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Jewish World Review
Dec. 28, 2011/ 2 Teves, 5772
Watch out for the banana peel, Newt
Newt Gingrich is slipping in the polls, partly a result of the banana peel he stepped on in the latest debate of Republican presidential candidates. The banana peel had a name. It was Freddie Mac, and the issue was what Gingrich did to earn $1.6 million from this government-backed company that helped wreck the economy.
Michelle Bachman said he lobbied on its behalf, and the great intellectual wit -- this man of fire, facts and fluency -- replied er, uh, hmm, not true, not true, gobble, gobble, gobbledygook, his usually red face turning skull white. When Gingrich was done, it seemed members of a previously cheering audience had all gone to the bathroom at the same time. The applause abstention was thunderous.
One lesson is that, if he should in fact end up with the GOP nomination for president, conservatives could no longer look forward to his debating President Barack Obama. Despite this former House speaker's quick recall and ability to score rat-a-tat points while his opponent is still figuring out the day of the week, there is a surefire technique for rendering him a stumble-tongue.
Embarrass him with the truth.
Since it has long been the Gingrich style to balance any accidental common sense with exceptional weirdness, there are plenty of embarrassing truths out there, such as the Freddie Mac contracts. Actually, those contracts were less weird than mercenary. Gingrich says he was supplying Freddie Mac with analysis of all the ways it was going wrong. Snicker, snicker. Even if technically not a lobbyist, he was lending his name to a company pursuing a catastrophic mission -- getting people to buy homes they could not afford.
So a bunch of you got poorer and Newt got richer, and so did a number of Fannie and Freddie executives arranging to buy recklessly sold mortgages from banks and resell them to Wall Street. In lawsuits filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission, some of those executives now stand accused of failing to fess up about the extent of risk to investors, but let's get back to the debate and the subject of weirdness.
During the debate, Gingrich said his White House would ignore Supreme Court rulings it regarded as unconstitutional. He said, as president, he might well get rid of some federal judges he did not like and that he would hope to see others subpoenaed by Congress to explain their wayward decisions. Even if you agree that the courts routinely ignore explicit meanings of laws and the Constitution, you can still understand that the fix Gingrich has in mind would cause unbelievable havoc seriously endangering rule of law.
Has Gingrich backed up from this horrifying campaign promise? No. He made it worse by spelling out a harassing technique that super-liberals could obviously emulate when they were in power. Meanwhile, he said he is sick and tired of all the negative ads by several of his opponents in the upcoming Iowa caucuses, as though he had never turned negative, once even to the extent of dreading Mitt Romney's saving jobs by cutting out waste in businesses. And this from someone who pretends to understand economics?
There is a lot to regret in presidential campaigns going on forever and ever, haranguing us morning, noon and night, but there is this, too: Candidates, with the help of anxious opponents and a probing press, reveal themselves given voters with half an ear unclogged. Sometimes voters do not rely on ears. Sometimes they mostly dream, as in the election of Obama. But Gingrich, with that interesting personality of his, disrupts dreams, and suddenly we see him in bold relief, and some react by saying to pollsters no, no, on second thought, no.
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Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado.
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