The Washington Post

Gingrich won’t debate without his cheering section

Newt Gingrich’s top rationale for his candidacy (I know, it’s silly but it’s his argument) is that he is the best debater and will stalk President Obama until he relents to a series of Lincoln-Douglas marathons. (By the way, since Gingrich is all about states’ rights, isn’t he Douglas?) But consider this wrinkle, as reported by the New York Times:

Mr. Gingrich, a former House speaker, on Tuesday morning threatened not to participate in any future debates with audiences that have been instructed to be silent. That was the case on Monday, when Brian Williams of NBC News asked the audience of about 500 people who assembled for a debate in Tampa to hold their applause until the commercial breaks. . . .

Mr. Gingrich’s performance in the debate in Tampa on Monday night was far more muted. Critics noted that he seemed to be off his game. The National Journal, which co-hosted the NBC debate, compared Gingrich to “a stand-up comedian whose routine suffers without echoes of laughter egging him on.”

Mr. Gingrich clearly noticed something was off, too. “We’re going to serve notice on future debates,” he told Fox. “The media doesn’t control free speech. People ought to be allowed to applaud if they want to.”

So let’s review. The Presidential Debate Commission rules say no applause or crowd reaction. Newt says he won’t show unless his pom-pom gals and guys can have outbursts. And his top rationale for his candidacy is his debating prowess. Do you see a problem here?

Beyond logical disconnect, does it say something about Gingrich that he can only be effective with a cheering section? I mean, this sounds rather Obama-ish, no? Gingrich’s ego, of course, must be fed and the thought of having to operate in stone silence probably scares the daylights out of him.

The modified version of Gingrich’s campaign rationale is now this: “I’m the best debater so long as I have my cheerleaders so I can level Obama provided they change long-standing presidential debate rules.” Convinced?

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.


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