Newt Gingrich is a man of his word after all, or at least the latest version of his word. Initially, Gingrich insisted that he would not “go negative” against his opponents, and even warned third-party PACs to stay positive or else. After getting hammered in Iowa, Gingrich changed his mind last week and decided that he would start “drawing a contrast” in the campaign between himself and Mitt Romney — and did so by accusing Romney of trying to buy the election and calling him a robot. Today, Gingrich decided to draw a contrast by calling Romney a liar:
O’DONNELL: “You scolded Mitt Romney, his friends who are running this Super PAC that has funded that, and you said of Mitt Romney, ‘Someone who will lie to you to get to be president will lie to you when they are president.’ I have to ask you, are you calling Mitt Romney a liar?”
O’DONNELL: “You’re calling Mitt Romney a liar?”
GINGRICH: “Well, you seem shocked by it! Yes. I mean, why – “
O’DONNELL: “Why are you saying he is a liar?”
GINGRICH: “Because this is a man whose staff created the PAC, his millionaire friends fund the PAC, he pretends he has nothing to do with the PAC – it’s baloney. He’s not telling the American people the truth.”
Hey, not to rain on Gingrich’s parade, but how is that different than any other PAC or super-PAC? I’m pretty sure that Gingrich-supporting PACs aren’t run by disinterested strangers, nor are those for Rick Perry or any of the other candidates in the race. That’s a problem in the structure of the campaign finance regulations that impose artificial divisions on contributions. If those were removed, the same money would flow into these races, but the candidates themselves would be responsible for its use instead of hiding behind PACs and super-PACs — and that includes Newt Gingrich.
As I’ve written earlier, there is nothing wrong with so-called “negative” campaigning. Candidates should draw contrasts between their positions and those of their opponents, and their records as well. As long as that is being done honestly, there is nothing wrong or dishonorable about it; in fact, that’s why we have primaries. Gingrich chose to eschew that strategy and now wants to claim some kind of victimization because the rest of the field chose not to follow in his footsteps. On top of that, Gingrich has descended to name-calling, which looks more like a dog-in-the-manger ploy than a way to gather support in the few short hours before Iowa voters trudge to precincts tonight. A confident candidate wouldn’t have sunk to the level of this conversation the morning of a caucus.