The decision by Newt Gingrich to go anti-Bain — and those ostensibly trying to help him — are in some ways inexplicably stupid. Why would Gingrich, who already has a reputation as a thorn in the side of the right and a malicious self-promoter, attack Mitt Romney on free-market capitalism, which is at the center of the modern Republican Party?
Gingrich has never been known as one to distinguish good ideas from bad, but consider the other Republicans who have involved themselves in an endeavor which will likely go down as a text-book example of political stupidity.
There is Barry Bennett, the longtime establishment Republican operative from Ohio, who supposedly paid for the anti-Bain film. Did he think this was smart Republican political strategy? A longtime Ohio Republican activist and national Republican fundraiser who knows Bennett said, “I’m shocked.” He acknowledged, “Barry is a gun for hire,” but said that mainstream Republicans would find the attack piece repulsive.
Then there is the film’s director, Jason Killian Meath, a former aide to GOP veterans Ed Gillespie and Miss. Gov. Haley Barbour among others. I spoke to Dave Fuscus, the president of Xenophon, a corporate PR firm with clients that certainly don’t harbor animosity toward the free market, and Meath’s current employer. Fuscus said his firm had nothing to do with the anti-Bain film and that Meath had done the project on his own time through a separate company, Cicero-Media. Does Meath think imitating Sen. Ted Kennedy’s 1994 anti-Bain ads is going to boost his career in GOP circles?
The list of those ingesting stupid pills continues. Rick Tyler, former Gingrich aide and now the head of the super PAC that bought the anti-Bain film, said that he’s a pro-market capitalist. Really? I’m not sure other pro-market capitalist politicians would agree. The film is an attack on capitalism. As Jim Pethokoukis of the American Enterprise Institute wrote today, “Of course, Romney and Bain weren’t in the game to create jobs. They were in it to make money for their investors and themselves. Then again, the same would go for Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Michael Dell, Warren Buffett and just about every other successful entrepreneur and investor you could name. But that is the miracle of free-market capitalism. The pursuit of profits by creating value benefits the rest of society through higher incomes, more jobs, and better products and services. This isn’t ‘destructive creation’ — like, say, crippling U.S. fossil fuel production before ‘clean energy’ sources are viable — but ‘creative destruction’ where innovation and efficiency sweep away the old and replace it with a more productive and wealthier society.” Apparently none of the people involved with this project grasped this or understood that this is what Republicans believe.
Next up is Texas Gov. Rick Perry. If there’s a dumb gimmick (repealing the 16th and 17th Amendment, sending Social Security to the states) in view, he’s for it. So sure enough, he jumped on the bandwagon decrying the pink slips that Bain has issued. Today he said: “Now I have no doubt that Mitt Romney was worried about pink slips — whether he was going to have enough of them to hand out because his company Bain Capital with all the jobs that they killed, I’m sure he was worried that he’d run out of pink slips .. . . There is something inherently wrong when getting rich off failure and sticking it to someone else is how you do your business and I happen to think that’s indefensible.” Thunk. Not what the “real” conservatives in the right-wing blogosphere had in mind when they toiled for him all these months.
And finally, there is Sheldon Adelson, longtime friend of Gingrich an major donor to Republican causes. Did he intend his $5 million for the super PAC to be used to attack capitalism? Somehow I get the sense this was not what he had in mind.
The entire effort has the potential to put the final nail in Gingrich’s presidential campaign coffin and cement his reputation as the most reckless man in politics As Tim Pawlenty, a Romney supporter, said today on the topic of Bain, “It’s an old issue, and first of all, it’s the Democrats’ issue, it’s the issue that Barack Obama comes out after Mitt on. The Democrats have brought this out for years. For Newt or other Republicans to be attacking private enterprise in this way, I think, is really just embracing the Democrats’ message. It’s, unfortunately, not what Republicans should be doing.” But Gingrich is above his party. Remember, he’s Churchillian! (You may recall when there was push back on his first anti-Bain attack, Gingrich retreated, saying he should not have phrased his criticisms in that way.)
This is the Gingrich effect writ large: Creating havoc, blemishing careers and giving the Democrats plenty of laughs. Gingrich is likely to do poorly tomorrow as will Perry (making two rotten outings in a row for both of them). There is no appetite in the GOP for these candidates or their brand of anti-capitalistic pandering. The historian from Freddie Mac and the crony capitalist from Austin do not, we clearly see, embrace the Tea Party ethos. The referendum on this entire gambit should be swift. Whether it ultimately helps Romney or not, Gingrich is a reminder of the very worst in American politics.