According to Representative Nancy Pelosi, who served on the ethics committee that investigated Newt Gingrich for tax cheating and campaign finance violations in the late 1990s, “One of these days we’ll have a conversation about Newt Gingrich. When the time is right. … I know a lot about him. I served on the investigative committee that investigated him, four of us locked in a room in an undisclosed location for a year. A thousand pages of his stuff.”
Set aside the fact that (as Gingrich said) Pelosi would be violating House rules and abusing the ethics process if she disclosed anything from the ethics investigation. My question is whether this kind of politics is what Barack Obama had in mind when, in 2008, he preached against “a politics that breeds division and conflict and cynicism.” Or when he told us, “I want us to rediscover our bonds to each other and to get out of the constant petty bickering that’s come to characterize our politics… the tit-for-tat, ‘gotcha’ game that passes for politics right now doesn’t solve problems. I want to get beyond that.” Or when he announced on a stage in Grant Park, on the night of his election, “Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long.”
I ask because top strategists aligned with President Obama’s campaign have already said that they would “kill” Mitt Romney if he were the nominee and that Obama would engage in what Politico called a “ferocious personal assault” and a “slashing, personal campaign aimed at disqualifying his likeliest opponent.” And now Nancy Pelosi, who obviously has very close ties to Obama, is hinting that she’s willing to violate House rules in order to smear Gingrich.
I rather doubt Obama will rebuke Pelosi.
I’m not naïve enough to believe that a presidential campaign will focus solely on the issues. Nor should it. Character, including personal character, matters when it comes to political leadership. But the thuggish tactics that Democrats are clearly willing (and even eager) to resort to in an effort to win in 2012 is discouraging, if wholly predictable, given the terrible record they have amassed over the last three years. They believe their only choice is destroying the opposition; treating them as enemies rather than opponents. But they should be careful, because playing with TNT can be dangerous not only for the targets, but also for the attackers.
These are serious times; the public is, I think, in an unusually serious mood. And I rather doubt that they’ll have much patience for a political party whose tactics resemble the Corleone family.