Newt Gingrich loses his luster to Rick Santorum Newt Gingrich loses his luster to Rick Santorum

GOP Debate: Newt Goes Nuclear

Newt Gingrich showed in the GOP Debate how to fight: they bring a bazooka, you bring a nuke. CNN’s John King couldn’t even take shelter before Newt turned him into radioactive dust. Thus Newt gave his audience just a taste of how he would treat The Man Now Holding Office As President in a debate.

GOP Debate Highlight and Lowlight

The Chicago Sun-Times has a complete transcript. The highlight of the GOP debate followed the lowlight. Moderator John King opened with a question about Newt’s second wife telling ABC News that Newt wanted an “open marriage.” Then he asked Newt whether he would like to take time to answer that. Newt’s answer:

No. But I will.

That was as much warning as Newt gave. Then it began:

I think 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. And I am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that.

That wasn’t all. Gingrich, to loud cheers and hand-clapping, told King how much he despised him for taking up valuable debate time with the question. King then protested that the interview would run on a different network. Gingrich was having none of that:

John, John, it was repeated by your network.

Then, stabbing an accusing finger at King, he went on:

You chose to start the debate with it. Don’t try to blame somebody else. You and your staff chose to start this debate with that.

And even that wasn’t the nuclear event. That came when Newt said that the open-marriage story was—false! And worse, ABC knew it was false. Thus Newt reminded the country of something that the CNN and ABC executives forgot: this is classic he said/she said hearsay, with no physical evidence, and hence no foundation.

King then tried to call for allies. Gingrich’s rivals were having none of that. Mitt Romney said it best:

John, let’s get on to the real issues, is all I’ve got to say.

The last judgment on the GOP debate, as against ABC’s Nightline program featuring the second Mrs. Newt, will have to come from A. C. Nielsen.

GOP Debate Awards

The Shovel Award

Mitt Romney, contender in the GOP debate
Former Governor Mitt Romney at a townhall in Sun Lakes, Arizona. Photo: Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic License

Mitt Romney recovered his shovel, but barely. As ever, he won it by default. His tax return is still his most vulnerable point. John King nearly scored against him by remind him that Mitt’s father George released twelve years of tax returns in 1968. The elder Romney said that one year would be a fluke, but twelve would set a reliable pattern. Mitt replied that he would release his tax information once, so that the media wouldn’t pick on him about it over several weeks of releases. The problem: Gingrich had already released his income-tax returns an hour earlier.

But Romney did turn his problem into an opportunity:

I’m going to be able to talk to President Obama in a way no one else can that’s in this race right now, about how the free economy works, what it takes to put Americans back to work, and make sure he understands that this divisiveness and dividing Americans between 99 and 1 is dangerous. We are one nation under God.

And later:

I’m someone who believes in free enterprise. I think Adam Smith was right, and I’m going to stand and defend capitalism across this country, throughout this campaign. I know we’re going to hit it hard from President Obama, but we’re going to stuff it down his throat and point out it is capitalism and freedom that makes America strong.

The Bucket Award

Newt Gingrich showed that he could not only catch it but throw it back, and hard enough to hurt as well as smell. Moderator King got the worst of it. But Rick Santorum risked it himself when he said that Newt tended to be “grandiose” in his dreams. Newt replied:

You’re right: I think grandiose thoughts. This is a grandiose country of big people doing big things, and we need leadership prepared to take on big projects.

The Bullet Dodge

Ron Paul, contender in the GOP debate
Representative Ron Paul (R-TX-14). Photo: US House of Representatives

This award goes to Ron Paul. A GOP debate that began with gossip (and possibly lying gossip, at that) did not touch on foreign policy at all. So Ron Paul found no traps to fall into this time.

Instead, Moderator King tried to ignore him at one point. But Ron Paul proved that his supporters can show up at a GOP debate and heckle the moderator when they need to, in addition to knocking on doors. King asked Romney to discuss his position on abortion (“the life issue”). That led to a lengthy back-and-forth between Romney and Gingrich, with Santorum often weighing in. King then tried to move on to the next question, and Ron Paul’s supporters shouted at him to recognize Paul. And Paul said:

John, once again, it’s a medical subject, and I’m a doctor, you know!

Paul made two points:

  1. Trying to deny funding for abortions is useless, because “funds are fungible.” That is, if you pay for one activity, you pay for all.
  2. Abortion should be a State matter, not federal, because States have jurisdiction over crimes and other acts of violence.

Rick Santorum disputed Paul on that point, but never laid a proper foundation. In fact, Ron Paul is correct. The federal government never prosecutes a murder, apart from special circumstances like “on a government reservation” or “on the high seas” or “an act of terrorism.” The District Court in Washington, DC hears simple criminal cases, but the Constitution gives clear authority for that:

The Congress shall have the power…to exercise exclusive legislation, in all cases whatsoever, over [the] District [that is] the seat of government.

The Decision

Newt Gingrich at CPAC Florida. Winner of the Jan 19 GOP debate.
Newt Gingrich at the CPAC conference in Orlando, FL, September, 2011

This GOP debate had no obvious knock-outs, unless one counts Moderator John King. Rick Santorum had several chances to shine, but didn’t. Ron Paul made no big mistakes, but no one led him to. (He did make some well-placed remarks about gold-standard banking, but no one beyond his own supporters noticed.)

Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich were the top contenders in the GOP debate, as they are in the GOP race. Mitt wisely avoided the issue of Newt’s background (though none of Newt’s remaining rivals have had more than one wife). But he still sounded defensive on the tax-return issue, though he should have no reason to. (Or at least, none that anyone knows about for certain.)

Newt Gingrich had all the good comeback lines, against the moderator at first, and then against The Man Now Holding Office As President. This riddle is the prize example:

Why is President Obama for young people [staying] on their parents’ insurance until 26? Because he can’t get any jobs for them to go out and buy their own insurance.

In other words: never consider one policy in a vacuum. One cannot script a riddle like that. And that Barack H. Obama, who cannot speak in public without a TelePrompTer, could compose such a line on-the-fly, is nearly unimaginable.

For these reasons, the decision in the January 19 GOP debate goes to Newt Gingrich. Now South Carolina’s Republican voters will decide whether this is enough.

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Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.

candidate, constitutional law, election, gold, healthcare reform, politicians, president


Terry A. Hurlbut

Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.

Comments (10)

  • John King was low-down and dirty for opening the debate with this. The lib extremist media know that this is old news, revisited.

    As to Newt’s former wife:

    What a bitter appearing person! It’s downright shameful for this ex to spill her guts of bitterness after 13 years – especially, at this time. And, of course there is the familiar lap dogging media which is more than ready to air this dirty laundry. Somehow, Americans never hear the media report anything like this about Obama’s past. Do we even have to wonder why? Go figure….

    One has to be very suspicious about Newt’s ex. After 10 years, and she is still carrying on with such bitterness – so much so that she will do what she can to spill her bitterness guts to the media?

    As to the bitter media scratching of New’t ex, and those who air her scornful story in order to discourage people from voting for Newt; voters should remind themselves that they, too, are sinners.

    As an emeritus pastor, Newt’s public admission of his past marital sins is good enough for me. I’d rather have a repentant Catholic Christian for president than a Mormon, whose church beliefs have their followers owning, ruling and reigning on their own celestial planet in the hereafter. America needs someone with better character than that type of fanatic.

    Finally, chances are, that you will never hear a Christian sermon that lays out the New Testament Scriptural principle (based on 1 Corinthians 7:1f) about the conjugal (sexual) reciprocating responsibilities in a marriage.

    Usually the husband will be blamed for the marriage end, when, in fact, it is the wife who greatly aggravates the marriage, precipitating the divorce by withholding her conjugal responsibilities in the marriage to her husband. Who knows in this case? [Also, it can go both ways] But, be that as it may, I ask myself the question: “If Newt’s wife is stooping this low (now) to bad mouth him after 13 years with her bitterness, I would not be surprised if she shared equal responsibility in the divorce. Anyway, it is obvious that Newt has moved on; his ex, has not.

    13 years have past? Come on now! Who’s paying her off?

    • What an amazing display of “blame the victim”. It’s clear that many people are looking for a viable “not Romney” option in this race, but that shouldn’t require that common sense and judgment be set aside to make Newt Gingrich look less flawed than he is.

      Gingrich is the serial adulterer, who was cheating with Callista Bisek for six years whle posing as a values-based conservative to the public. At the time he was alleged to have asked for an open marriage, he was the active Speaker of the House – is it really that out of character for someone selfish and deceptive enough to commit adultery for over half a decade to have the gall to ask for permission to continue the affair discreetly?

      It’s fine to think that Gingrich, for all his flaws and failings, would make a better president than any of the other candidates. People just need to be honest in assessing those flaws, instead of attacking the people he’s wronged in his life for sharing the stories of those events.

  • I would really love to see Newt take on Obama in a debate. Obama is a great speaker, but I don’t think he’s as “quick on his feet” as Newt in a debate situation. My estimate is that Newt would pretty much tear Obama up.

    • Well done on Gingrich’s part. Although I have to disagree with his assessment of the media. The media makes these absurd stories into a big deal not because they are protecting Obama, but because they thrive on sensationalism. In today’s 24 hour news cycle, the more controversial a story is, the more viewers they will get. That’s a fact. Unfortunately for anyone trying to have civilized political debate, there are a lot of people who adore gossip, even if they wont admit it.

      Geno, this was from two years ago:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w1-jasxb7NY

      Obama took questions from GOP members of the House. He reads from some notes at the beginning, but following that he answered every question from House members on the fly. No teleprompter.

      • The problem is: the media are peculiarly selective as to what sort of “sensation” they want to promote. I can think of a few “sensational” allegations about Barack Obama that the MSM have no interest in pursuing. They still gate-keep, they behave as if they, and they alone, are the arbiters of “all the news that’s fit to print (and show),” and the long for the “good old days”: when no one dared or even could question them.

  • Call me cynical, but if this was Fox reporting on Obama’s affairs, you’d all be cheering to the rafters. Which you do for the gossip about his birth certificate.

    The fact remains that Newt keeps touting himself as a paragon of traditional marriage, whereas in reality he is nothing of the sort. He is a serial cheater. Unless there’s some definition of traditional marriage I don’t know about. Clearly the “til death do us part” doesn’t apply to him.

    Then again, I can understand why people are rooting for Newt, because given the competition he’s up against…

  • “I can think of a few “sensational” allegations about Barack Obama that the MSM have no interest in pursuing.”

    Mostly because they’re completely bogus and let’s face it, birtherism is the David Icke of the 2010s.

    Also, why shouldn’t they run a news story on prominent public figure, who’s running for top office? Especially when it calls his values into question.

    If this was Obama, and the media didn’t run, you’d be screaming for blood. Admit it.

    It works both ways, even for the people you like, who happen to have clay feet.

    • Actually, the sensations I have in mind go far beyond his birthplace or parentage.

      But at the moment, I think his policies, and his overall policy intentions, are sensational enough.

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