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Romney’s strategy of crazy

Romney’s strategy of crazy

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:


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The GOP doesn’t care about the country. The LBSM ‘Conservatives’ don’t care about the country. All they care about is their own power and ensuring that a Genuine Conservative reformer is not elected to the WH. These people, and I include Romney, don’t care about how Obama is destroying the country. They just want their chance to handle the bank accounts. Guys, the bankbooks are empty. We don’t need Obama-lite. We need sudden and relentless reform. I don’t know if Gingrich is still capable of bringing that to us. Once upon a time, he was. Then he decided he wanted affection from the Beltway insiders. Romney is totally incapable of bringing the reform we need because all he sees is the Holy Grail he has been chasing for years. What he will do when he seizes hold of it, likely, he’ll take a vacation cuz he’s been running hard for years and he’s not about to push to repeal Obamacare cuz that would be liked him slapping his own face.

If the GOP doesn’t care and are ceding the WH to Obama–that’s what all that be nice to Obama cuz people still like him is about–then I have no one to vote for, so on election day I shall find something else to do. If Palin is drafted and answers the call, I’ll be there. Other than that, adieu America.

SmokeVanThorn | December 9, 2011 at 8:52 am

With one possible exception (King), I would think that every one of these attacks makes conservatives more inclined to support Gingrich.

Establishment Republicans have no problem slashing and buring their own however they’ll leave Obama alone?

Say whatever happened to the policy wonker meme that offering sound policy is more important than ‘cult of personality’?

It appears the Republican policy wonkers have abandoned ideas and are now embracing a Cult.

DINORightMarie | December 9, 2011 at 9:16 am

Newt is gaining in polls and in people’s minds because he is taking it to Obama. Not attacking his rivals. Taking it to Obama. That is how to win. That is what is resonating. Debate style, knowledge of history…..that helps. But focusing on the true opponent – Obama – is the way to win. Rush said it; whether Newt is following that advice, or just using his own common sense…..he’s right.

Take it to Obama – who has a record now!! Period.

This Alinsky-like “personal destruction” character assasination attempt will backfire on Romney, and he will continue to fall away. So sad. Too bad.

Like Bachmann, Romney will find that you can’t pull that negative personal attack strategy on your rivals; it turns off the Conservative base – it’s part of what TEA Party patriots say disgusts us about politicians and Washington!

I believe that, as Sarah Palin said, we need “sudden and relentless reform.” However @Jooba (and all you Sarah supporters – me included), Sarah Palin is not running. I will support the Republican nominee – also as Sarah Palin said.

To stay home and pout because she (or someone like her) is not nominated is guaranteeing Obama’s victory, and our nation’s collapse. Anyone of the current candidates is orders of magnitude better than Obama!!

ABO people. Focus! ABO.

    DINORightMarie in reply to DINORightMarie. | December 9, 2011 at 9:17 am

    Sorry – that should be @Juba. 😉

    MaggotAtBroadAndWall in reply to DINORightMarie. | December 9, 2011 at 11:06 am

    >> Newt is gaining in polls and in people’s minds because he is taking it to Obama. <<

    I think you're right. While our side is busy assuring us that Newt is nuts, Newt is being amazingly calm and disciplined. He comes off as thick skinned and in complete control.

    They thought the "nuts" strategy would provoke him into punching back in a bombastic way. Instead, he maintains radio silence. In fact, he only has good things to say about fellow Repubicans and reserves his criticism for Obama's policies. That makes him look rational in comparison.

    The whole "nuts" strategy is not only failing, but backfiring.

I am so conflicted this election. I know there is no perfect candidate, I know that no matter who takes the lead in the primaries the press will attempt to destroy them, (with perhaps the exception of Romeny or Huntsman). With all that said I just can’t get myself to wholeheartedly support a candidate. I like Newt’s ideas, his knowledge of history and his retention of facts is amazing, but knowledge is not the same as wisdom, and I would like a smart, wise conservative for President.

David Brooks must not like the crease in Newt’s pants.

Brooks’ comment is icing on the cake that is his total lack of self-awareness.

More evidence that the establishment types are far too affiliated with the left, they’ve even resorted to standard leftist type projection.

Article I – The Legislative Branch
Article II – The Executive Branch
Article III – The Judicial Branch

Should Obama be reelected, the above is what the new U.S. Constitution will look like.

There is agreement that the Legislative Branch, needs correction. Its service is TO the people, NOT a service to enrich members.

With four additional years, Obama will have the time to reorganize the court and make it a rubber stamp.

Choice is damn simple to me..As was typed Anyone But Obama.

Newt’s not nuts. But creep… yeah, creep works.

Yeah, we the people have a problem on our hands when the GOP Establishment would rather have Obama re-elected then allow someone they don’t control to get our nomination!

Which realistically, I guess I can understand that to some degree. The Establishment knows that Obama wont be president forever, so eventually they will get their chance in the driver seat. But that is a willingness to destroy the country just to play this big government pass-the-potato game they see it as; and that is frighting.

Ultimately, it means they are fighting and trying to manipulate us as much, if not more, then the Democrats though! How do they think that will gain them support? Don’t they even get the fact that the Tea Party has already told them we don’t care about their little game and willingness to surrender?

Where before we were just trying to get them to stand up and do what is right, now they are choosing to make enemies of everyone in the country in an attempt to keep the status-quo!

They have decided to openly become the Enemy instead of listening to the people – and that just vindicates everyone who has dismissed them and tried to take a party back for our-self!

The more and more I hear people with bad ideas and desires of ultimate control themselves tell me not to vote for Newt, the more I realize he is the true outsider we so clearly are looking for!

The most telling point made in this post is the last one:

“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.”

I made that point on Rubin’s blog (before I deleted her from my Google Reader). How do these people intend to backtrack if the base does not want Romney. These are the same people that brought us McCain and Bob Dole. Now, they are going to be in the unenviable position of supporting Obama, or sitting out the election, or being accused (correctly) of hypocrisy. On second thought, that is probably how we got McCain and Dole in the first place.

    Too true. I wrote this a few days ago under a typical Jonathan Tobin knee-to-the-Not Romney’s-groin:

    ….. Make no mistake, the Commentary crew – or at least Tobin, along with former Commentary legend Jen Rubin – are far more about getting Romney nominated than they are about beating Obama. Their priorities are a little – sorry, a lot – distorted, and I think this is what happened:

    1) They genuinely wanted to beat Obama
    2) They convinced themselves that in this field, the only person who can beat Obama is Romney.
    3) Scorched earth against Romney’s opponents was therefore performing a favor for would-be suicidal conservatives.

    But then:

    4) “WHAT?… They’re not listening to me? They’re STILL trying to find a Not Romney!? !!!11eleventy!!1!!! They must be STUPID! And DUMB!”
    5) “You know, conservatives are so stupid that they’ll nominate a candidate other than Romney, and given the field, that candidate might even be worse than Obama!!!!” (cf. Jen Rubin saying last week that Newt would be a “worse chief executive than Obama”).
    6) “It matters more that we help Romney on his Grail quest than that we do anything else. Obama is secondary.”

    They love to psychologize people like us who have chosen not to support to Romney, so psychologizing them is fair game. They’ve become like Obama supporters: to them, Romney began as a compromise and ended as The One.

    In the meantime, they – especially Mr. Tobin – have completely misunderstood why Gingrich is getting the support he is. They think it’s because we who currently support him think he is a rock-ribbed conservative, and consequently they spend all their time tilting at windmills excoriating us for Not Remembering the bad times with Newt, the heresies, the betrayals, the disgraces.

    But we’re well aware of all that. On conservatism, there isn’t much to choose between Romney and Newt. We’re well aware of that too. But Newt has shown that he is willing to a) earn our votes instead of waiting to get them by default and bullying by surrogates; and b) fight Obama instead of passively waiting for him to lay down and expire. With all else judged as basically a wash, THOSE are the deciding factors, not some delusion of Gingrichian conservative purity.

    So, Mr. Tobin, what’s it going to be? We of the Not Romney crowd are prepared to vote for the man if he gets the nomination, because Obama must be defeated. Are you prepared to vote for Newt, to support him, to help him in battle against Obama?

    Telling – extremely telling – that we have to ask for clarification on this point.

[…] happened to Reagan’s 11th commandment? The reason I ask is laid out here in this post at Legal Insurrection: It’s not always framed using the word “crazy,” but that’s the theme — he’s erratic, […]

Newt’s right, if you don’t make the Medicare changes optional, they’ll never make it through. You can’t force changes on seniors that they don’t like, otherwise you’ll get killed in elections

Having worked on his MA Senate campaign, I have seen it with my own eyes. Romney is a terrible campaigner. If you think this is an anomaly then you are in for some bitter heartbreak down the road.

BTW, Ron Paul has sent his son on the attack against Newt as well.

Rand Pauls article:

And this is the thing that troubles me most – Tea Party people apparently more willing to Re-Elect Obama then give up on this pipe-dream fantasy of finding an absolute perfect candidate (which just does not exist at this time, and probably never will)

If the Tea Party stands up and votes Ron Paul (like Rand is pushing) then Obama gets 4 more years to destroy the country and we can what, take comfort in the fact that we didn’t vote for him?

Rand Paul makes it clear he hates both Newt and Mitt, going as far as to say its a “giant step backward”. So nominating someone who 80+% of the country thinks is a lunatic that will have the world in disaster hours after being elected, is supposedly the “step forward” we need – a move that would ultimately do absolutely nothing other then get Obama re-elected.

The fact that so many in power are willing to destroy the country in an effort to tear down every candidate that we the people get behind is telling to me… And it really makes you wonder if it wasn’t actually Ron Paul behind the Cain attacks (as was once whispered.) Ron Paul supporters were behind a Rick Perry “sexual harassment” claim, after all…

For reference, here is an article about some of the countless gutless things Paul has done in the name of campaigning:

And I am left asking myself, THAT is what Rand Paul says we should really support?

Okay, people, let’s forget about the fight for the nomination for a minute. Let’s assume Gingrich wins. Let’s further assume that Gingrich defeats Obama. What can we imagine a Gingrich administration to look like? That I think is the point of a lot of these attack pieces (with which I largely agree). “Crazy” is rather pejorative. But impulsive, undisciplined, disorganized, self-absorbed? Yes, yes, and yes. That’s Newt’s personality to the core and it would be the essence of a Gingrich presidency.

Rand Paul’s article in the Des Moines Register today is spot on. We know what to expect from a President Romney: a very tame, center-right administration, which attempts to repeal parts of Obamacare (at least the individual mandate), enacts some tax relief and deregulation to create jobs and tries to tackle entitelment reform. That’s about it. But, it’s something.

Gingrich? I easily envision President Gingrich throwing out dozens of zany, half-baked proposals, forcing Congressional Republicans to try to pass them, then (when it becomes painfully obvious that the proposal is unworkable, counterproductive or just absurd) dropping them abruptly, and insisting that he never “really” supported that, no, no. Actually, he supports these other zany proposals…and the cycle starts over. The result being that very little is substantially accomplished, beyond Newt’s talking and talking and talking.

Don’t get me wrong, if he’s the nominee, I will vote for him. I have always been firmly in the ABO camp. But I will do so fully aware that “better than Obama” is about all I can expect from a Gingrich administration.

    Darkstar58 in reply to BurkeanBadger. | December 9, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    So… let’s knock Newt off the pedestal. And when the election ends up between Newt and Obama, the masses will vote Obama or just stay home?

    Or let’s say it keeps the non-establishment, “not-Romney” crowd away from the primaries so Mittens gets our nomination – do you think they will honestly turn up to vote for Romney over Obama a few months later?

    Or lets say Rand is successful and everyone stays away or casts their vote for Paul – who in their right mind will vote for Ron Paul in an election?

    Or maybe it turns the crowd back to Perry – the guy everyone already left solely because he has the public speaking strength of a rock… You think we are winning the election then?

    Sure, try and tear down Newt at any cost because 4 more years of Obama is clearly the better option, right Rand? *facepalm*

    Reagan’s 11th amendment is being used like toilet paper by all these self-proclaimed “Reagan Conservatives” in an effort to elevate themselves since they cant even get themselves realistically considered for nomination without doing Obama’s job for him; but somehow they all simultaneously know they can beat Obama because, well, who the F* knows how any of them figures that one…

    I am so F*ing sick of politicians from all sides (including now supposed Tea Party politicians) telling us who we want and what we stand for, while blindly (and often, dishonestly) attacking everyone we decide support on our own! They instead just want to force us into their hands because, clearly, they feel they know what is better for us – just like Obama, and the Progressives and the Establishment and the Media and on and on and on…

    Let us decide what we want for ourselves a*holes! In the end, Rand Paul telling us everyone other then Ron Paul is the wrong choice for us is really no different then Obama telling us everyone other then Obama is the wrong choice for us – the only thing accomplished in both situations is Obama is stronger because of it…

    MaggotAtBroadAndWall in reply to BurkeanBadger. | December 9, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    He has laid out his prospective agenda with what he calls the 21st Century Contract with America.

    It’s a very pro-growth, sensible plan that conservatives ought to embrace. It includes reducing the corporate tax rate to 12.5%. That will make American business competitive again globally. He wants to eliminate the capital gains tax — will encourage capital formation and make America a desirable place to invest. 100% expensing will create a boom from companies wanting to upgrade plant and equipment, which will make them more productive, which will make them want to expand. And he wants a 15% flat tax for individuals. These things will produce an economic boom. Plus there’s about 24 more pages of sensible stuff.

    While he might come up with “dozens of zany, half-baked proposals” during the course of his presidency if he wins, there’s nothing zany or half-baked about the 21st Century Contract. And he’s going to have his plate full implementing it, which will leave him less time to come up with the zany stuff you’re worried about.

Subotai Bahadur | December 9, 2011 at 12:16 pm

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.

There is not now, nor has there ever been a plan by the Institutional Republicans to support any candidate against Obama that is not part and parcel of the Institutional Republicans.

The very thing that the RNC and its lapdogs constantly accuse the TEA Party and other Patriots of; a willingness to help the Democrats win if their candidate is not nominated, is standard operating procedure for them. You always see high profile Institutionals attacking Patriots in elections and objectively helping the Democrats or turning their back on the “all important R party designation” if someone not of their ilk is nominated. Look at Senator Lisa Murkowski [“I”-Alaska]. Here in Colorado the Republican Party will do anything to have the Democrats beat any Patriot candidate; up to and including funding 3rd Party candidates to run against the officially nominated TEA Party Republican, specifically to split the vote and give the Governorship to the Democrats.

In my state alone, their deliberate actions since have given the Democrats 2 US Senate seats and the Governorship since 2004. The US Senate could be 51-49 instead of 53-47 except for the Colorado Republican Party. The some of the leadership of the Colorado Republicans have joined with the Democrats in a Federal lawsuit to have our 19 year old Taxpayer Bill of Rights declared unconstitutional, and to remove initiative, recall, and referendum from our state constitution.

The Institutionals have picked their side, and if they cannot get Romney in to lose to Obama, they will side openly with the Democrats like Frum, Parker, Noonan, et. al.

Make book on it.

Subotai Bahadur

I’m not seeing any “crazy”. Or personality problems. Or leadership problems. Or anything similar. I’ve seen no examples. This is all meme creation. Repeated often enough… I agree with MaggotAtBroadAndWall:

…busy assuring us that Newt is nuts, Newt is being amazingly calm and disciplined. He comes off as thick skinned and in complete control.

They thought the “nuts” strategy would provoke him into punching back in a bombastic way. Instead, he maintains radio silence. In fact, he only has good things to say about fellow Repubicans and reserves his criticism for Obama’s policies. That makes him look rational in comparison.

After all the personal trashing of Palin done by the GOP insiders who think anyone who doesn’t agree with their position is stupid, I have no more patience for candidates who use the persoanl attack method. I don’t care if it’s done by the candidate or surrogates – I’m not supporting that candidate. Who is telling Romney that this mode of attack is going to cause Newt’s supporters to switch over to him? IMO it just hurts the one good quality he had – honorable man.

I’m tired of being told to suck it up and accept whichever GOP politician gets the nomination. Nope – been there, done that. If I don’t think the nominee will be noticeably better than Obama I’d rather the Dems get the blame for the country’s problems.

Henry Hawkins | December 9, 2011 at 1:07 pm

The two parties have corrupted Washington by turning control of it via elections into the equivalent of a business franchise system. A franchise has a specific brand and serves as the way that given group does business, makes money, and exercises power. There are four basic franchises, each with its own establishment membership and set of corporate sponsors, bundlers, and media friendlies:

Radical Democrat (now in power)
Liberal Democrat
Moderate GOP (now controlling the GOP)
Conservative GOP (on the periphery since Reagan)

These four factions battle constantly to be in power, to work the levers, to dole out the money, to collect the debts (kickbacks, business opportunities, campaign donations, etc.), and wield the power in the way necessary for self-enrichment and perpetuation of that power. It has long since evolved into something inherently corrupt and corrupting.

Obama, of course, belongs to the Radical Democrat franchise.

Romney, of course, belongs to the Moderate GOP establishment franchise currently controlling the GOP.

Gingrich belongs to the… uh, er.. well, he’s certainly not in the Moderate GOP club, because they are attacking him harder than they’ve ever attacked Obama. Neither can you place Gingrich in the Conservative GOP franchise – they are hammering him too, listing every instance of his less-than-conservativeness.

Gingrich is neither here nor there in terms of the established GOP political/business franchises. In this sense, he is an outsider and a bit of a ‘maverick’. It is precisely because he belongs to neither GOP franchise that he’s being hammered by both. If Gingrich wins the nomination and – God forbid! – the presidency, there will be a wholesale changeover in who holds the reins within the GOP.Given how people grow increasingly disenchanted with either GOP franchise and with the political system as a whole, we begin to understand the “Gingrich surge” and why so many are so quickly gravitating towards him.

Can Newt Gingrich shake up the corrupted, self-serving, monstrosity called Washington? He already is. See how all factions rant and fume over him! He already IS.

When you are drawing fire from one direction, you are nearing the target but aren’t there yet. When you’re drawing fire from every direction, you are directly over your target. Gingrich is drawing fire from Lib Dems, Rad Dems, Mod GOP-ers, Conservative GOP-ers, the left media, the right media, and every incremental position in-between. Everyone hates Gingrich – except the people.

Whatever makes anyone think Romney can’t flip flop on this “crazy” mantra just like he has flip flppped on everything else?