So long, Mr. Speaker

I received the photo in the mail a few weeks after it was taken, back in 1996 when I was a just-out-of-college staffer at the 1996 Republican National Convention in San Diego. Out there on the left coast, three hours behind DC time, my colleagues and I sometimes felt a little bit detached from the momentous goings-on under the still new (and still amazing) Republican leadership in Congress. So it was extra-special to us when the architect of the new Republican majority and a hero to most of us, Speaker Newt Gingrich, took the time to swing by and see us during a California trip. I lined up with everyone else, shook his hand and smiled for the camera, and some time later there it was in my in-box: a signed photo of me with the Speaker. “Thanks for all your help, Dan – Newt.”

That photo has followed me in the years since, sitting in its cherry wood frame on my desk, or on the wall, or on a book shelf as I moved from San Diego back to DC, then on to law school, to a big law firm, to the Massachusetts State House, and finally to my current office. Except for when I was traveling, hardly a day of my professional life has gone unobserved by Newt’s silent, grinning visage, even as the other occupants of my political “ego wall” have mostly fallen to the wayside.

Newt always represented something very particular to me. Asked to defend his photographic presence in my office (and I was, on more than a few occasions), I’d invariably say that to me Newt represented something important in American politics. He was the guy who everyone says they want – the politician who knows what he believes and says what he thinks, and does so coherently and with historical perspective.  If his ego sometimes seemed out-sized, well, that tends to happen to people who become celebrities, political and otherwise. As to his personal foibles… I didn’t defend those. And of course I was never in a position to vote for the man anyhow.

That all ended today. I wrote a post last week about Newt’s petulant Iowa hangover. At the time I hoped his sulking and revenge-plotting would dissipate. Instead it has only gotten worse, culminating in a raft of articles like this, this, and this. Gingrich, it seems, has resolved to do everything possible to destroy Mitt Romney, even if he self-immolates in the process, and even it he destroys our chance of relegating the President to one term while he’s at it.

What a difference a month makes. Here’s what the pundits were writing about Newt way back on December 6… READ THE REST at CriticalMASS

About CriticalDan

  • V

    And, I think it highlights the “Critical” part of your moniker.

    Critical, as in the sense of “containing or involving comments and opinions that analyze or judge something, especially in a detailed way”.  

    This time, your critical thinking takes aim at yourself, and just may help illuminate an issue for those of us who read your essay.

    We all have a candidate (or candidates) that we hope to see survive this steel-cage death match of a GOP primary.  However, will any of the rest of us look critically at ourselves and our candidate the way you have done?  I’d like to think I do.  I was for Cain before I was against Cain.  Now I find myself floating out there like a lot of conservatives….hoping to find a candidate to latch on to.

    I’m starting to get the feeling that there isn’t a candidate who will upend the Romney apple cart.  I’m not so sure I am happy about that (for a variety of reasons).  Full disclosure, I have a similar picture on my desk….one of Gov. Romney and myself.

    Those of us who stray outside of the MAGOP/MA conservative bubble and read what goes on in the hearts and minds of national conservatives understand that for MANY, Romney will be a bitter pill to swallow….if they even can.  

    I have taken to heart many of the complaints issued regarding Romney and I understand the fear and trepidation that the people upon whom all depends have regarding him.  As Deval Patrick is the canary in the Obama coal mine, many think Scott Brown is the canary in the Romney coal mine.  On a national level, Senator Brown is not liked by rank and file conservatives/republicans.  They simply don’t understand the reality of Massachusetts politics, nor do they seem to understand Brown himself.

    I have read many posts on a variety of “conservative” sites where comparisons are made (fair and unfair) between Brown and Romney and many people are afraid that the man we elect (if Romney) won’t be the man who governs.

    I am uneasy about the “electability” argument because I’m just not sure Romney has the intestinal fortitude to go toe-to-toe with Obama in debates and stump speeches.

    While I agree with you that Newt has inflicted a mortal wound on his campaign with his “petulant Iowa hangover”, I find myself wondering how much damage he will inflict on his “Sherman’s march to the sea”.  I would have rather seen Newt drop out and endorse Santorum (or Perry, or Paul….whatever) than take this scorched earth policy toward Romney.

    I am fearful that Newt’s attacks will be so effective that a critically wounded Romney will stagger across the finish line without having toughened up enough to withstand the Obama-Axelrod-Jarrett onslaught.

  • 9 out of 10 times I agree with CriticalDan – but in this case he is wrong.

    Let’s be honest here, who at the start of this race ever thought that Newt was going to be the nominee?  He only gained because there has been a constant Anti-Mitt vote bloc and he ran into the wrath of a huge amount of corporate spending.  

    The $6 million dollars Romney’s PAC spent with it’s only goal to “destroy Newt” and “sulk and plot revenge” in Iowa.  How is that any different than Newt playing hardball back?

    The Romney folks can’t say – that Newt is being “mean” and then two seconds later conveniently forget the millions in negative ads that they put up first.  That’s crazy.  

    My broader point though is how this HELPS Mitt in the long term.  By all the candidates bringing up Bain now, it will be much harder for team Obama to bring up later – it will have been vetted and voters would have already had their voice.  I would rather be talking about Bain in January then in October.  

    For Romney to cruise to victory without taking a few hits would have been the worst thing ever for our party, something that CriticalDan wished had happened.  Because he believes being battle tested means being anointed.  

    This will help Mitt and his team.  Let him battle, let him scrap and let him get ready for Obama.  If he can’t fend off attacks now – then he can’t later – so let him grow as a candidate and become stronger.  

  • CriticalDan

    First, thanks all for the comments.  V and BillNick, I really appreciate the kind words but feel I ought to offer an explicit clarification here (before someone offers it for me!). I’ve been a Newt fan for years, but I was never in his camp in this election, and have never thought he would or could be a plausible Republican nominee for president. He was too polarizing a figure even before he went off the rails last week. I am and have been a Mitt guy, and it is perfectly proper to read my thoughts in that context.

    Plymouth99, I agree with you to a point, and tried to make that clear in my post. Any candidate can and should fight like heck to elevate himself relative to his opponents, and that often entails bringing those opponents down.  Politics ain’t beanbag, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, etc etc etc. My problem with the Speaker’s attitude and tactics ‘after the fall,’ so to speak, is that his objective no longer seems (to me) to be winning the nomination so much as taking revenge on Governor Romney for what he apparently views as an unfair assault on his record (though I think it is telling that we rarely hear any specifics re. what exactly was unfair – and the stuff Mitt and his supporters ran against Newt in IA was pretty tame compared to the ads Ron Paul threw out there). Even setting aside the rank hypocrisy of a guy who not a month ago pledged adherence to the 11th Commandment and now continues to cite Reagan even as he embarks on a scorched-earth campaign against a fellow Republican, what the Speaker is doing now (again, in my personal opinion) crosses the line and goes well beyond the ordinary, expected rough-and-tumble of politics. He is now doing the Ds’ work for them.

    Thanks again for the comments.

  • This one was like picking the Tim Tebow to go to the Super Bowl.