Watching the top Republican 2012 presidential candidates blow up almost every other day has been entertaining, but the issues are very serious. The latest rising GOPer in the polls is Newt Gingrich and he should be preparing for his next debate on CNN Tuesday,(Saturday's debate live streamed@CitizenLink.com.) with a lot of confidence and momentum even with his past since the field is so fractured among the conservative base. Instead, he's on the defensive because while he attacked everything and everyone (Barney Frank, Chris Dodd) involved with F&F including the idea that Fannie was the real cause of the global financial meltdown, he never revealed that he was taking 1.6 million dollars from the mortgage giant. His response to the controversy is to make believe that he was just a lowly adviser instead of a lobbyist, but no matter how he frames it, he's become part of the BIG problem that he so eloquently proposed to Bill O'Reilly. Andrea Mitchell has been covering Newt since he stepped onto the stage in the 1990's and isn't being fooled by his defense.
Mitchell played excerpts of Newt appearing with Bill O'Reilly from 2008 and as Mitchell says, he never admitted that he was on the same payroll that Gingrich was slamming the Washington Beltway of being bought and paid for by F&F's money and power.(rough transcript)
Mitchell: Newt Gingrich's ties to Fannie and Freddie could spell big trouble among republicans who blame F&F for the housing crisis. In Iowa today Gingrich was already questioned twice about new reports that his company earned 1.6 million dollars for advising the mortgage giant.
Newt: I did no lobbying at any time and had no interest in doing lobbying..
Mitchell: This is not what he wanted to be talking about today in Iowa?
Cillizza: No Andrea, it's definitely not and you know I get what Newt Gingrich is trying to do, it's what he did in the CNBC when he was confronted about some of the fees he was charging Freddie Mac. He's trying to say, yes I got paid these as a strategic consultant, but no I never lobbied because he knows lobbying is a very dirty word in politics at this point, but I would say is for voters is that a distinction without a difference or not. Most people are not paid whether through their company or any other way 1.6 million dollars for anything so I think it gets him off message. It reminds people that this is someone who has spent a long time in Washington, someone who has been around the block. Someone who's not a great fit for the outsider candidate that appears to be what the conservatives want.
Mitchell: What he said to John Hardwood at the CNBC debate was that he had been advising them to do the right thing and giving then good advice, this is what NG had to say on Bill O'Reilly back in 2008 when the issue of F&F came up:
Gingrich: What you have today is the rich in Wall street and the powerful of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac has so many politicians beholding to them that in fact nobody was going to check them and they got away with things that were absolutely baloney and it's a tragedy.
Mitchell: I don't see him disclosing he was one of the recipient's of the largesse from Freddie Mac.
Cillizza:....but this is a specific example of why being around politics for so long, being a pundit, you know NG after he left Congress n 1998 and spent a long time as a pundit...it comes back to bite you and it's coming back to bite him here because I guarantee you that's not the only clip that has NG speaking about F&F without disclosing his payments there.
Andrea didn't stop there. She also nailed Newt on his vicious attacks of Chris Dodd and Barney Frank. Gingrich always gets a big applause response when he tells the GOP debate audience that he wants to arrest Frank and Dodd. He just lost his big punch line now.
Mitchell:....this is what he is said to say when he was going after Chris Dodd for supposed, his connections to F&F and not regulating them enough. This is again O'Reilly back in September of 2008.
Newt: I mean this is a guy who is totally in with Wall Street and all the people in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and they have paid his campaigns, they have given him money, they have put him in a position of power and now he's going to turn around and write a bill to give them money? There's something profoundly wrong about the current system.
Mitchell: The new disclosures about the amount of money whether it's Newt Gingrich or the Gingrich company, we have yet to find out from his campaign how much money he made as the chief operating officer in principle presumably of The Gingrich Group whether, he shouldn't have been disclosing the fact that he was already on the Freddie Mac payroll at that time he was going on after Chris Dodd?
Cillizza: And you know Andrea I think it reminds people what they do not like in politicians, which is any sense of hypocrisy. I think that's the worst thing you can be labeled as a flip flopper. It hurt john Kerry in 2004 badly. It hurt Mitt Romney badly in 2008 and people don't like the sense that you are saying things just to be politic.....to the casual observer what this looks like is he was critiquing something, he was taking money for it, he didn't disclose it. It just feels wrong....this whole story as it relates to NG affirms that he is and has long been a part of Washington which is not a very good story line for him.
John Kerry was smeared unfairly by his opponents over a vote on Iraq war funding. Romney's whole career is one of flip flopping and about changing his positions as soon as he wins or loses elections and Newt has been caught red handed of being a hypocrite, a crook and a liar by his conservative base. There's plenty more to uncover on Newt and Andrea did not play games with newt. Chris was pretty hard on him as well.
(h/t Heather for video)