budget, and a balanced budget right now would send our economy into a tailspin. And he knows it.

  • AK Liberal on January 03, 2012 12:35 PM:

    No more Mr. Nice-Newt? That never really was his style. I hope he goes out swinging and lands a few haymakers in the process.

  • c u n d gulag on January 03, 2012 1:10 PM:

    Have you ever watched FOX News?

    What do you think all of those cute little babbling kewpie dolls are there for?
    The news?

    They're eye-Viagra for the geezers who watch that stupid channel.

    Maybe I should have left it at IgNorah's about as useful as mammaries on a male bovine.
    Or, is that offensive, too? ;-)

  • stinger on January 03, 2012 1:52 PM:

    c u n d gulag,

    I generally enjoy and admire your posts, but that last sentence at 9:47 really was unnecessary, and I hope you'll think better of it anon.


  • c u n d gulag on January 03, 2012 2:01 PM:

    JD and stinger,
    I hear ya.
    You're right.
    I went for a cheap laugh, and the joke ended up being on me. :-(

  • JD on January 03, 2012 2:09 PM:

    Thanks, c u n d gulag.

  • c u n d gulag on January 03, 2012 2:15 PM:

    What's right is right.

    And I clearly wasn't.

    And thanks for pointing it out to me.
    Sometimes I get a little carried away, and my fingers are faster than my brain. :-)

  • cmdicely on January 03, 2012 3:01 PM:

    How twisted our politics have become when Newt Gingrinch is the one asking stuff like this.

    Its hardly something that has changed recently in our politics. For quite some time its been candidates that are only (at best) on the edge of even being a serious contender close to the beginning of voting that have little enough to lose that they bring out the "liar" card -- justified or not -- because charges like that often backfire from the attention given to the charge itself and whether its appropriate civil rather than to the substance.

    Candidates that are genuinely competitive might contradict what another candidate says, but will -- even when pressed to do so by interviewers -- avoid actually directly calling the other candidate a liar, usually redirecting back to the specific (alleged or actual) misrepresentation.

  • stinger on January 03, 2012 3:45 PM:

    @c u n d gulag:

    I imagine we've all done it. Thanks for the "clawback".

    And now back to my usual complaints about craptcha....


  • Anonymous on January 03, 2012 4:16 PM:

    rut a rooser

  • Doug on January 03, 2012 8:24 PM:

    Now that we've all had our moment of fun, might I suggest everyone reread Ladyhawke's post @ 10:11 AM?
    Now imagine, if you will, that during such an interview, President Obama had said what the disgraced former Speaker said.
    For the remainder of the campaign, ALL the reporting would be about how the President had called Mittens a liar. The search for "equivalency" would be abandoned to report, nonstop, on the low, unsportsmanlike and, yes, even un-American way, Mr. Obama had attacked Mittens.
    Of course, What wouldn't be mentioned is that the "attack" consisted entirely of the truth...