Newt Gingrich has been trying to play the good guy who won’t attack his competitors–at least some of the time. But as his poll numbers head south in the last days before the Iowa caucuses, the candidate’s campaign is getting desperate and nasty. Politico reports that a statement issued by Winning Our Future, an independent group supporting the former speaker’s candidacy, launched an all-out attack on columnist Charles Krauthammer for his criticisms of Gingrich. According to the group, the distinguished conservative thinker is part of an “establishment media” campaign against Gingrich.
It is hard to know what is more bizarre: Gingrich’s attempt to cast Fox News and Krauthammer (who appears on the network) as the “media establishment” or the way this quintessential Washington insider/influence peddler is attempting to masquerade as an outsider in the capital. Gingrich, who likes to style himself the intellectual of the presidential race, is channeling Sarah Palin, who at one point attacked Krauthammer for being too elitist because he criticized her for lack of knowledge of the issues. But in this case, Gingrich’s minions are claiming that Krauthammer is “jealous” of Newt’s smarts. Especially grating for the Gingrich loyalists is the fact that Krauthammer mocked their candidate’s preposterous claim that his failure to get on the Virginia primary ballot was a disaster akin to the attack on Pearl Harbor; a statement so astonishing that Krauthammer cannot be blamed for treating it and its author as a joke.
The point here is not so much that Gingrich and his crowd don’t have a clue about who or what is the “establishment.” The intended targets of this attack — Fox, Krauthammer and the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal–are the intellectual guerrilla forces who have been intrepidly attacking liberal orthodoxies during the last decade while Gingrich was helping companies game the system in Washington.
Rather, it is the desperation evident as his house of cards campaign implodes. It was only a matter of time before his manifest liabilities in terms of his inconsistencies and monumental egotism began to grate on the public. But rather than go down in a dignified manner befitting the scholar he likes to play at the debates, Gingrich will sink while awkwardly flailing away at those who refused to ignore his obvious deficiencies. It isn’t a pretty picture, but the collapse of a presidential campaign never is.