A new Gingrich television ad in Florida asked: “What kind of man would mislead, distort and deceive just to win an election?” The answer is “Milt Romney,” Gingrich’s major opponent for the Presidential nomination who seems to have Newt on the ropes in Florida. We might expect the ad to have come from the Romney camp!
For those of us who are not irony impaired, this quote takes the cake. The man who seemed to be taking pages out of Goebbel’s manual of instruction as he brought political discourse to a new low criticizes his opponent for deception and distortion. This is indeed the pot calling the kettle black. But name-calling and hypocrisy are nothing new in politics, as we know. They go back to the beginnings of politics in this country and we inherited the practice from ancient Athens, though the Greeks didn’t have popular elections as we do now. In any event, they are the ones who invented the notion of “civic virtue,” so we can guess their politics were a bit more sedate than ours. The English also know how to throw around the nasty epithets during their elections. But they always seem to manage to spice them up with wit and even with charm, not to mention a deep sense of history. And the combatants would usually end up going to the pub for a pint after it was all over. And while in this country political contests have always been hot and heavy, there seemed to be a line between nasty and vicious that was never crossed — until Newt. Gingrich has indeed removed all restraint from political discourse during his long political life, and one wonders why he doesn’t applaud his opponent for learning from the master.
But there are a number of ironies in this political year besides Gingrich complaining about his opponent’s tactics. To begin with, we have an American president who is happily married with two lovely children. One of his opponents is a divorced man whose former wife has stated in public that the man should never be elected president. Yes, it’s Gingrich again who is running as a member of the party that stands for “family values,” whatever that means. Indeed, after Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich the phrase begins to lose all meaning. Whatever they were once meant to convey, the words “family values” clearly no longer stand against multiple marriage, deception, and illegitimate children in one’s immediate family.
One gets the feeling we are in for a long and ugly fight for the Presidency in this country. Again. But this time, the limits on corporate spending have been lifted and the money will really start to flow in both directions as the election nears. Taking the cap off political spending will simply give the wealthy more power. And those of us who just want to watch TV uninterrupted and have a little peace of mind will just have to endure the noise and mud-slinging. The mute will help, but it doesn’t make the problem go away.
One gets the feeling that much of the incivility we hear in political debates simply echoes the “discussions” on TV involving sports analysts and news reporters, the “talking heads” who seem to be in a contest with one another to see who can shout the loudest. Pardon the interruption. Fiddlesticks! That would be civil discourse and that disappeared with black and white TV. We now have a new world of bare-knuckles political battering and it will be ugly. The one pleasant thought is that Newt Gingrich seems to be on his way out and we may not have to listen to him much longer. That would be a good thing.