The attacks on Newt Gingrich from the Romney campaign and it supporters in the Beltway political and media echelons have become quite personal.
The fervor reminds me not so much of a heated argument on the merits, but of a child custody proceeding in which Romney seeks to have Newt not only lose custody of his putative nomination but also be declared an unfit parent due to mental illness.
There is a theme emerging in Mitt Romney’s official and unofficial attack on Newt. It’s the “he’s crazy” claim.
It’s not always framed using the word “crazy,” but that’s the theme — he’s erratic, can’t be trusted, has a personality defect which makes him dangerous. TPM sums up the Romney theme:
Launching an aggressive attack on rival Newt Gingrich, the Romney campaign is engaging a character-assassination strategy, painting the former speaker as unfit for a position of leadership.
We hear it every day from David Frum (“A Gingrich presidency, if such a thing can even be imagined, would be a chaotic catastrophe”); Jennifer Rubin (“Gingrich’s mind is an attic of throwaway, unusable and downright goofy ideas, piled high like newspapers in the room of a troubled subject on “Hoarders”), Ramesh Ponnuru (“he is temperamentally unsuited for the presidency”); Peggy Noonan (“He’s a trouble magnet”); Ann Coulter (“Not only were they completely crazy, but Newt’s grand schemes didn’t quite fit the Republican model of a small, unintrusive federal government); and other pro-Romney media types.
We’re also hearing it from Romney campaign surrogates like John Sununu (“He all but called Gingrich crazy”) and Peter King (“doesn’t have the discipline and doesn’t have the capacity to control himself”).
This strategy is the same as the Democrats’ “strategy of crazy” launched against the Tea Party movement in 2009 and crystallized as policy after Scott Brown’s election in January 2010. Your opponent isn’t simply wrong, or not the best choice, or a flip-flopper, he’s nuts.
At Slate, one prominent left-leaning blogger comes right out and says what his “conservative” compatriots have been saying implicitly, Is Newt Nuts?
I really don’t see how the Romney supporters using the strategy of crazy have left themselves an exit strategy if and when their candidate loses to Gingrich. If they have convinced themselves that Newt really is crazy, then there is no way they could support him even over Obama.
And frankly, I don’t expect them to.
Update: Add David Brooks (h/t Ben Smith) to the team (“He has every negative character trait that conservatives associate with ’60s excess: narcissism, self-righteousness, self-indulgence and intemperance”).
And, here’s a new ad released by the Romney campaign which is highly misleading (it cut’s off Newt’s explanation of why the Ryan plan was too big a leap until the case had been made to the American people), and continues the “crazy” theme: