Newt Gingrich’s decision, for the second time in the race, to echo the left’s anti-Bain, anti-capitalism themes against Mitt Romney is raising eyebrows. Ironically, it may boomerang, reinforcing Gingrich’s reputation as a destructive force and giving Romney some brownie points with fiscal conservatives. In particular, an online film trailer from Gingrich’s super PAC that savages Romney’s venture capital firm could well cause conservatives to recoil.
Gingrich’s decision to adopt the David Axelrod-Debbie Wasserman Shultz-Occupy Wall Street attack against Bain Capital has made conservatives more than a little queasy.
Who said this? “Frankly I don’t think bringing a Bain mentality to this economy — to running this economy — makes him a strong candidate.” Without looking, you wouldn’t know if it were Axelrod or Gingrich.(It’s Axelrod.)
What about this? “Mitt Romney is responsible for being CEO of companies that he took over that he dismantled.” That one is Wasserman Shultz.
Who called Bain a “predator” and that “if you look at The New York Times article that I think was on Thursday, you would certainly have to say that Bain, at times, engaged in behavior where they looted a company, leaving behind 1,700 unemployed people. That’s The New York Times, that’s not me.” Yeah, that’s Gingrich’s rhetoric, which is more anti-capitalist than either Axelrod or Wasserman Shultz.
This is precisely the same tactic Gingrich employed with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), whom he accused of radical “right-wing social engineering.”
You see, if it suits his fancy, Gingrich will always take the side of liberals (and their causes) against conservative principles. In fact, whoever might outshine him goes to the top of the hit list. His Bain and Ryan attacks are indicative of his destructive and undisciplined methodology.
Even more troublesome is the super PAC ad, which is based on material so objectionable that other GOP campaigns’ super PACs refused to use it themselves. In the debate Gingrich previewed the online attack piece, even detailing the sourcing it would employ. The New York Times reports:
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.
As the Times reports, the super PACs for Jon Huntsman and Texas Gov. Rick Perry rejected buying the film themselves. Barry Bennett, who briefly worked for the Perry super PAC, didn’t have any luck selling the film until he reached Gingrich’s people:
Mr. Bennett also shopped the film to a super PAC supporting another candidate, Jon M. Huntsman Jr. But officials with the group, Our Destiny, also passed on the film, according to a person with ties to the group.
“We made the decision that that was just not the kind of campaign we wanted to participate in,” said the person, who asked for anonymity to describe private negotiations.
[Rick] Tyler, a former long-time aide to Mr. Gingrich who helped set up the super PAC supporting him, disagreed. “I’m a capitalist, I’m a conservative,” he said. “I’ve spent a lot of time defending free enterprise from a biblical perspective.”
I’m not sure what Bible he has ready, but if Huntsman knew enough to reject it, you know it must be truly beyond the pale. Tyler, you will recall, worked directly for the Gingrich campaign before the post-cruise mutiny in the Gingrich ranks.
The story also raises more questions than it answers about the project’s funding. The story claims the film cost $40,000, but those with knowledge of the film’s production tell Right Turn that its actual cost is closer to $150,000. In any case, how did Barry Bennett, a former chief of staff for Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio) who is not known to be independently wealthy, come up with the cash? It strains credulity to think he paid for this out of his own pocket, as he claims. Given the film’s leftist bent, you have to wonder if the film is funded by a “capitalist.” It’s something, frankly, a labor union or Soros entity would come up with.
It is also interesting to note that Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas gambling mogul and Gingrich pal, is helping to keep Gingrich’s super PAC afloat. Adelson is a longtime backer of Republican causes, but it’s jaw-dropping to those in conservative ranks that he’d throw money at Gingrich’s super PAC ($5 million, according to reports). There’s something laughable about a gambling magnate helping to fuel an attack on venture capitalism. A Romney ally cracked, “There’s no Staples Anonymous. But there is Gamblers’ Anonymous.”
Ironically, Gingrich and his super PAC’s efforts might actually help Romney by attacking him from the left. Romney’s strongest moments in the campaign came when Gingrich first attacked him on Bain, putting Romney in the position to stand his ground in defense of conservative economic principles. Moreover, given Gingrich’s involvement in this sorrid effort, the Obama team now finds itself in the position of adopting Gingrich’s attacks. That’s not, I am certain, what Axelrod et al. had in mind.
Now the voters of New Hampshire have a role to play here. They can either reward Gingrich by giving him a decent share of the vote, or they can make clear that running against capitalism, adopting the language of Occupy Wall Street and playing errand boy for Obama’s Chicago political hacks are not going to endear you to the GOP.