Dover Bitch

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Gingrich and Carter

CNN is talking about Newt Gingrich's latest comments in The New Yorker:

The appointment of a war czar four years after the invasion of Iraq has struck some as a late and insufficient response to the crisis, and has been a reminder that the Administration, ever since its halting response to Hurricane Katrina, has been judged harshly on questions of competence. Newt Gingrich is one of those who fear that Republicans have been branded with the label of incompetence. He says that the Bush Administration has become a Republican version of the Jimmy Carter Presidency, when nothing seemed to go right. "It's just gotten steadily worse," he said. "There was some point during the Iranian hostage crisis, the gasoline rationing, the malaise speech, the sweater, the rabbit"—Gingrich was referring to Carter's suggestion that Americans wear sweaters rather than turn up their thermostats, and to the "attack" on Carter by what cartoonists quickly portrayed as a "killer rabbit" during a fishing trip—"that there was a morning where the average American went, 'You know, this really worries me.' " He added, "You hire Presidents, at a minimum, to run the country well enough that you don't have to think about it, and, at a maximum, to draw the country together to meet great challenges you can't avoid thinking about." Gingrich continued, "When you have the collapse of the Republican Party, you have an immediate turn toward the Democrats, not because the Democrats are offering anything better, but on a 'not them' basis. And if you end up in a 2008 campaign between 'them' and 'not them,' 'not them' is going to win."


Not since Watergate, Gingrich said, has the Republican Party been in such desperate shape. "Let me be clear: twenty-eight-per-cent approval of the President, losing every closely contested Senate seat except one, every one that involved an incumbent—that's a collapse. I mean, look at the Northeast. You can't be a governing national party and write off entire regions." For this disarray he blames not only Iraq and Hurricane Katrina but also Karl Rove's "maniacally dumb" strategy in 2004, which left Bush with no political capital. "All he proved was that the anti-Kerry vote was bigger than the anti-Bush vote," Gingrich said. He continued, "The Bush people deliberately could not bring themselves to wage a campaign of choice"—of ideology, of suggesting that Kerry was "to the left of Ted Kennedy"—and chose instead to attack Kerry's war record.

Let me begin by saying I couldn't care less about Gingrich's perspective on anything.

What I do find interesting is that CNN chose to air Jimmy Carter's recent comments about Bush while reporting on Gingrich:

JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think, as far as the adverse impact on our nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in -- worst in history.

It's no surprise to hear Gingrich disparaging Carter, of course, and only marginally surprising to hear him rip the Bush Administration. Check that, it's not surprising at all. Especially in light of the fact that he is simultaneously claiming that a smart GOP candidate will distance himself from Bush, as French President Nicolas Sarkozy distanced himself from Jacques Chirac.

But I'm devoting some blog space to this story for one reason: To highlight the difference between Gingrich's and Carter's comments. Carter was complaining about the damage Bush has done to America and the world. Gingrich is "really worried" about Bush's effect on the GOP. For Gingrich, the victims of Iraq and Katrina are the potential Republican members of the electoral college.

Tough luck, Newt. That's what happens when the guiding principle of your party is to prove that government is ineffective.

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