Nancy Pelosi’s “attack” on Stephen Colbert and his Super PAC is the cleverest marketing the Democrats have done since the 1964 daisy ad linking the Republican Presidential nominee with nuclear war.  Yes, it’s been a long dry spell; but let’s be grateful for this particular bit of rain.  If nothing else it disproves the canard that feminists don’t have a sense of humor.

How much does Newt Gingrich hate Mitt Romney?

Enough to drop out and leave him head-to-head against Santorum? Now *that* would be a dirty trick.

Mitt Romney and his SuperPac not only destroyed Newt Gingrich’s campaign, they assassinated his character: with a little bit of help, of course, from Newton Leroy himself. The Gingrich campaign, having morphed from a book tour into a serious run (for one brief, scary moment) at the Presidency, has now been transformed again, this time into a revenge drama.

But just how angry is Gingrich?

Is he angry enough, for example, to withdraw from the race, putting Romney in the position that was always Romney’s nightmare: head to head against a single extremist? Now that would be a low blow.

Santorum’s surge after Tuesday’s hat trick – he’s now even with, or even ahead of, Romney in national polls of Republicans – shows, for about he fourth time, how badly most of the GOP base doesn’t want Mitt Romney as the nominee: they’d coalesce around Hannibal Lecter if he were the clear alternative.

Santorum, with fewer wives than Gingrich and a less spectacular history of influence-peddling, simply does not present the same target-rich environment that Gingrich does in the context of a Republican primary. Even without the big bucks, Santorum might make a race of it, if it came down to a choice simple enough for even a Tea Partier to understand.

I don’t think this will happen, for the same reason that Bill Clinton missed the chance to take his revenge by resigning in early 1999, which would have stirred up sympathy for Clinton and rage against his foes while allowing Gore to campaign as the incumbent. Yes, Gingrich cherishes his grudges; but it will probably turn out that he cherishes his media appearances even more.


Is Gingrich or Romney the true heir of Reagan? Depends on which aspect of Reagan’s legacy you regard as central.

So Gingrich and Romney are fighting over which one is the true heir of Ronald Reagan. (And Sarah Palin thinks the Romneyites and the media are being mean to poor widdle Newtie.) Seems to me that depends on which aspect of the Reagan legacy you’re counting.

If you liked the idea of running a cocaine-dealing operation out of the White House basement, then Romney the CEO should be the better bet. But if what you really admire is selling weapons to Iran to finance an illegal war in Nicaragua, that’s the kind of hare-brained scheme that comes naturally to Gingrich but would never occur to Romney.

But the real essence of Reagan, it seems to me, was his post-modernism. Remember the woman who bought an orange with Food Stamps and a bottle of vodka with the change? Utterly impossible, of course. But that didn’t matter to Reagan; it was a good line, and he read it well, and its truth-value was utterly irrelevant.

In that regard, Romney wins the Reagan Look-Alike Contest hands-down. Gingrich tells his share of whoppers, but you get the sense (at least I do) that he knows he’s lying, and feels slightly bad about it. Romney, like Reagan, seems to regard politics as a truth-free zone, where you can say “I approve this message” one day and claim you never heard it the next, without even blushing.

Good news and bad news

Glad to see that Cayman Islands bank accounts are worse than serial adultery in the eyes of Republican voters; less glad to see that a single billionaire can transform the race for the Presidency by writing a check to a super-PA for money he’ll never miss.

In a Southern Republican primary, adultery turned out to be less of a burden for a candidate than Cayman Islands bank accounts. That reflects a clearer moral sense than I would have credited Southern Republicans with.

On the other side of the ledger, a single billionaire donating $5 million to a Super-PAC completely turned the campaign around in a week. $5M is chump change compared to the stakes in the American Presidency. If unlimited amounts of untraceable cash are going to be sloshing around, there’s no way to prevent the Chinese government, or the Iranian government, or the Saudi government, from playing the game. It isn’t hard for government-sized operations to channel the relevant amounts of money to U.S.-based corporations under their effective control.

Sheldon Adelson made most of his billions in Macao, which is Chinese territory; you can believe that Adelson’s political activities are immune from Chinese pressure if you like, but you can’t reasonably doubt that if China needed a tame U.S. billionaire it could easily create one. Campaign finance reform sounds like a boring topic, but fixing it in the wake of Citizens United isn’t just a matter of asserting democratic values over plutocratic ones; it’s a matter of national sovereignty and national security.

A flash of the truth

Charles Krauthammer on Newt Gingrich:

Gingrich has a self-regard so immense that it rivals Obama’s — but, unlike Obama’s, is untamed by self-discipline

During primary season, Republicans take a break from their primary activity of lying about Democrats and start lying about one another. Even better, sometimes they actually tell the truth.

Here’s Charles Krauthammer on Newt Gingrich:


Gingrich has a self-regard so immense that it rivals Obama’s — but, unlike Obama’s, is untamed by self-discipline.

Of course Krauthammer is no fool: he understands that Romney could give Obama a run while Gingrich would give him an easy gallop home.

Don’t worry: once the general election starts, Krauthammer will become, once again, incapable of perceiving the President’s virtues.



The big winner in the Republican debates …

… is Caligula’s horse Incitatus, no longer the gold standard for distinction beyond merit.

… has clearly been Caligula’s horse Incitatus.

For close on two millennia the poor beast, the victim of his master’s insane (or perhaps jocular) intention to make him Consul, has been a proverb for those offered for posts beyond their capacities. Here, for example, is John Randolph of Roanoke on John Quincy Adams’s choice of Richard Rush as Secretary of the Treasury:

Never were abilities so much below mediocrity so well rewarded; no, not when Caligula’s horse was made Consul.

As a result of the Republican debates, we can now give the innocent Incitatus – who never, after all, ran for Consul, or even galloped for it – a rest. Perry, Bachmann, Cain, Gingrich, and Santorum are all clearly less qualified for the office they seek than a horse would have been to serve as Consul. The Presidency, unlike the Consulate under the Emperors, still has real functions.

And at least Caligula proposed the entire horse.