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Posts For: January 23, 2012

Debate Roundup: Romney Strikes Back as Gingrich Plays Defense

At the last two debates in South Carolina, Newt Gingrich took charge with stinging attacks on the moderators and on Mitt Romney. But in the first of two Florida debates this week, Romney took the offensive, landing a number of telling blows on Gingrich. For the first time in this series of debates, the former Massachusetts governor didn’t play the frontrunner attempting to rise above the fray with his only focus on Barack Obama. Instead, he zeroed in on Gingrich’s record as a Washington influence peddler and paid advocate. Though at times he tried to turn the tables on Romney, Gingrich was consistently put on the defensive as he tried to defend his record, leaving him few opportunities to score points or to deliver one of his trademark rants at the expense of those hosting the debate.

In the midst of what was one of the most boring of all the GOP debates it was a good night for Romney and may help slow down Gingrich’s momentum. But this was no knockout. Gingrich was on his heels most of the night, but there were no gaffes. Nor is it clear whether merely going on the attack is going to convince conservatives that Romney is their kind of candidate. For all of his aggressiveness and strong arguments about free enterprise, Romney still lacked the ideological passion that helped propel Gingrich back into the lead last week.

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At the last two debates in South Carolina, Newt Gingrich took charge with stinging attacks on the moderators and on Mitt Romney. But in the first of two Florida debates this week, Romney took the offensive, landing a number of telling blows on Gingrich. For the first time in this series of debates, the former Massachusetts governor didn’t play the frontrunner attempting to rise above the fray with his only focus on Barack Obama. Instead, he zeroed in on Gingrich’s record as a Washington influence peddler and paid advocate. Though at times he tried to turn the tables on Romney, Gingrich was consistently put on the defensive as he tried to defend his record, leaving him few opportunities to score points or to deliver one of his trademark rants at the expense of those hosting the debate.

In the midst of what was one of the most boring of all the GOP debates it was a good night for Romney and may help slow down Gingrich’s momentum. But this was no knockout. Gingrich was on his heels most of the night, but there were no gaffes. Nor is it clear whether merely going on the attack is going to convince conservatives that Romney is their kind of candidate. For all of his aggressiveness and strong arguments about free enterprise, Romney still lacked the ideological passion that helped propel Gingrich back into the lead last week.

As for Gingrich, his low-key demeanor may have been as much a matter of calculation as circumstance. Having gotten back on top, he may think he needs to act a bit more presidential in order to convince wavering Republicans he can win. But the price he paid for this more decorous presence was a low-key presentation that betrayed little of the emotion or fire that conservatives like.

It will be interesting to see whether the recent tilt toward Gingrich can withstand the heightened exposure given to the candidate’s foibles and record. One could argue that if Republicans haven’t cared that much about the Freddie Mac issue or Gingrich’s chaotic leadership while he was speaker of the House up until now, then why should they start taking it seriously now? Nevertheless, Gingrich’s less than satisfactory answers may help chip away at his lead. If the polls show any tilt back in Romney’s direction in the next two days, expect Gingrich to go back to breathing fire at the next debate Thursday night.

Rick Santorum was also on his game, landing some strong punches of his own, especially when he claimed both Gingrich and Romney were relative liberals when compared to him on health care and cap and trade. But with the focus so much on the two top candidates, he struggled at times to get a word in edgewise. Though Santorum needed something to happen to get back into contention, the debate reflected the current state of the race in that at times he seemed as much of an afterthought as libertarian outlier Ron Paul.

It will be interesting to see if Romney can sustain an entire week of going on the offensive, as it is so out of character for him. Nevertheless, the debate was at the very least the first step on the road to a comeback for Romney. He has a long way to go, but unless he keeps it up, there will be no stopping Gingrich in Florida. That means Romney’s presidential hopes are riding on his ability to sustain this aggressive spirit.

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Live Blog: The GOP Debate

Winner: Romney got his shots in and stayed on messge. Loser: Gingrich looked and sounded subdued. Not clear whether this changes much though.

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Gingrich gives meandering answer about presidency. Gingrich uses his question about American greatness to shift to economic agenda. He’s certainly staying on message. The debate ends without Santorum or Paul getting a closing question.

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Romney asked what he’s done to advance conservatism. His answer his family and his business and being elected governor of a liberal state. Not quite the red meat the right wants. Newt lists a life of conservative activism. Santorum tears into them both as liberals on health care and cap and trade. Best moment of the night for him. Paul then explains the difference between conservatism and libertarianism. He’s the latter, not the former.

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After so many debates it’s hard to compare them but if there was a more boring one than this, I don’t remember it.

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Winner: Romney got his shots in and stayed on messge. Loser: Gingrich looked and sounded subdued. Not clear whether this changes much though.

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Gingrich gives meandering answer about presidency. Gingrich uses his question about American greatness to shift to economic agenda. He’s certainly staying on message. The debate ends without Santorum or Paul getting a closing question.

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Romney asked what he’s done to advance conservatism. His answer his family and his business and being elected governor of a liberal state. Not quite the red meat the right wants. Newt lists a life of conservative activism. Santorum tears into them both as liberals on health care and cap and trade. Best moment of the night for him. Paul then explains the difference between conservatism and libertarianism. He’s the latter, not the former.

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After so many debates it’s hard to compare them but if there was a more boring one than this, I don’t remember it.

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Gingrich defends Bush tax cuts.

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Romney says space program should be a priority. Gingrich says we should offer prizes to space entrepreneurs like Lindbergh’s flight to Paris.

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Are they really asking about the Schiavo case? This case hurt Santorum politically when he ran for re-election. His reply is succint and to the point. Then follow-ups with Gingrich and Paul. Hard to believe they’re wasting time on this. Ridiculous. Actually Ron Paul makes a good point about the necessity of having a living will.

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At the third break, Gingrich still hasn’t found a moment when he could go off on the moderators or his opponents. Not his night so far.

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Not sure many people understood Gingrich’s answer on sugar subsidies. Romney more straight forward but then shifts to attack on Obama.

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Romney says if illegals can’t work because of crackdown on documentation, they’ll self-deport. Santorum says illegals continually break the law if they work.

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Romney and Santorum say they’ll veto Dream Act. Gingrich says he would change it to only help vets. Romney says he agrees with that.

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Gingrich asked about English as the national language. Says the language unites the country but there’s nothing wrong with campaigning in other languages. Good answer. And Romney agrees.

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Santorum asked about off-shore oil drilling. Says tourism is hurt more by bad economy than spills. Says tankers are the threat not oil pipelines like the ones cancelled by Obama.

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Santorum says Obama’s Iran policy has been a failure. Says theocrats there can’t have nukes. Iran already has committed acts of war.

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At the second break, Gingrich has recovered a bit but it’s Romney’s night so far.

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Gingrich rightly answers about war weariness by saying America never wants war. Says Obama shows weakness. Then says Obama cancelled joint exercise with Israel. But sources in Israel says Barak did it. Romney says the answer in Afghanistan for dealing with the Taliban is to beat them. Another good moment for him.

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Romney asked about Straits of Hormuz and then turns question into one about Obama’s defense cuts, especially the shrinking navy. Another strong moment.

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Williams asks Romney what he’ll do if Castro dies and a flood of refugees comes. Romney answers Castro should go to his maker and then makes strong point about advancing freedom in Cuba. He was prepared for that. Gingrich answers by matching him and raising him by mentioning covert operations to overthrow communists. Competition for the Cuban exile vote is fierce. Ron Paul wants free trade and says cold war is over. Santorum pushes back against Williams comment about why we don’t do the same for Chinese exiles and rightly says China is not 90 miles off our coast. Santorum then mentions Islamists making leftist allies in Latin America. Strong answer.

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Romney chimes in with an attack on Dodd-Frank. Gingrich dittos. Romney says market wasn’t over-regulated. It was poorly regulated.

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Santorum says defaulting home owners need help. Ron Paul says the government owed them a free market. This is one of those issues where he’s in the right. But then he starts in on the Fed again.

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Santorum finally gets to talk again and references his opposition to Fannie and Freddie runamuck at the time.

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After a half hour, it’s clear that it’s a two man race. Santorum and Paul barely got a word in edgewise.

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At the first break, it’s clear that Romney is on the offensive and scoring points consistently. Gingrich is on the defensive and not doing nearly as well as in previous debates. He keeps trying to turn argument around on Romney but can’t.

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Gingrich asked about Freddie Mac lobbying. Compares his consulting with Romney’s consulting. Romney laughs. Gingrich spins and says its sad that he’s forced about this. Romney reminds him that he said he was paid as a historian. Says historians don’t get paid that kind of money. Gingrich says he was paid for strategic advice based on his historical knowledge. Romney won’t let go of his advocacy for Freddie Mac. Newt keeps trying to compare it to Bain. Gingrich seems momentarily flummoxed. Then says stop acting tough on me as you did with with McCain and Romney. Then says he was proud of his advocacy of Medicare advocacy. Says he did the same thing as any citizen. Romney points out he was paid by drug companies.

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Santorum hits Romney and Gingrich for backing the bailout of the banks. Good populist line even if not realistic.

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Romney talks about creating jobs in his career and not apologizing for free enterprise. This is his best argument.

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Gingrich says he doesn’t want to raise Romney’s taxes but lower everyone else’s. Good answer.

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Romney gets asked about the tax returns. Mitt says no surprises. We all know he’s rich. Romney tries to turn the question into one about the people’s taxes. Says he pays a lot of taxes but not more than he owes.

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Ron Paul says Gingrich didn’t resign out of principle but because he didn’t have the votes to be re-elected speaker. He should know. He was there.

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Ron Paul admits he doesn’t dream about the White House. That’s smart.

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They finally get to Santorum. He starts bragging about his Pennsylvania victories again. 2006 landslide defeat goes, as always, unmentioned. Brian Williams mentions it. Santorum answers and says he stood up for what he believed. That’s true. He did go down fighting for the issues he cared about. But he did go down.

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Gingrich says Romney’s a poor historian and then goes on to whitewash his own record.

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Romney gets to Freddie Mac. Says Gingrich can’t win. Points out Republicans threw him out of the speakership.

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Romney comes out swinging saying Gingrich left Congress in disgrace and has spent his time since as an influence peddler, backing Nancy Pelosi on cap and trade and attacking Paul Ryan. Gingrich replies that it’s all false but won’t answer now. Unfortunately, it’s all true.

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Gingrich takes credit for the achievement of Congress under his speakership and says he took responsibility for his party’s defeats. Good answer if slightly misleading.

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The first question is electability. Newt gets to respond to Romney’s attacks. His response: compare himself to Ronald Reagan. Does he really think he’s another Reagan?

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Is Brian Williams ready to get attacked by Gingrich?

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The latest GOP debate is about to begin. Will Mitt Romney get aggressive and attack Newt Gingrich head on? Will Gingrich be able to keep attacking the media and dodging questions about his record? Is there anything Rick Santorum can do to get back into contention? And how many times will Ron Paul talk about the Federal Reserve or go into his isolationist rant? We’re about to find out!

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Gingrich, Reagan and “Ressentiment”

I’ve expressed my concerns about Newt Gingrich several times already, so there’s no need to rehash them here. But I’m certainly willing to give Gingrich his due: his smashing victory in South Carolina was a comeback for the ages. A week ago Gingrich was in the political intensive care unit, having finished in the back of the pack in both Iowa and New Hampshire and trailing Mitt Romney in the Palmetto State. Now he’s comfortably ahead of Romney in several polls in Florida.

Two debates are set for this week, including one tonight, and the primary is a week from tomorrow. And all of a sudden Newt Gingrich, 2012 GOP nominee, is not beyond the realm of the possible. All because Gingrich put together an extraordinary four days, beginning with last Monday night’s Fox News debate and culminating in his verbal assault of CNN’s John King on Thursday.

It was an amazing 96 hours.

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I’ve expressed my concerns about Newt Gingrich several times already, so there’s no need to rehash them here. But I’m certainly willing to give Gingrich his due: his smashing victory in South Carolina was a comeback for the ages. A week ago Gingrich was in the political intensive care unit, having finished in the back of the pack in both Iowa and New Hampshire and trailing Mitt Romney in the Palmetto State. Now he’s comfortably ahead of Romney in several polls in Florida.

Two debates are set for this week, including one tonight, and the primary is a week from tomorrow. And all of a sudden Newt Gingrich, 2012 GOP nominee, is not beyond the realm of the possible. All because Gingrich put together an extraordinary four days, beginning with last Monday night’s Fox News debate and culminating in his verbal assault of CNN’s John King on Thursday.

It was an amazing 96 hours.

There are several factors that explain Gingrich’s victory in South Carolina. But arguably the main reason Gingrich won in South Carolina doesn’t have to do with his capacity to articulate a conservative vision, his stand on the issues, or his past achievements as speaker of the House (though they all mattered). Rather, it has to do with his style. Interviews with South Carolina voters seem to confirm this judgment.

“I think Mitt Romney is a good man,” Harold Wade, 85, told reporters. “But I think we’ve reached a point where we need someone who’s mean.” And Gingrich, he said, was the only one mean enough. E.P. Chiola had been for a third candidate, former Senator Rick Santorum. But Chiola pulled the lever for Gingrich as well. “The more I thought about it, the more I decided I’m looking for a good fight,” Chiola said.

One heard some version of these statements time and again. Gingrich is, according to his supporters, combative and pugnacious. He’s a fighter, a political warrior who seems to relish a knife fight. In Gingrich’s own words, he won’t punch Barack Obama in the nose; he’ll “knock him out.”

And what Gingrich has done – and what he more than any politician in America seems well equipped to do – is to tap into people’s anger. What “nobody in Washington and New York gets is the level of anger at the national establishment,” Gingrich said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” yesterday. “People who are just sick and tired of being told what they’re allowed to think, what they’re allowed to say.” He added, “As they look at the big boys on Wall Street, they look at the guys in Washington, they know none of that help got down to average, everyday Floridians, and I think that gap creates a real anger against the national establishment.”

It may be that Newt Gingrich’s ability to give voice to voters’ anger and grievances – what philosophers from Kierkegaard to Nietzsche referred to as ressentiment, a deep-seated resentment, frustration, and hostility accompanied by a sense of powerlessness – is just what the GOP base is looking for these days. Time will tell.

I should add that anger can be a perfectly appropriate response to some situations. And conservatives have plenty of reasons to be unhappy with the president, our political institutions, and the state and direction of the country. But there’s a difference between a candidate who is sometimes angry and an angry candidate. Ronald Reagan was the former, never the latter. He was, in fact, a politician of unusual grace, human decency and modesty, seemingly incapable of nursing grudges or harboring hatreds. But let me turn to someone who knew Ronald Reagan far better than I.

In her book When Character Was King, Peggy Noonan wrote this about Ronald Reagan: “I always thought criticism hurt him now and then, but never made an impression on him. He wasn’t up nights thrashing around being angry. It didn’t get to his core the way it got to Nixon’s and LBJ’s. Criticism didn’t inspire him to take action to deflect or mollify or defy. He became expert at the shrug and the laugh, so much so that when he met with the press in the Rose Garden, as he walked away, he looked like he was shaking his leg as if to shake off a herd of wild puppies who were trying to bite his pants cuffs.” She went on to say that Reagan never took criticisms from the press personally and never gave them the tribute of his resentment. And she added this: “A lot of Reagan’s critics, not all by any means but many, seemed to have a kind of talent for hatred, a well-honed ability to disparage. Reagan himself didn’t have those things – he wasn’t a hater and found it hard to see hatred and enmity in others.”

Conservatism does miss Ronald Reagan.

 

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Live Blogging the GOP Debate

Join us tonight as senior online editor Jonathan S. Tobin live blogs the Republican presidential debate taking place tonight in Tampa, Florida. So tune in to NBC at 9 pm and then log on to Commentarymagazine.com for live insights as the final four candidates have at it once again.

Join us tonight as senior online editor Jonathan S. Tobin live blogs the Republican presidential debate taking place tonight in Tampa, Florida. So tune in to NBC at 9 pm and then log on to Commentarymagazine.com for live insights as the final four candidates have at it once again.

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Pressure Is On Romney Tonight

How crucial is tonight’s debate for Mitt Romney? Well, he’s dropping to a distant second in Florida, and his national lead on Newt Gingrich has disintegrated to just one point, according to Gallup’s latest tracking poll (via Ed Morrissey at HotAir):

Hey, Mitt Romney can finally look at a poll today where he’s leading. Unfortunately, it’s still bad news for Romney, as the Gallup national tracking poll shows Newt Gingrich has closed to within one point over the last three days. Romney now leads Gingrich only 29/28, dropping one point while Gingrich rose three overnight. That means that polling over the last couple of days has gone for Gingrich as the race heads into Florida.

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How crucial is tonight’s debate for Mitt Romney? Well, he’s dropping to a distant second in Florida, and his national lead on Newt Gingrich has disintegrated to just one point, according to Gallup’s latest tracking poll (via Ed Morrissey at HotAir):

Hey, Mitt Romney can finally look at a poll today where he’s leading. Unfortunately, it’s still bad news for Romney, as the Gallup national tracking poll shows Newt Gingrich has closed to within one point over the last three days. Romney now leads Gingrich only 29/28, dropping one point while Gingrich rose three overnight. That means that polling over the last couple of days has gone for Gingrich as the race heads into Florida.

Most of Romney’s problems can be traced back to last week’s debates. He was leading in every South Carolina poll up until Jan. 18, two days after the first South Carolina primary-week debate. At that point Gingrich pulled ahead, and gained a ton of momentum with his Jan. 19 performance.

In other words, Romney can’t afford another blunder like his unprepared comments on his tax returns. He needs to effectively demolish the idea that Newt would be more electable than him against President Obama, but avoid any attacks that may come off as personal or unfair. The best outcome for Romney would be if Gingrich injures himself by making an exceptionally ridiculous comment. Because Gingrich is becoming the Tea Party favorite, attacking him too strongly at a live debate could end up backfiring on Romney, depending on the audience’s reaction.

All of the pressure is on Romney tonight. Gingrich’s aggressive attacks on the moderators and President Obama have clearly been working, and as long as he’s able to keep that up tonight – while deflecting attacks from Romney and Santorum – he should be fine.

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Lying About the Stimulus

James Pethokoukis has done an excellent job redacting some of the revelations that were uncovered by a piece in The New Yorker by Ryan Lizza about the first days of the Obama White House. One of the source materials for Lizza’s piece was a 57-page memo by economist Lawrence Summers written in December 2008. Summers, who would soon be appointed head of the incoming president’s National Economic Council, provided a fascinating blueprint for the new administration policies. Pethokoukis lists 11 main points that tell us all we need to know about the economic stimulus package that the Democrat-controlled Congress passed at Obama’s behest.

Chief among them is this: the nearly trillion-dollar expenditure package was primarily about implementing Obama’s political agenda, not fixing a damaged economy.

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James Pethokoukis has done an excellent job redacting some of the revelations that were uncovered by a piece in The New Yorker by Ryan Lizza about the first days of the Obama White House. One of the source materials for Lizza’s piece was a 57-page memo by economist Lawrence Summers written in December 2008. Summers, who would soon be appointed head of the incoming president’s National Economic Council, provided a fascinating blueprint for the new administration policies. Pethokoukis lists 11 main points that tell us all we need to know about the economic stimulus package that the Democrat-controlled Congress passed at Obama’s behest.

Chief among them is this: the nearly trillion-dollar expenditure package was primarily about implementing Obama’s political agenda, not fixing a damaged economy.

The Summers memo is clear evidence that much of the rhetoric put forward by the administration and allies was patent hogwash. The point of the stimulus was to keep campaign promises about making sure federal dollars flowed to pet projects, especially on the energy sector (think Solyndra), not the vaunted benefits to the economy that were promised.

Other points gleaned from this memo is the fact that the administration knew the deficits they were piling up were dangerous and that, despite subsequent claims it should have been even bigger, those inside the White House already knew more spending was not realistic. They also knew the price tag for this boondoggle was higher than they said it was.

It makes for important reading now, but the main conclusion to be drawn from this investigation is that much, if not all of what we were told about the stimulus was a flat-out lie. Above all, the public must treat the president’s promises of the benefits of future expenditures — to be financed by tax increases — to the sort of scrutiny the original stimulus did not receive.

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Liberals Join the Topple Assad Argument

Back in November, I argued that it was time to take more vigorous action to end the civil war in Syria and help topple the increasingly illegitimate Assad regime. I suggested, in particular, providing more support to the opposition, including to the armed opposition (the Free Syrian Army) and also possibly employing air strikes against Assad’s forces and the imposition of “buffer” or “safe” zones to protect some population centers from his thugs. Turkish forces, I suggested, would have to take the lead in that.

Since then, not much has happened beyond more killing. With the death toll over 5,000 and the revolt still not extinguished, Syria continues to sink deeper and deeper into a civil war, even as the Obama administration blithely pronounce Bashar al-Assad’s days to be numbered. Sure they are. But are we talking about two weeks, two months, two years or two decades? The number of days he has left matters, because in the time remaining to him he can still inflict considerable misery on the Syrian people and draw neighboring states into a ruinous civil war.

That is why I am glad to see some distinguished friends and colleagues joining the argument that the U.S. needs to do more to bring down Assad. Three articles in this regard are worth checking out.

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Back in November, I argued that it was time to take more vigorous action to end the civil war in Syria and help topple the increasingly illegitimate Assad regime. I suggested, in particular, providing more support to the opposition, including to the armed opposition (the Free Syrian Army) and also possibly employing air strikes against Assad’s forces and the imposition of “buffer” or “safe” zones to protect some population centers from his thugs. Turkish forces, I suggested, would have to take the lead in that.

Since then, not much has happened beyond more killing. With the death toll over 5,000 and the revolt still not extinguished, Syria continues to sink deeper and deeper into a civil war, even as the Obama administration blithely pronounce Bashar al-Assad’s days to be numbered. Sure they are. But are we talking about two weeks, two months, two years or two decades? The number of days he has left matters, because in the time remaining to him he can still inflict considerable misery on the Syrian people and draw neighboring states into a ruinous civil war.

That is why I am glad to see some distinguished friends and colleagues joining the argument that the U.S. needs to do more to bring down Assad. Three articles in this regard are worth checking out.

First Robert Danin, formerly of the NSC, now at the Council on Foreign Relations, argues that the U.S. can take more non-military action against Assad—viz., recall the U.S. ambassador, threaten to close the U.S. embassy, create an international contact group to handle Syria, provide more support to the opposition, keep Syria on the UN agenda and indict Assad for war crimes. Those all sound like sensible steps to me, although I’m skeptical they will be enough to make the difference.

Another Council colleague, Steve Cook, argues for going further. He believes “it’s time to think seriously about intervening in Syria,” by which he means military intervention along the lines of the Libya model—and acting even without UN authorization.

Anne-Marie Slaughter, former director of policy planning at Hillary Clinton’s State Department, more or less endorses that argument by citing R2P—the doctrine that the international community has a “responsibility to protect” civilians who are being slaughtered by their own governments. She adds, however, that any intervention would have to meet certain conditions: it would have to be requested by the Syrian opposition, endorsed by the Arab League, limited to protecting civilians (not regime change as in Libya), supported by most members of the UN Security Council (even if Russia will never go along), and with Arab and Turkish troops in the lead. All those conditions save the third one make sense to me: if we’re going to act, the best way to alleviate civilian suffering is by removing its cause—the Assad regime.

All three articles are thought-provoking and worth reading. I am heartened to see more interest in helping to topple Assad. But so far little of that interest has come from the Obama White House. Perhaps that will change with more liberal voices, such as these, joining the argument.

 

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Note to GOP: Pick Your Poison

Almost on cue, the blogosphere is lighting up today with talk about the possibility of a Republican presidential candidate emerging in the coming weeks who will save the GOP from being led into November by a weakened Mitt Romney or, even worse, a guaranteed loser like Newt Gingrich. The latest pundit to pick up on this theme is the New York Times’s Ross Douthat, who writes to defend the honor of The Weekly Standard’s William Kristol, whom he feels has been unfairly maligned for his constant calls for an alternative.

Kristol, whom I also greatly admire, needs no help from Douthat in defending his ideas. But the point is not that, as Douthat puts it, “he’s been right all along” about the need for a better candidate. Of course, a stronger field of presidential wannabes would have better served the Republicans. The problem with Kristol’s thesis is not that the GOP doesn’t need a better candidate, but that it is too late for a potential messiah to win the nomination.

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Almost on cue, the blogosphere is lighting up today with talk about the possibility of a Republican presidential candidate emerging in the coming weeks who will save the GOP from being led into November by a weakened Mitt Romney or, even worse, a guaranteed loser like Newt Gingrich. The latest pundit to pick up on this theme is the New York Times’s Ross Douthat, who writes to defend the honor of The Weekly Standard’s William Kristol, whom he feels has been unfairly maligned for his constant calls for an alternative.

Kristol, whom I also greatly admire, needs no help from Douthat in defending his ideas. But the point is not that, as Douthat puts it, “he’s been right all along” about the need for a better candidate. Of course, a stronger field of presidential wannabes would have better served the Republicans. The problem with Kristol’s thesis is not that the GOP doesn’t need a better candidate, but that it is too late for a potential messiah to win the nomination.

Eric Kleefeld at TPM does a good job outlining the difficulties that would face any Republican who declared his candidacy today even if it was someone as widely admired as Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, for whom Douthat is particularly pining. The primary calendar is such that the filing deadline has already passed to get on the ballot in most states. So what would have to happen for Daniels or any other such savior is the new candidate would have to miraculously win every caucus state and have a successful write-in campaign in the states where the deadline is passed. Oh, and one other thing is required: Mitt Romney would have to drop out and persuade all of his delegates, supporters and financial contributors to back the messiah.

This is, as Kleefeld rightly puts it, pure “political science fiction.” Moreover, if the Gingrich surge is for real and not just a temporary trend, can Douthat or Kristol really be sure the former speaker can’t beat Daniels or anyone else who would parachute into the race with the unhelpful label as the establishment’s replacement for Romney? If the Republican grass roots is willing to embrace a candidate with doubtful general election prospects like Gingrich simply to teach the insiders a lesson, the chances that anyone thus anointed will take the party back from them are slim and none.

Like the savior scenario, the alternative option proposed by those dreaming of stopping Gingrich via a brokered convention is not impossible; it’s just incredibly unlikely and would require a series of even unlikelier events to occur for it to be even a remote possibility.

All of this brings me back to a point I’ve made a few times in the past when similar suggestions were made, though, to be fair, proposals for a late entry by Daniels, Paul Ryan and Chris Christie were much more realistic back in late August and early September than they are now. Anyone who really wanted to be president and thought they could win has already jumped in (and in a number of cases they have also already jumped out again). The only realistic possibilities for the Republican presidential nomination are named Gingrich or Romney with a long shot chance still belonging to Rick Santorum. That this roster of possibilities dismays most Republicans is understandable. But that’s the reality they face.  If you can’t stand Romney, you can back Gingrich or Santorum. And if you are appalled at the idea of Gingrich, then you’ve got to hope Romney pulls himself together in time for this week’s debates and the Florida primary. The GOP must pick its poison.

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Rand Paul and the TSA Firestorm

Who’s ready for another populist, anti-TSA firestorm?

Authorities blocked U.S. Sen. Rand Paul at the Nashville airport Monday after the Kentucky Republican refused a pat-down at a security checkpoint, his spokeswoman said.

Paul went through a scanner at the airport and set off an alarm, said his spokeswoman, Moira Bagley. He wanted to go through the body scan again instead of getting a pat-down, but officers of the Transportation Security Administration refused, Bagley said.

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Who’s ready for another populist, anti-TSA firestorm?

Authorities blocked U.S. Sen. Rand Paul at the Nashville airport Monday after the Kentucky Republican refused a pat-down at a security checkpoint, his spokeswoman said.

Paul went through a scanner at the airport and set off an alarm, said his spokeswoman, Moira Bagley. He wanted to go through the body scan again instead of getting a pat-down, but officers of the Transportation Security Administration refused, Bagley said.

There’s already a dispute over what actually happened to Paul. According to his office, he was detained by security officials. According to the TSA, he was escorted to the airport’s exit after he refused to comply with the pat-down.

The TSA released the following statement about the incident:

“When an irregularity is found during the TSA screening process, it must be resolved prior to allowing a passenger to proceed to the secure area of the airport,” according to an official statement released by TSA. “Passengers who refuse to complete the screening process cannot be granted access to the secure area in order to ensure the safety of others traveling.”

This seems pretty unobjectionable, but it’s raised the usual libertarian criticisms of airport security. Since Paul is self-evidently not a terrorist, this has been seized on as another example of TSA arbitrariness.

But what exactly is the argument here? That Rand Paul shouldn’t have to go through the regular screening process? That U.S. senators shouldn’t have to go through the regular airport screening process? That nobody who isn’t a terrorist should have to go through the airport screening process?

You can reasonably make the case that U.S. senators shouldn’t have to follow the same airport rules as the general public. But if you want to argue that Paul’s detention is evidence the TSA procedures need to be overhauled for everyone, that’s ridiculous. Virtually nobody who goes through airport security is a terrorist. That’s how it works. The security measures are primarily designed to deter terrorists from trying to enter in the first place — and so far, that’s been pretty successful. So while the TSA’s request that Paul go through additional screening sounds impractical as everybody knows he’s not a threat, it’s hardly proof the system isn’t working.

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Obama’s Favorite Foreign Leader

The Washington Post’s Jackson Diehl is a normally sober observer of foreign affairs so it’s a bit disappointing to see him writing today in defense of Turkey’s Islamic government. Diehl’s starting point was to debunk Rick Perry’s comment in last week’s debate in South Carolina in which the Texas governor claimed Turkey was run by “Islamic terrorists” and questioned its continuing presence in NATO. Of course, he’s right that the government of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is not quite the equivalent of Hamas or Hezbollah, but as Michael Rubin noted last week, it has became a major sponsor and enabler of terrorism. While Diehl makes the point that Turkey has been somewhat helpful to the U.S. on Libya and Syria, on the issues of Middle East peace and the threat from the Iranian nukes, it has been a disaster.

Which is why I think the most distressing aspect of Diehl’s defense of Turkey as a reliable American ally is the fact that he says its leader has become one of the few foreign leaders with whom Barack Obama has a strong relationship. Obama has, according to the Post, spent more time speaking on the phone with Erdogan than any other ally. Indeed, in a cover story interview with Time Magazine, Obama told a fawning Fareed Zakaria that Erdoğan was someone with whom he had become friends and forged “bonds of trust.” It speaks volumes about the deplorable state of American foreign policy that Erdogan is someone with whom Obama is most comfortable.

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The Washington Post’s Jackson Diehl is a normally sober observer of foreign affairs so it’s a bit disappointing to see him writing today in defense of Turkey’s Islamic government. Diehl’s starting point was to debunk Rick Perry’s comment in last week’s debate in South Carolina in which the Texas governor claimed Turkey was run by “Islamic terrorists” and questioned its continuing presence in NATO. Of course, he’s right that the government of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is not quite the equivalent of Hamas or Hezbollah, but as Michael Rubin noted last week, it has became a major sponsor and enabler of terrorism. While Diehl makes the point that Turkey has been somewhat helpful to the U.S. on Libya and Syria, on the issues of Middle East peace and the threat from the Iranian nukes, it has been a disaster.

Which is why I think the most distressing aspect of Diehl’s defense of Turkey as a reliable American ally is the fact that he says its leader has become one of the few foreign leaders with whom Barack Obama has a strong relationship. Obama has, according to the Post, spent more time speaking on the phone with Erdogan than any other ally. Indeed, in a cover story interview with Time Magazine, Obama told a fawning Fareed Zakaria that Erdoğan was someone with whom he had become friends and forged “bonds of trust.” It speaks volumes about the deplorable state of American foreign policy that Erdogan is someone with whom Obama is most comfortable.

Diehl’s main point is that Islamists are the “new normal” in the Arab and Islamic worlds.  That may be true, but his optimism that groups like the Islamic parties that now control Egypt’s new parliament will turn out to be more like Turkey than Hamas or Iran seems not only naive but also underestimates the extent to which Erdogan has opposed American interests and values.

Under the tutelage of Obama’s buddy, Turkish democracy is in a free fall with journalists and opponents of the ruling party being jailed. Abroad, Turkey has not only abandoned its long standing alliance with fellow American friend Israel but has become the leading supporter of the Hamas terrorist group on the international stage. Just as bad is Erdoğan’s refusal to support the West on isolating Iran, providing Tehran with a reliable outlet for trade just at the time when the Europeans are out ahead of the U.S. on toughening sanctions.

Any president who considered the alliance with Israel or the need to stop Iran’s drive for nuclear weapons as among our nation’s top foreign policy priorities would regard Erdoğan as being, at best, a thorn in America’s side and, at worst, a genuine threat to our interests as well as our democratic values. But not Barack Obama.

Obama has been open about his contempt and dislike for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Israeli is a prickly customer, and it may be that Erdoğan is easier to like on a personal basis. But anyone wondering why relations with the Jewish state have become so tenuous in the last three years need only understand this is a White House where an Islamic quasi-authoritarian who backs Hamas is the president’s pal and the prime minister of Israel is his bête noire.

Turkey may not be (as Rick Perry stated), run by a terrorist, but it is a nation that has been transformed under Erdoğan from a faithful ally to a source of genuine concern on both the home and foreign fronts. If that is Barack Obama’s idea of a true friend, then what does that say about his vision of America or the world?

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No Fluke: Rasmussen Shows Gingrich Surging in Florida

It looks like that surprising Insider Advantage poll Jonathan cited earlier today wasn’t a fluke. Rasmussen Reports just released a survey that also shows Newt Gingrich leading Mitt Romney by nine points in Florida, a massive turnaround from two weeks ago:

Less than two weeks ago, Mitt Romney had a 22-point lead in Florida, but that’s ancient history in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. Following his big win in South Carolina on Saturday, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich now is on top in Florida by nine.

The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Florida Republican Primary Voters, taken Sunday evening, finds Gingrich earning 41 percent of the vote with Romney in second at 32 percent. Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum runs third with 11 percent, while Texas Congressman Ron Paul attracts support from eight percent (8%). Nine percent (9%) remain undecided.

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It looks like that surprising Insider Advantage poll Jonathan cited earlier today wasn’t a fluke. Rasmussen Reports just released a survey that also shows Newt Gingrich leading Mitt Romney by nine points in Florida, a massive turnaround from two weeks ago:

Less than two weeks ago, Mitt Romney had a 22-point lead in Florida, but that’s ancient history in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. Following his big win in South Carolina on Saturday, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich now is on top in Florida by nine.

The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Florida Republican Primary Voters, taken Sunday evening, finds Gingrich earning 41 percent of the vote with Romney in second at 32 percent. Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum runs third with 11 percent, while Texas Congressman Ron Paul attracts support from eight percent (8%). Nine percent (9%) remain undecided.

The one area where Romney has ceded significant ground to Gingrich is on the electability question. Of all the traits GOP voters look for in candidates, that one has topped the list, and it’s the area where Romney has typically excelled. But voters now say Gingrich would be a stronger general election candidate than Romney, by a 42 percent to 39 percent margin.

Oddly enough, Florida Republican voters still view Mitt Romney as the strongest candidate on the economy, by a 45 percent to 30 percent margin over Newt. Romney also leads Gingrich on “personal character,” 41 percent to 11 percent.

Romney’s latest strategy is to highlight Gingrich’s character issues – but if the former speaker is already nearing single digits in that area, how much room is there for these attacks to be effective? Floridians already seem to be aware of Newt’s personal flaws and perfectly willing to overlook them anyway. For Romney’s plan to have an impact, he’ll have to explain why Gingrich’s character issues would be a disqualifier in a general election. And it could be difficult to convince GOP voters of this if they’ve already accepted Newt’s baggage.

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Jeb Bush Non-Endorsement May Be What Romney Needs

Of all the many possible reasons Jeb Bush seems to have backed off his earlier intention to endorse Mitt Romney, Politico’s Ben White received the most plausible I’ve heard. White tweeted yesterday that he heard from people close to Bush and was told: “Jeb won’t endorse in part because he knows Romney needs to show he can take down Newt w/out help.”

This is consistent with one way Republican and Democratic nominations differ. The Democratic approach, especially when nominating a more left-wing candidate, is to allow allies and especially the media to try and drag the candidate across the finish line. Sometimes it works–witness the current occupant of the White House. Sometimes it doesn’t–it was simply too much to ask that the country elect John Kerry president. Bush knows the GOP nominee will get even harsher scrutiny, and he must be able to stand on his own. But follow this line of thought a step further, and it begins to look like withholding his endorsement was the best thing Bush could have done for Romney, right now.

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Of all the many possible reasons Jeb Bush seems to have backed off his earlier intention to endorse Mitt Romney, Politico’s Ben White received the most plausible I’ve heard. White tweeted yesterday that he heard from people close to Bush and was told: “Jeb won’t endorse in part because he knows Romney needs to show he can take down Newt w/out help.”

This is consistent with one way Republican and Democratic nominations differ. The Democratic approach, especially when nominating a more left-wing candidate, is to allow allies and especially the media to try and drag the candidate across the finish line. Sometimes it works–witness the current occupant of the White House. Sometimes it doesn’t–it was simply too much to ask that the country elect John Kerry president. Bush knows the GOP nominee will get even harsher scrutiny, and he must be able to stand on his own. But follow this line of thought a step further, and it begins to look like withholding his endorsement was the best thing Bush could have done for Romney, right now.

Consider: the more “establishment” support Romney gets, the more Gingrich looks like the “outsider”–a remarkable, but understandable, piece of branding. Additionally, Romney’s biggest failing as a candidate seems to be his inability to connect with voters. It’s possible that many just cannot relate to the portrait of a man who doesn’t seem to have faced enough adversity in his life. Leave aside whether or not that is actually the case, since it’s subjective. Narratives stick. And if this is one signal being picked up by a majority of the electorate, then a bit of adversity may help.

In their new biography of Romney, Michael Kranish and Scott Helman tell the story of young Mitt’s first moment of public humiliation. In high school, Romney joined the cross-country team for a 2.5-mile race at halftime of one of the school’s football games. Romney, in his excitement, treated the run as a sprint:

Everyone except Mitt returned before the second half began. Finally, the several hundred spectators noticed Mitt making an agonizingly slow approach to the cinder track. “Mitt kept falling and getting up, falling and getting up, and eventually he just crawled across the line,” [childhood friend Graham] McDonald recalled. It could have been one of the most humiliating moments of his young life. But then the crowd began to rise to its feet, giving Mitt a standing ovation for his effort. “It was definitely looked upon as a show of character. Other people would have quit,” another classmate, Sidney Barthwell, Jr., said.

The authors write that Romney learned a lesson about pacing himself that he keeps in mind to this day. But he probably learned another lesson: people like the scrappy underdog. Gingrich has played that role in this campaign virtually the entire time. Romney has played the frontrunner, the too-perfect contender it is easy to respect, but not root for.

Now Romney’s campaign is in free fall. Gingrich’s aggression is legendary, and it is not missing from this fight. Romney thinks he needs someone like Jeb Bush to come to his rescue. But Bush knows better. Romney will have to embody his own campaign message: he’ll have to earn it.

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Abbas’s Mufti Preaches Jewish Slaughter

For some in the West, including many left-wing Jews, the prime obstacle to peace remains an obdurate Israeli government whose hard-line policies need to change. This is the conceit behind groups like J Street; the left-wing lobby that claims its services are needed to save Israel from itself. Unfortunately for the group and its cheering section in the press, all that is needed to debunk their argument is to pay even the slightest attention to what the Palestinians–the intended object of the left-wingers’ solicitude–are doing and saying.

Their principal religious leader, Mufti Muhammad Hussein, provided the latest example of mainstream Palestinian opinion. Earlier this month, Hussein told a gathering commemorating the founding of the “moderate” Fatah Party the slaughter of the Jews remains their religious duty. The speech, broadcast on official Palestinian television on Jan. 9, is a classic anti-Semitic incitement to hatred and a violation of the peace accords the Palestinian Authority has signed. The fact that it is has largely gone unreported tells you all you need to know about the distorted vision of the Middle East by the mainstream media.

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For some in the West, including many left-wing Jews, the prime obstacle to peace remains an obdurate Israeli government whose hard-line policies need to change. This is the conceit behind groups like J Street; the left-wing lobby that claims its services are needed to save Israel from itself. Unfortunately for the group and its cheering section in the press, all that is needed to debunk their argument is to pay even the slightest attention to what the Palestinians–the intended object of the left-wingers’ solicitude–are doing and saying.

Their principal religious leader, Mufti Muhammad Hussein, provided the latest example of mainstream Palestinian opinion. Earlier this month, Hussein told a gathering commemorating the founding of the “moderate” Fatah Party the slaughter of the Jews remains their religious duty. The speech, broadcast on official Palestinian television on Jan. 9, is a classic anti-Semitic incitement to hatred and a violation of the peace accords the Palestinian Authority has signed. The fact that it is has largely gone unreported tells you all you need to know about the distorted vision of the Middle East by the mainstream media.

The program was, as Palestine Media Watch reports, introduced by a moderator who repeated a familiar theme in Muslim hate speech:

Our war with the descendants of the apes and pigs is a war of religion and faith. Long Live Fatah!

The mufti’s reminder followed that to the faithful saying Islam’s goal is to kill Jews:

47 years ago the [Fatah] revolution started. Which revolution? The modern revolution of the Palestinian people’s history. In fact, Palestine in its entirety is a revolution, since [Caliph] Umar came [to conquer Jerusalem], and continuing today, and until the End of Days. The reliable Hadith (tradition attributed to Muhammad), in the two reliable collections, Bukhari and Muslim, says:

“The Hour [of Resurrection] will not come until you fight the Jews.
The Jew will hide behind stones or trees.
Then the stones or trees will call:
‘Oh Muslim, servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.’
Except the Gharqad tree [which will keep silent].”
Therefore it is no wonder that you see Gharqad [trees]
surrounding the [Israeli] settlements and colonies.”

This is not the first time Mufti Hussein, who was appointed by PA President Mahmoud Abbas, has spoken in this manner. He gave a similar sermon in Jerusalem in 2010 in which he preached that the Jews are “the enemies of Allah.” Israel has condemned this hate speech but there has been no disavowal by the Jewish state’s peace partners. Nor has the United Nations or the European Union, both of which have spoken of Jewish home building in Jerusalem as crimes, spoken out against it.

The point about this incident is how unremarkable it is for Palestinians to speak of killing Jews as a religious obligation. Anyone wondering how or why the PA could have rejected Israel’s offer of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and a share of Jerusalem three times between 2000 and 2008 need only read these words to know it is unthinkable for any Palestinian leader to sign an agreement that signifies their acceptance of the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn. It is this sort of hate speech, and not Israeli settlements or insistence on security, that is holding up the peace process. Until statements such as those of Abbas’s mufti are regarded as outliers rather than mainstream opinion, the religious and political culture of Palestinian society will continue to make peace impossible.

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Romney Blasts Newt: “We’re Not Choosing a Talk Show Host”

In Florida yesterday, Mitt Romney rolled out some new, aggressive attacks on Newt Gingrich:

“We’re not choosing a talk show host,” Romney said, alluding to his rival’s strong debate performances that helped shift momentum in his favor in South Carolina. “We’re choosing the person who should be leader of the free world.” …

“At the end of four years as speaker of the House, it was proven that he was a failed leader,” Romney said. “He had to resign in disgrace. I don’t know whether you knew that.… His fellow Republicans – 88 percent of his Republicans – voted to reprimand Speaker Gingrich. He has not had a record of successful leadership.”

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In Florida yesterday, Mitt Romney rolled out some new, aggressive attacks on Newt Gingrich:

“We’re not choosing a talk show host,” Romney said, alluding to his rival’s strong debate performances that helped shift momentum in his favor in South Carolina. “We’re choosing the person who should be leader of the free world.” …

“At the end of four years as speaker of the House, it was proven that he was a failed leader,” Romney said. “He had to resign in disgrace. I don’t know whether you knew that.… His fellow Republicans – 88 percent of his Republicans – voted to reprimand Speaker Gingrich. He has not had a record of successful leadership.”

Back in Iowa, Romney kept his hands clean for the most part, letting his Super PAC and an occasional campaign surrogate do the mud-slinging against Newt. This marks the first time Romney has personally taken such direct shots at Gingrich on the campaign trail. According to Politico, this is part of a massive, $10 million Romney campaign assault on Gingrich, which will attack the former speaker’s character, lack of leadership skills, and negative reputation with his former colleagues on the Hill:

Hitting Gingrich on the issue of character as “an issue, not a subtext,” a top adviser said. This will include direct references to Gingrich’s ethics troubles in the 1990s, his work for Freddie Mac in recent years and his erratic past. The dirty work of hitting Gingrich on marriages will most likely come from surrogates, not Romney. “Character is a big part of leadership,” Romney said on Fox News Sunday.

Gingrich’s susceptibility to negative attacks was highlighted in Iowa. Weeks of ads blasting his lack of conservative credentials and work with Freddie Mac wore away at his poll numbers significantly. But because his surge came so suddenly in South Carolina, the Romney campaign did not have a chance to make a similar case against him in the state. Clearly, they’re not going to let themselves miss the same opportunity in Florida.

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When Will the GOP Wheel Stop Turning?

Two days after Newt Gingrich’s stunning victory in the South Carolina primary, the Republican presidential race has been transformed. The latest poll conducted by Insider Advantage/Majority Opinion Research for Newsmax shows Gingrich has taken an eight-point lead over Mitt Romney in Florida, the next state to hold a primary. Gingrich’s momentum is showing up in national tracking polls as well. If Gingrich wins Florida and builds from there, we may soon hear the former speaker once again speaking of himself as the inevitable nominee.

If all of this sounds a bit familiar, it’s because it is. Gingrich was way ahead in the polls back in mid-December. Before that, it was Herman Cain — the guy who spent some of last week being a foil for comedian Stephen Colbert in a sideshow act that flopped in South Carolina — who was surging. Before that it was Rick Perry’s turn to be the certain winner. And before that, Michele Bachmann had a couple of weeks when she appeared to be a formidable contender. The point is, momentum has swung so many times in this race, giving us days and even weeks when most of us were sure the race was all but decided, it is hard to know when the wheel will stop turning. Though at the moment Gingrich is coming on like gangbusters and Romney can’t get out of his own way, there’s no real reason to believe all this won’t change again sometime soon.

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Two days after Newt Gingrich’s stunning victory in the South Carolina primary, the Republican presidential race has been transformed. The latest poll conducted by Insider Advantage/Majority Opinion Research for Newsmax shows Gingrich has taken an eight-point lead over Mitt Romney in Florida, the next state to hold a primary. Gingrich’s momentum is showing up in national tracking polls as well. If Gingrich wins Florida and builds from there, we may soon hear the former speaker once again speaking of himself as the inevitable nominee.

If all of this sounds a bit familiar, it’s because it is. Gingrich was way ahead in the polls back in mid-December. Before that, it was Herman Cain — the guy who spent some of last week being a foil for comedian Stephen Colbert in a sideshow act that flopped in South Carolina — who was surging. Before that it was Rick Perry’s turn to be the certain winner. And before that, Michele Bachmann had a couple of weeks when she appeared to be a formidable contender. The point is, momentum has swung so many times in this race, giving us days and even weeks when most of us were sure the race was all but decided, it is hard to know when the wheel will stop turning. Though at the moment Gingrich is coming on like gangbusters and Romney can’t get out of his own way, there’s no real reason to believe all this won’t change again sometime soon.

That is, no doubt, what Romney is hoping this morning as he sets to work to try to retrieve his fortunes in Florida. That won’t be easy given the impression the last week has left on many Republican voters about Romney’s faltering answers on his taxes and Gingrich’s virtuoso crowd-pleasing media bashing. But he is also right to think there’s no reason to believe the pendulum has stopped swinging in what has proved to be the most volatile presidential nomination contest in memory. The obvious reason for this is the same it has always been: there is no one candidate who embodies what Republicans want in a presidential candidate.

Romney is competent, experienced and business-savvy, a key virtue in hard economic times. But he is also a passionless and non-ideological technocrat with a record of flip-flopping on core issues that leaves the GOP grass roots ice cold. Gingrich is a brilliant speaker who is, as he modestly said on Saturday night, able to articulate the values of the electorate. But he is also deeply flawed as both a person and a leader with a train of baggage a mile long. If Democrats believe they can tear Romney apart by demagoguery about his business career and wealth, Gingrich provides them with so many negative lines of attack they may have trouble knowing where to begin.

So every time Romney looks set to sweep to the nomination, his inability to connect with the voters and Gingrich’s rabble-rousing turns the tables. And every time Gingrich seems ready to roll, the public (helped along by Romney and the media) is reminded of his unsuitability for the presidency and he crashes. Though Rick Santorum, who had a moment of his own in Iowa, would like to disrupt the pattern, it doesn’t appear he has the ability to do so given his poor showing in South Carolina and dim prospects in Florida.

It will be no surprise if this pattern repeats itself more than once before either Romney or Gingrich emerges with enough delegates to claim the nomination. Until then, we will hear more chatter about brokered conventions and dark horse late emerging alternatives. But in the end, Republicans are probably going to be stuck with one of the two. There will be those who say this process will strengthen the winner, but what we are seeing now is a race that is defined by the contenders’ weaknesses, not their strengths. No matter when the GOP wheel stops spinning, whoever emerges from this contest will be someone Barack Obama believes he can beat in November.

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