The Washington Post

Romney up, Gingrich down

Mitt Romney’s debate performance got strong reviews from a variety of sources. He can now focus on turning out his voters. He is still unlikely to win Iowa, given his limited appeal with Christian conservatives, but he certainly has changed the trajectory of the race. His team was understandably quite pleased last night.

Today, he builds on that success with one of the few superstar endorsements that matter: South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. She will be of great assistance in the Jan. 21 primary.

But as Romney regains his footing, Newt Gingrich continues to tumble downhill. Gingrich got roughed up in the debate on several points, including his lobbying activities for Freddie Mac and his attacks on Romney’s business experience at Bain. It didn’t get any easier for him after the debate when he talked to Sean Hannity.

He was asked about Rep. Michele Bachmann’s (R-Minn.) claim that he influence peddled. He gave a nonsensical answer: “It’s just factually false. And it’s factually false for a practical reason. I’ve had a broad enough base of activities, and written 24 [books]. I have zero reason to ever once try to say to someone, ‘Please give me money; I’ll go represent you.’” Even if this is true, it is totally irrelevant to the question as to whether he accepted money to persuade members of Congress. Numerous facts concerning his representation of Freddie Mac, Big Pharm and other health-care entities and the recollections of former lawmakers such as John E. Sununu make clear that Gingrich’s conduct likely met the legal definition of “lobbying activities.” And he certainly, as Bachmann pointed out, was hired to influence people. That he only lobbied for things he believed in is immaterial. That he “spent six years working with the Bush administration on health and national security for free” is also beside the point (and I’m not certain that’s even true.)

Gingrich has convinced himself of a certain scenario. That scenario doesn’t provide facts to support his “not a lobbyist” conclusion, so he throws up a bunch of dust and says Bachmann has her facts wrong.

As Tim Carney of the Washington Examiner explained: “The problem is twofold: 1) Newt says he didn’t lobby. He did. That means Newt is not telling the truth. A candidate serially telling untruths is a reason to not like that candidate. 2) Newt didn’t simply lobby for businesses. He lobbied for businesses that were trying to profit at the expense of everyone else by increasing the size of government. This was what he did at Freddie Mac, this was what he did expanding Medicare to subsidize his pharmaceutical clients, and this was what he did helping ethanol companies get subsidies.”

But Gingrich’s performance got weirder on Hannity’s show after that. On his attack on Romney’s Bain activities, he confessed: “For a brief moment, frankly, it got under my skin. I responded in a way that made no sense.” So when rattled he talks gibberish? I don’t think this is a good excuse. Moreover, he admitted that Romney is “a good businessman.” So why didn’t he, you know, apologize to Romney to his face?

The problem with Gingrich is that he can’t be honest with himself about what he’s said, what he’s done and what he’s stood for. Therefore, he can’t possibly be honest with us. If that isn’t a disqualifying character flaw for a man who wants to be president, I don’t know what is.

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


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