It comes to us all, eventually: that epiphanic, “come to Jesus moment” when the light of day finally penetrates our cloud of delusion, and undeniable reality slaps us hard across the face. That moment finally came for Newt Gingrich, who annouced that he will suspend his bid for the presidency. Tuesday night’s five-state Romney sweep apparently did what a bounced check and a penguin bite could not.
Since it’s unlikely that he’s going away anytime soon, it’s time to say “See you later” to Newt Gingrich. Oh, and “Thank you.”
Why thank New Gingrich? It’s only right to thank someone for giving a gift, especially one that keeps on giving like Newt’s viciously accurate attack on Mitt Romney’s vulture capitalist resume.
Let’s look back for a moment.
It was early in January, and Newt Gingrich was having a “moment.” We’re not talking about your garden variety “moment,” either, but one to rival the 1995 history-making, career-breaking “Air Force One” moment that got Newt immortalized on the front page of the New York Daily News. Stung by his fourth-place finish in the Iowa caucuses, and angry at being the subject of negative ads paid for by Mitt Romney’s super PAC, Newt stomped off to New Hampshire.
Gingrich didn’t retreat to the Granite State to lick his wounds. Newt hit back with hisown super-PAC-funded attack on Mitt Romney.
Thanks to a $5 million donation from a wealthy casino owner, a group supporting Newt Gingrich plans to place advertisements in South Carolina this week attacking Mitt Romney as a predatory capitalist who destroyed jobs and communities, a full-scale Republican assault on Mr. Romney’s business background.
The advertisements, a counterpunch to a campaign waged against Mr. Gingrich by a group backing Mr. Romney, will be built on excerpts from a scathing movie about Bain Capital, the private equity firm Mr. Romney once ran. The movie, financed by a Republican operative opposed to Mr. Romney, includes emotional interviews with people who lost jobs at companies that Bain bought and later sold.
“We had to load up the U-Haul because we done lost our home,” one woman says.
Democrats have signaled that they intend to make Mr. Romney’s history at Bain a central part of their case against him if he wins the Republican nomination. But Bain has also emerged as an issue in the Republican primary, despite the party’s free market stance and business-friendly policies, reflecting the depth of public anger about the economy. At an appearance here on Sunday, Mr. Gingrich suggested that Bain’s approach was to carry out “clever legal ways to loot a company.”
… The Bain-centered campaign strikes at the heart of Mr. Romney’s argument for his qualifications as president — that as a successful executive in the private sector, he learned how to create jobs — and advances an argument that President Obama’s re-election campaign has signaled it will employ aggressively against Mr. Romney.
It was classic Newt at his bitter, angry, petulant best. And the result was a thing of beauty: a near-perfect attack ad that probably brought tears to the eyes and stirred feelings of envy in the heart of many a Democratic consultant in Washington.
To be fair, Americans United for Change got there first, with their take on Romney-as-Gordon-Gekko. But Gingrich’s 28-minute-long “When Mitt Romney Came To Town” (see it before it disappears down the memory hole) was huge. In one video, Gingrich spelled out the connection between profits on Wall Street and job losses on Main Street, and shifted the focus on the national discourse in a fashion similar to Occupy Wall Street.
I’ll put it this way: a Republican made Wall Street’s perverse business of creating wealth for the one percent, while destroying jobs for the 99% front-page news. Newt even called Romney out during the New Hampshire debate for following “a Wall Street model” where “you basically take out all the money, leaving nothing for workers.”
In 2008, Mike Huckabee said of Mitt Romney, “I want to be a president who reminds you of the guy you work with, not the guy who laid you off.” In 2012 Newt Gingrich hinted that Mitt Romney might actually be ”the guy who laid you off.” That’s what we call a “game changer,” boys and girls.
Newt effectively stuck a giant “Kick me,” sign on Mitt Romney’s back. At that point, the GOP primary had so many contenders that the debates resembled a right-wing political version of “American Idol,” but Romney was already considered the “inevitable” nominee. Newt focused national attention like a laser beam on Romney’s weaknesses early in the game.
Romney’s claims of being a “job creator” on Wall Street were scrutinized in the media, and undermined by Bain Capital alumni who said job creation was never the point at Bain. Former employees like Randy Johnson and Donny Box came forward, and talked about what happened on Main Street when Bain gutted companies like Dade International and GS Industries. After that, the attacks on Romney’s many other weaknesses — his top secret tax returns, his Wall Street wealth, his membership in “the top 0.001 percent,” his $101 million individual retirement account (IRA), his Swiss bank account, his secret tax shelter in the Cayman Islands, his “special” 13.9% tax rate (and how it compares with the rest of America) — became a steady drip that will only get stronger between now and Election Day.
Not long after launching his attack, Newt tried to take it all back. In a fit of pique, he not only violated Reagan’s 11th commandment, but created a perfect storm by posing too loudly questions he and his party are incapable of answering. Newt’s attack confused conservatives and bombed with right-wing bloggers, because he called into question what Ed Kilgore calls conservatism’s “cult of success.”
At Ten Miles Square, Michael Kinsley puts his finger on something that probably defines Mitt Romney’s true bond with a Republican Party that otherwise would just as soon toss him on the dustbin of history: the cult of Success, with its creed of identifying wealth and status with virtue, and any concern for equality or fairness with vice.
…The cult of success is so central to conservative ideology in this country that it brooks little or no dissent, particularly in a Republican Party dependent on downscale white voters whose resentment of people poorer or darker or sicker than they are cannot be complicated by any doubt about the morality of markets. It’s no accident that the entire conservative commentariat came down on Newt Gingrich like a ton of bricks the moment he indulged in a producerist attack on Romney as a predatory capitalist. Start accepting fine distinctions like that, and the next thing you know you might be wondering if this banker or that oil executive is virtuous as well!
It’s not nice to point out what’s in the Kool-Aid, after all. That’s OK. The rest of us got the point loud and clear.
Newt may be gone from the presidential campaign, but the devastatingly accurate case he made against Mitt Romney’s bid for the White House lives on. I guarantee you’ll hear it again between now and November. When you do, think of Newt. And say, “Thank you.” After all, it’s the right thing to do.Terrance Heath blogs at the Campaign for America's Future and The Republic of T.