In keeping with the themes Mitt Romney has revived on the campaign trail, Romney supporter and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty today lambasted Newt Gingrich for his record as Speaker of the House and for his work for Freddie Mac.
On a conference call with reporters, Pawlenty said it’s time for Republicans to do some digging inside themselves.
“For Republicans and conservatives all across this country, a question is going to have to be as they consider Newt Gingrich as a potential nominee for president: Really? I mean, really?” Pawlenty said, according to a transcript of the call. “This is somebody who has had so many incredibly unfortunate and questionable activities while he was speaker, post-speaker, that he is not somebody that I think can carry the banner for the Republican Party and the conservative movement forward as the nominee or as a future president.”
Pawlenty said it was splitting hairs to say Gingrich wasn’t a lobbyist for the GSE.
“If you’re going to be president of the United States, people have to understand your full record,” he said, according to a transcript of the call. “They have to see it in user-friendly and transparent ways. Newt Gingrich has represented hundreds of clients and interest groups in Washington D.C. since he left the speakership. We have very little insight and transparency as to what exactly he did for many of those clients — in many cases, for huge sums of money. To say that he wasn’t a lobbyist is an incredible hair-splitting. He’s been an advocate to the Congress trying to push influence in Washington D.C. In the case of Freddie Mac, he was lobbying Republican members or advocating with Republican members against Republican interests on one of the most difficult and unfortunate behaviors by the federal government in modern history, and that is their activities in the housing market.”
Pawlenty also implicitly pled with Floridians to factor Gingrich’s housing history into their votes by reminding reporters that the Sunshine State was particularly clouded by the collapse of the housing market.
“If you go down to Florida where the primary is going to occur shortly, one of the most devastating blows to the Florida economy in recent years, of course, has been the housing market,” Pawlenty said. “And one of the principal culprits in the demise of the housing market was the role of Congress and their government-sponsored entities of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae and their role in the housing market. And now you have a candidate for the president of the United States, Newt Gingrich, who was paid $1.7 million by Freddie Mac, and we don’t have insight or transparency as to what he actually did, what positions he took, what advice that he gave. His influence-peddling with respect to Freddie Mac to Congress, that needs to be revealed.”
Newt Gingrich has already said he’d be amenable to the release of his contract with Freddie Mac, so Pawlenty’s comments, like Romney’s, are likely to be defused by that.
But, for all that Pawlenty gets right here, I can’t help but think this: Newt Gingrich was in the presidential race long before Tim Pawlenty dropped out. Maybe Pawlenty should have considered before now the space his exit would clear for the likes of Gingrich to fill. It also reminds me to appreciate the candidates we have left. For all their flaws, they’ve gutted out a difficult primary race — and proved that, at the very least, they want to be president enough to run for the office. That’s really no small matter. Would you want to run for president?