Thursday, May 26, 2011

Dead candidacy walking

By Carl 

Do you hear the deafening silence generated about the current crop of Republican Presidential candidates?

Indeed, the only buzz about anybody from the right lately has been from two people who are most distinctly UNcandidates: Donald Trump and Sarah Palin.

Newt Gingrich could have generated the kind of buzz that a nominee engenders. He really does have a pretty substantial resume for a candidate, on face: Speaker of the House, author, professor, engineered the Contract With America which was one of the biggest political gambles in history and one on which he placed a winning bet (none of this speaks to the value and/or quality of that resume, you will note.)

Which makes the curious collapse of this shnook's current candidacy all the more mystifying.

The latest? A charge of graft has been levelled at Callista Gingrich, some of which has landed on Newt himself.

Here's the curious bit: how clumsily his staff have tried to spin this: 

Update: I just spoke to Newt Gingrich’s press secretary, Rick Tyler. He said that the deal the Gingriches got was the same one that Tiffany’s offers to anybody else: interest free financing for 12 months. And that all debt with Tiffany’s was paid off within a 12-month period. If there was hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt outstanding for a second consecutive year, which there was, then that was new debt, associated with new jewelry purchases.

Now, as others have said in other places with respect to this story, no one is telling Newt how to spend his money. He wants to buy a half million in jewelry for his trophy wife, that's fine. So is paying for plastic surgery (if you look closely at her). Nothing wrong with that. It's the American way.

What IS wrong is this:

At the same time Tiffany & Co. was extending Callista (Bisek) Gingrich a virtual interest-free loan of tens of thousands of dollars, the diamond and silverware firm was spending big bucks to influence mining policy in Congress and in agencies over which the House Agriculture Committee -- where she worked -- had jurisdiction, official records show.

Filings by Tiffany's lobbyist, Cassidy & Co., and other government records show that the firm's spending on "mining law and mine permitting-related issues" in Congress, as well as the Forest Service, the Interior Department, and Interior's Bureau of Land Management shot up sharply between during the period when Callista Gingrich was chief clerk at the House Agriculture Committee. 

Spy Talk's figures are grossly understated, but you get the drift. There's more than the hint of quid pro quo here. Tiffany does yeoman business in silver. Callista Gingrich's golddigging appetite is for Tiffany jewelry. Newt swaps his wife's work for a couple of diamond necklaces, with no-interest financing.

Now perhaps it's true. I have a credit rating that would qualify me for one of those loans, and I do get such courtesies from other places I shop, like Apple. I don't think I've blown $500,000 on any of those, though.

Now, this story could easily have gone away quietly. You point out that it's not her job any longer, this thing ended in 2006, that under a Gingrich presidency she'll be under much more scrutiny, and that she will never ever do it again. Or words to that effect. People had problems with Hillary being an advocate and a feminist and while she never got around to baking cookies (she did publish her recipe, tho), you go the hint that she wouldn't cause a whole lot of trouble for Bill.

Which proved more true than vice versa.

The kicker, in my opinion, the deathblow in the great videogame that is the Presidential primary process, was Newt saying this on Sunday: 

The way Mr. Gingrich sees it, as he said on "Face the Nation" on Sunday, he's "a guy running for president who pays all of his bills," who lives within his budget and who is in fact "very frugal."

The way some voters out in the rest of America might see it, he's a guy who paid more for jewelry than some people pay for their houses. 

Precisely. No one begrudges Trump his wealth, for example, even if it is built on debt and on the forgiveness of Americans whose taxes subsidized his bankruptcies. He owned or owns airlines, casinos, cologne brands, real estate of untold value, golf courses... well, you get the idea.

Hell, Trump Tower is next door to Tiffany!

Trump would never try to imagine himself frugal or buffalo someone into thinking he was (he might be cheap, but that's a negotiating ploy). 

Add to this faux pas of Gingrich all the anger he engendered from opposing Paul Ryan's plan (and the echoes down the corridor that rejection will have in the campaign next year, whether he is a candidate or not) and any number of paper cuts he's self-inflicted (including his questionable marital fidelity), and you're looking at a man who is dying from the tiny little nicks and dings that become magnified in a campaign run. 

Dead. Candidate. Walking. 

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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