Newt Gingrich’s rage at the news media in Thursday night’s debate was delicious, understandable, crowd-pleasing and wholly overdone.
His over-the-top combativeness may, paradoxically, help boost him to the top in today’s South Carolina primary – but also ultimately may be the end of him.
We agree, in principle, when he says, “The destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country, harder to attract decent people to run for public office.” The tone set by the media – and the double standard in which Republicans are subject to vivisection while Bill Clinton remains a rock star and much of Barack Obama’s past is a closed book – is a growing problem for civil, civic America.
But if Gingrich’s umbrage felt good, it didn’t feel all that right.
For one thing, it was a completely legitimate line of questioning by CNN’s John King, one of the fairest members of the broadcast media: That Gingrich’s second wife, Marianne, alleged in an ABC-TV interview that Gingrich had asked her to have “an open marriage” in order for him to philander with the woman who ultimately became his third wife – well, that was simply the big news of the day.
Gingrich’s righteous anger at being asked about it right out of the chute at the debate was also a bit much; what difference does it make when it’s asked? It’s possible King could have waited until later, only to be accused of lying in wait. And again, it was the breaking news of the campaign.
The major media are biased; they have made a mess of the campaign; they are hurting the country by tugging the national dialogue into the sewer. But in this particular case, Gingrich has nothing to complain about. How could he not have known his past wives might be an issue?
Conservatives feel under siege by a hostile media.
We appreciate someone finally standing up for us with a modicum of courage.
But Mr. Gingrich just came off looking imperious in his rumbling anger Thursday night. How might he deflect the even greater flak that comes with being president – by constantly returning fire?
Asked Thursday night what he would’ve done differently in the campaign, Gingrich basically said he would’ve avoided being handled by political consultants at the start of his bid. Well, he sure needed a consultant Thursday night.
A little less indignation and a little more contrition might have helped his former wife’s charges blow over.
But his pugnaciousness – while it played well for the cameras and may even help him today – ensured the issue won’t go away anytime soon, and might hurt him in the long run.
Upon reflection along the winding campaign trail, conservatives may, once their own anger at the media subsides, conclude that the former Mrs. Gingrich’s allegations are actually quite grievous and not to be discounted in the emotions of the moment.
Especially for a political party grasping onto quaint values as one might hug a tree in a hurricane.
There may be a media double standard for Democrats and Republicans. However unfair, the tougher standard is still preferable.