Missed opportunity

Mitt Romney leads with his chin; Gingrich goes into a defensive crouch.

On ill-considered impulse, I decided to subject myself to the CNN Republican debate Thursday night. Pretty appalling, all around. Even the joy of watching Republicans form a good old-fashioned Democratic circular firing squad couldn’t making up for the dreariness of living – even for only two hours – in the dim-witted, ignorant, insular, fact-free, hate-filled universe that all four candidates seem to imagine that their voters’ minds inhabit.

The high point was Romney’s denying any knowledge of an ad accusing Gingrich of calling Spanish “the language of the ghetto.” That turned out to be Romney’s own campaign ad, ending with his voice saying, “Soy Mitt Romney … apruebo este mensaje.”

Amazingly, the moderator called him on it. Romney then turned to Gingrich and asked whether the accusation in the ad was true, and Gingrich replied weakly that the comment attributed to him had been taken out of context.

What a missed opportunity! L’esprit de l’escalier is always 20-20, but what if Gingrich had turned to Romney and said:

“Is it true?” “Is … it … true?” You put up an ad accusing me of insulting tens of millions of Americans, and said you approved of it, and now you’re asking me whether it’s true? You didn’t bother to find out first?

Tell you what, Mitt. I’ll bet you a million dollars I have never used “Spanish” and “language of the ghetto” in the same sentence. Do we have a bet?

Gingrich’s problem was that the Romney ad was only mostly a lie. What Gingrich had in fact said was “We should replace bilingual education with immersion in English, so people learn the common language of the country and so they learn the language of prosperity, not the language of living in a ghetto.”

That’s not a foolish thing to say. And in the original sense of the term “ghetto” – an ethnic enclave in a city – it’s not even an insult.

It’s only because Kenneth Clark’s use of “dark ghetto” to refer to segregated African-American neighborhoods, and the subsequent deterioration of life in those places, has given “ghetto” the connotation “violent slum,” that Gingrich’s comment, applied to the Spanish language, implied that all those in this country whose primary language is Spanish are slum dwellers, speaking a gutter argot.

But of course Gingrich, speaking to the DAR-ish National Federation of Republican Women, more or less intended the ethnic insult, as he more or less intends all the subtly-racist crap he’s been spewing this year. He just intended it to apply to Mexican-Americans in Los Angeles and Puerto Ricans in New York, rather than Cuban-American Republicans in Miami.

Too bad. If Gingrich had been as calmly unconcerned with the truth as Romney always is, he could have truly rattled Romney, rather than merely rattling his cage.

As the cheese-eating welfare-state surrender monkeys say, L’audace! Toujours l’audace!

Footnote Santorum was the one who nailed Romney, and nailed him good, on “Obamneycare.” But I’m not sure anyone was listening, and Santorum’s attack applied to Gingrich as well. Somehow it seems unfair that Santorum gets no benefit of really believing, or at least having consistently pretended to believe, all of the nonsense (the individual mandate is unconstitutional, global warming is a hoax) they’re all now spouting in unison. If I could only find the World’s Smallest Violin …

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

8 thoughts on “Missed opportunity”

  1. Newt’s backing those lobbyists right now. Ex politicians turned Lobbyists are the ones that get all of the Homeland Security / bogus war on terror / Defense contracts that are bankrupting us. This was Newt & the boys PNAC agenda. How do ya justify a Pentagon budget that went from 297 billion a year in 2001, to 600+ billion a year today? Add in the cost of the wars & the Homeland Security / bogus WOT crap, and we’re pissing away like 1 trillion a year. He’s backing those oil-stain lobbyists, too.

  2. “…in the dim-witted, ignorant, insular, fact-free, hate-filled universe that all four candidates seem to imagine that their voters’ minds inhabit.”

    It’s not like the candidates don’t have any empirical reason to believe their minds are actually thus…

  3. “Santorum was the one who nailed Romney, and nailed him good, on “Obamneycare.” But I’m not sure anyone was listening, and Santorum’s attack applied to Gingrich as well.”

    But Santorum was completely wrong on substance and Romney actually told the truth, for once. This is not “government-run healthcare”–either in MassHealth or in ACA. There is no government involvement in providing services. Gingrich knows this, Romney knows this, but they continue to attack Obama on it. Santorum, quite possible, is too dumb to understand the difference and just parrots what his advisers tell him. And if he does understand it, he’s no different from the other two lying idiots.

    Worse, Gingrich completely dissembled on the healthcare question, although he was the only one who actually addressed the question asked. In all but the name he advocated for universal healthcare. Look at the tape again. He argued that insurance should attach to the person, not the employer. But he never said who should pay for it. The other three responses to the question by an unemployed woman were completely idiotic, even for this bunch.

  4. Thank you for “going in” and returning sane with a cogent report about the madness called Republican politics.

  5. It’s turning out that Santorum supported the individual mandate in 1994 as well.

    It’s worth remembering that this is exactly how message machines work. The think tank (Heritage) comes up with the idea, and then the party distributes the idea and everyone repeats it. This is why during the Obamacare debate, every GOP politician was advocating “health insurance sold across state lines” (which wasn’t an accurate description of the proposal (which was allowing health insurers to comply with whatever state had the laxest regulations and then allowing them to sell all over the country exempted from other states’ laws), but it was the way they all said it).

    So I doubt you’re going to find too many Republicans who were in politics in 1994 who didn’t support the individual mandate.

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