Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Newt and the Mitchell Report

I've been trying to figure out how to make the case that most Republicans don't know or don't remember most of what's publicly available about Newt Gingrich's misdeeds, and I think I've got it, at least for baseball fans. Here's the question: which of these 1990s stars was publicly identified, in the Mitchell report or elsewhere, as a steroids user?

Todd Hundley, David Justice, Bill Mueller, Miguel Tejada, Rick Ankiel, Craig Biggio, Benito Santiago, Kevin Brown, Eric Gagne, Mo Vaughn, Troy Glaus

I'll put the answer below the fold...

Did you pick Bill Mueller and Craig Biggio out as a two who haven't been publicly identified? All the rest were in the Mitchell Report.

Here's my guess, if you're a baseball fan: you didn't remember some of this stuff, even though you knew it about players you cared about way back when. I could do the same with the Pittsburgh drug trials from the 1980s, too. You know about Rock Raines, but Paul Molitor? Ah, you have to be old enough to know that one, I bet.

The point is that unless for some reason steroids becomes the main conversation topic surrounding a player, as it has been with (say) Sammy Sosa or Jose Canseco, it all disappears in a blur, at least until it becomes relevant again.

And that's the story with Newt Gingrich's various and many problems. Sure, the marriages are a big part of the story that people have told about him all year. But the ethics violations and fine? Really -- how many times do you think that Fox News or Rush Limbaugh mentioned those things since, say, 1998? I sure wouldn't be surprised if even a hint of ethics problems was never once mentioned on any Fox News program since the turn of the century, at least until this year's presidential campaign.

I haven't seen any polling on it, but in general you're not going to lose a lot of bets if you wager that Americans are ignorant of something. And why should we know about the many problems of a washed-up politician, anyway? Most of us have more important things to worry about, whether it's which day we're supposed to drive the kids' carpool, or whether Lee Smith has a solid HOF case (answers: Thursday, and sorry, I'm a big fan of the right-hander, but no). We can usually trust that when we need to know political information of this sort, the political system will provide it for us. Which is exactly what Ron Paul and Mitt Romney are doing in Iowa right now.


  1. But reporting on Newt's train car full of baggage is (as you say) something that FOX 'News' Channel hasn't been doing, even as Gingrich rose to nominal frontrunner status. Certainly Rush hasn't been doing it.

    Among the conservative punditry, it's been hit-or-miss, but I think it's fair to say that the overall conservative media narrative to date has been in general support of the "Anyone but Romney" story.

    If FOX 'News' had ethics, it would have done a better job of educating their target audience of the ethical concerns about, and the strengths and weaknesses of candidates for the GOP nomination.

    The Republican party may have caught the tiger in the 2010 elections, but like many others before them, the GOP can't figure out how to safely let the tiger go.

  2. It's probable that Fox and all the other opinion makers were confident that they'd have a simple Romney vs Perry match-up that they could waver on and play out across a fairly conventional primary season, but then no one knew what the hell to do once Perry proved to be a laughingstock almost immediately, and the cynical elites among the GOP likewise sensed that it was way too early to come around to Romney in such a way that the rest of the party would follow.

    Whatever the specifics, I think the key unexpected part for GOP actors was how *weak* Perry has been -- he was supposed to be the minimally respectable opposition to Romney within the moderate-extreme dynamic of normal GOP primaries, not Cain or Gingrich or Paul.

  3. To the extent that Jonathan is right about the rank-and-file conservatives not recalling chapter and verse of Gingrich's transgressions, there's an "overpromise and underdeliver" danger here for Team Gingrich, no? Riding high on the tailwinds of a boomlet, Gingrich should therefore be more vulnerable to accelerating negative momentum if his equity turns south.

    I'm likely a bit more agnostic about the impact of these revelations on the average conservative voter, but this certainly seems like it would play out in the opposite direction from Clinton's 1992 "comeback kid" narrative. As a result, Gingrich at 28% for the nomination is way too high on Intrade, and by default, Perry's 2% must be way too low.

  4. Where is your biography?

    What grade are you in?

  5. I think there's a simpler explanation. Conservatives don't believe in the entire concept of "ethics" when it comes to politicians except as a tool to bring down members of the opposing party. Conservatives expect their politicians to use their office to enrich themselves and their financial backers. That's the whole point of gaining public office for a conservative: to increase your power and wealth. So when Mitt Romney or the media raises Gingrich's ethics problems, your typical conservative voter just doesn't care because he doesn't see using political office for financial gain as anything wrong.

  6. This is for Ron E., and the numerous other commenters who keep doing this:

    Can we please stop applying sinister motives to everything conservatives do? Every day someone tries to explain away the GOP mindset with something insidious. It's not malice, it's not ignorance, it's not apathy, and it's not pure evil driving them. They have a worldview that they truly believe is correct. You're not helping the discourse by oversimplifying it. If you do, you're no better than Anonymous Prime was.

  7. @Thomas, I agree that it's wrong to label or suspect everything conservatives do as sinister (just as it is wrong for conservatives to do that to liberals, which also happens a lot).

    However, I think it's quite reasonable to question the motivation of conservatives and their wealthy business patrons on tax issues.

    In my case, I'm a very open-minded moderate (for example I realized this year that flat taxes are preferable).

    But I look at our deficit/debt and our tax structure, and who is struggling in this country, and I have to say that tax cuts for the wealthy don't make any sense! You can't get there deductively, so it has to be an axiom or a corrupt position that caters to a powerful group. Or maybe a habit that they won't break, even in this near-crisis.

    At this point, the conservatives have some stubborn, willful beliefs that are preventing the country from dealing with its severe problems. @Thomas, do you see this too?

    My attempt to understand the tea party beliefs here.

  8. @ModeratePoli:

    Yes. I definitely agree conservatives are clinging to stubborn, willful beliefs that are preventing the country from dealing with its severe problems.

    However, that's different from claiming all conservatives inherently don't believe in the concept of ethics, which is what the previous poster said. It's a blanket attack on their integrity, which is wrongheaded.

    Some people are disingenuous, but not everyone. While I believe the conservatives' worldview is destructive, I'm not cynical enough to doubt their sincere belief in it.

    On the other hand, I do think questioning their motives on regressive tax policy is fair game, but if you do, you have bring more to the discussion than "because they don't care/crave power/are dumb etc." (and that's not directed towards you, ModeratePoli)


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