For anyone that missed it, GOP presidential candidates Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich had themselves a little as touted, and definitely not my description of what I watched, a "Lincoln-Douglas style debate".
It would more rightfully be described as a little love-fest where the two of them spent an hour and a half discussing their vision for America if the country would be unfortunate enough to actually see either of them elected and telling myths about how conservative economic policies are somehow going to pull us out of the mess they caused in the first place.
You can watch the entire event if you've got the stomach for it at C-SPAN's site here.
If you're not so inclined to give away an hour and a half of your life as I did, there's the short segment above where Gingrich compares Obama to Bernie Madoff with this bit of flame throwing while praising St. Ronnie Ray Gun.
GINGRICH: Compare Reagan's ability to talk to the American people, make sense, and have the American people move the Congress, with the current president. This president is about as candid and accurate as Bernie Madoff in what he tells the American people.
Sorry Newt, but I'll still take at face value anything our current president says to the public as having some basis in truth with some educated skepticism when it's warranted and deserved before anything that comes out of your mouth. And comparing President Obama to Madoff is nothing but flame throwing to satisfy your right-wing base that likes it when you call the "Kenyan usurper" nasty names because that same base still can't quite reconcile that a man who is half black got elected to the White House.
Herman Cain also pulled what amounted to close to another ‘Ubeki-beki-beki-stan-stan’ moment when asked about his opinion on Medicare and whether we ought to have a defined benefit plan or premium support. Cain punted and said Newt should go first on that question.
I hate to break it to Cain, but saying I pass and let the other guy answer first isn't going to exactly endear the public to the idea that you know what the hell you're talking about when it comes to issues that matter a great deal to seniors in the United States.
FDL's TBogg summed this up better than I ever could -- Adultery Off Limits At Cain-Gingrich Steel Cage Adulterers-Only Deathmatch:
The two-man debate between GOP presidential candidates Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich had one off-limit topic – the decade-old sexual harassment allegations that have dogged Cain’s campaign.
Tea party organizers of Saturday night’s event in Texas said that matter, which consumed the GOP race this past week, was off the table. That would seem to be welcome news to Cain as he tries to refocus on issues such as the future of Social Security and Medicare – expected points of discussion with Gingrich.
Well that’s pretty lame; like making the teams in the Super Bowl play flag football.
And for those of you wondering why Mitt Romney wasn’t invited, it is technically not adultery when you cheat on your wife with one of your other wives.
Sorry. Them’s the rules…
As TBogg reminded us, if the Republican base is silly enough to embrace Gingrich as their flavor of the week and someone we should take seriously in the polls if that happens, he's going to have this to contend with.
Along with his amorphous political persona, Newt showed a propensity for the kind of behavior boys boast about in the locker room. Throughout his first campaign he was having an affair with a young volunteer. Dot Crews, who occasionally drove the candidate, says that almost everybody involved in the campaign knew. Kip Carter claims, "We'd have won in 1974 if we could have kept him out of the office, screwing her on the desk."
The Gingriches entered marriage counseling, but Newt continued to behave as if other people's rules didn't apply to him. Dot Crews observes, "It was common knowledge that Newt was involved with other women during his marriage to Jackie. Maybe not on the level of John Kennedy. But he had girlfriends --some serious, some trivial."
One of those women, Anne Manning, became romantically involved with Gingrich during his '76 campaign. The curly-haired young Englishwoman, then married to another professor at West Georgia, Tim Chowns, was an avid volunteer in Newt's Carrollton office. "I did have a relationship with him," she discloses for the first time, "but when it suited him, he would totally blow you off."
In the spring of 1977, she was in Washington to attend a census-bureaus workshop when Gingrich took her to dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant. He met her back at her modest hotel room. "We had oral sex," she says. "He prefers that modus operandi because then he can say, "I never slept with her." Indeed, before Gingrich left that evening, she says, he threatened her: "If you ever tell anybody about this, I'll say you're lying."
She tells me this, she says, because she fears that Newt might become president someday. "I don't claim to be an angel," she says, but she is repelled by Newt's stance as Mr. Family Values. "He's morally dishonest. He has gone too far believing that 'I'm beyond the law.' He should be stopped before it's too late."
Kip Carter, who lived a few doors down from the couple, saw more than he wanted to. "We had been out working a football game --I think it was the Bowdon game-- and we would split up. It was a Friday night. I had Newt's daughters, Jackie Sue and Kathy, with me. We were all supposed to meet back at this professor's house. It was a milk-and-cookies kind of shakedown thing, buck up the troops. I was cutting across the yard to go up the driveway. There was a car there. As I got to the car, I saw Newt in the passenger seat and one of the guys' wives with her head in his lap going up and down. Newt kind of turned and gave me his little-boy smile. Fortunately, Jackie Sue and Kathy were a lot younger and shorter then.
The conventional line on Newt's political ambitions is that he has been single-mindedly determined to gain the Speakership. In fact, he started planning his run for president 20 years ago.
In November 1976, ignoring the minor setback of having just lost his second campaign for Congress, he and his acolytes began to plot a presidential run scheduled for 2000 or 2004. According to a close source, "We were all discussing the timing, his age, working out the one-term and two-term presidencies in between. I think the plan is still going. I think he will be president.
As is his habit, Newt is apparently toying with the notion of accelerating his schedule. So I ask him about some of the scenarios now floating around Washington.
"Some, even your mother, say Bob Dole looks old. By fall he may even look older."
Newt chuckles. He does not defend his fellow Republicans. (Eddie Mahe, one of Newt's advisors, has told me that Newt well understands that it is in his interest to see Bill Clinton re-elected if he doesn't run himself.)
"Some say it's in your interest to have a weak president to kick around for four more years," I propose.
New arches back in mock shock. "Only a city as cynical as Washington could come up with that...I can't imagine anyone who knows me well who would say that. I don't operate that way."
"Suppose," I say to the Speaker, "in late fall the Republicans come to you and say, 'Look, we've got a vacuum, and we really need you to fill this hole.'"
"The last genuine draft for the presidency was in 1789, and he was sitting on Mount Vernon. Think about it this way. This is a moment in time when there's an enormous vacuum, and the baby-boomers know it...We'd better get this country back together again, or they're not going to be able to retire." Newt then verbalizes what sounds like the basis for his own internal debate: "You could spend the next 18 months as one of a number of decent, hardworking people trying to be president, which is an entire job of its own. Or you could spend the same number of months leading 230 other members of the House and framing the environment of the presidential campaign so that the whole team can go in."
Tentatively, he muses that he would probably have a bigger net impact being the Speaker of the House. But in that role he's merely a featured player in the upcoming presidential epic. Wouldn't he rather star as Newt the McPherson? He comes back with bombast --but puts off the choice: "I care about driving and getting this country back together. This country is desperate for leadership."
The General Patton style of leadership which allows Newt to see a hole and drive straight through it does not lend itself to winning friends or building lasting coalitions based on loyalty. His self-confessed people problems --the inability to connect easily with others-- could handicap him in ascending to a higher platform. It may even be a problem already. One of the shrewdest Democratic movers in recent congressional memory defines the Speaker's position in terms of "no depth of loyalty" from his party in Congress. "And he doesn't show loyalty, either."
"Newt read books," says Eddie Mahe. "He doesn't do friendship." Newt's former best friend in Congress, Vin Weber, has also admitted that Newt has problems with interpersonal relationships. "I told him so every day," Weber remarks.