Time once again for our newish weekly (or twice weekly!) series on which public figure--of consequence, please, the latest athlete in trouble or reality star feud doesn't count--has pulled off the most perfidious performance of the week. As ever, the competition is positively Olympian. Fortunately, this week my Herculean task was made ever so slightly easier, because Newt Gingrich (R/Zanyville) opened his mouth.
Always a mistake, Newt. Get used to it.
What's an even bigger mistake is that anyone takes Gingrich seriously, or has since 1994.
This week, the Grinch catapulted himself back into the annals of American idiocy by writing an op-ed for the conservative magazine Human Events. His topic was Karl Rove's new project. For background, having wasted $400 million of other people's money to elect nobody in 2012, Rove has decided to focus his efforts on keeping the crazies from winning Republican primaries. That is, to be sure, an admirable goal. Whether Rove can accomplish it is another story. But Newt, being Newt, thinks it's a bad idea. And in making his argument, he wrote this: "I am unalterably opposed to a bunch of billionaires financing a boss to pick candidates in 50 states. This is the opposite of the Republican tradition of freedom and grassroots small town conservatism. No one person is smart enough nor do they have the moral right to buy nominations across the country."
No, really. He did.
If the mighty battle for the Republican 2012 presidential nomination has already evaporated from your mind--as befits the clown-car show that it was--refresh your memory with this. I'll make it easy for you and show the headline: Adelson Says He Could Give $100 Million More to Help Gingrich.
Yes, in 2012, Gingrich's campaign was almost entirely funded by his own pet billionaire, Sheldon Adelson. And when Gingrich finally, mercifully, gave up his doomed quest, Adelson started throwing money at Mitt Romney. He also threw it at other races and other groups, including Karl Rove's failed PAC, Crossroads GPS.
Maybe the subtlety of Gingrich's message is that he doesn't want a bunch of billionaires calling the shots--he just wants a single billionaire picking the entire government. As long as it's his billionaire.
Newt counts his wives--photo via the San Francsico Chronicle
Laugh-out-loud hypocrisy is nothing new for the Newtster, of course. Remember, this is the guy who was married to one woman and having an affair with another while leading the impeachment of President Clinton for having an extramarital affair. And who explained his occasional lapses (he had started an affair with that second wife while still married to the first--he's nothing if not consistent) thusly: "There's no question at times of my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate."
Now, lest anyone misunderstand, it is and ever shall be the position of this blog that what people do within the confines of their own marriage is between the participants in said marriage, and whatever arrangements or understandings they may or may not make is none of our business. I'm not objecting to Newt's marital trade-ins, only to the rank hypocrisy of impeaching the president for the same thing he was doing himself, and even more, for the unmitigated gall of blaming his wandering Newty-bits on his love of country.
Sorry to all the runners-up this week, but nobody can touch Newt. Well, you know what I mean. Obviously, just about anybody can touch him, but they might want to consider a hazmat suit.
Which brings us to our second egregiously dishonest Republican philanderer of the week, former SC governor Mark Sanford. Sanford's back, running for office again, and he wants us to know that his little journey down the Appalachian Trail (I hear in Brazil they call a Brazilian wax an Appalachian) has made him a better man. In his first ad, Sanford tells us, "I’ve experienced how none of us go through life without mistakes. But in their wake we can learn a lot about grace, a God of second chances, and be the better for it.”
This is the guy, remember, who disappeared from the state of which he was allegedly governor. Nobody in the state--from the people who were paying his salary to those who reported to him--knew where he was. Then word came that he was "hiking the Appalachian Trail." In point of fact, he was in Brazil, conducting his own extramarital affair. Remember, we're not condeming the affair here--apparently he and his wife Jenny were in a trial separation, and she knew about the other woman--we're condemning a governor who simply vanishes from his own state and all his responsibilities therein, and flagrantly lies to the whole world about it, who now wants us to believe that he's a better man for all that lying and screwing around.
If that's the case, Newt Gingrich should forget about the presidency and run for Pope. I hear there's an opening.
Other runners-up have to include our own Senator and Sunday show perennial John McCain, whose head exploded on Meet the Press Sunday when host David Gregory had the gall to ask him what it was he imagined was being covered up by the wealth of information that's been provided to him about the attack in Benghazi last fall. Failing to have an response that made any sense at all, because every question he might raise his been answered many times, McCain instead attacked Gregory. "Do you care, David? Do you care, David? I'm asking you, do you care whether four Americans died? The reasons for that? And shouldn't people be held accountable for the fact that four Americans died, including a very dear man?"
And John McCain again, for being a thoughtless jerk to a grieving mother.
Senator, it's time to go back to your room.
Runners-up also include the professionally ignorant Herman Cain, the truly, stunningly dishonest House Speaker John Boehner, and high-powered pundit David Brooks, who has a column in the New York Times this week in which he announces: "The president hasn’t actually come up with a proposal to avert sequestration." Except, you know, there's this. I'm not sure what's worse, the fact that Brooks can build a column around ignorance of a central fact in it, or the fact that the NYT pays him for it, while I'm writing this for free. (Note: Brooks has already walked back this claim, as he explains in this interview with the Washington Post's Ezra Klein.)
Finally, sadly, the runners-up list this week has to include the American public, of whom, according to the latest Bloomberg poll, only 6% of us can correctly describe the deficit as getting smaller. During Obama's first 4 years in office it shrank by about $300 billion. This year it's projected to be $600 billion smaller than when he took office. Yes, folks, the deficit is going down fast. Given that it's a major topic of national conversation, people should be aware of that.
Also, apologies to Marco Rubio, whose streak in this series has been broken. This week, Marco, you did absolutely nothing of note. Which pretty much sums up your legislative record, come to think of it.
In the counter-list, of people doing good things, here's a worthwhile piece of writing from Republican Josh Barro, in which he argues that Republicans might want to consider accepting that some things are just plain true. And that the nation would do better with a two-party system in which neither of the parties is flat-out insane. Give it a read.
And finally, here's former Utah governor and ambassador to China Jon Huntsman coming out in support of marriage equality. Huntsman writes, "The party of Lincoln should stand with our best tradition of equality and support full civil marriage for all Americans." He's 100-percent correct.