Sympathy for Newt

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Jan. 3 2012 10:59 AM

Sympathy for Newt

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa -- I veered toward solidarity with Newt Gingrich in my piece from Sunday/Monday, about how he was suddenly discovering the unfairness of post-Citizens United TV ads. I am veering even closer after reading coverage of his CBS News appears, in which he called Mitt Romney a liar.

“Well, you seem shocked by it!” Gingrich exclaimed. “Which part of what I just said to you is false? Why is it that if I’m candid in person and I wanted to be honest in person, that’s shocking ... In the traditional Washington pattern it’s better to be sweet and honest and have this face of saying, ‘Oh, gee, we want to be nice to each other no matter what happens to the American people.’”
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This is supposed to be further proof of an off-message Gingrich meltdown. Sure, it doesn't broadcast tact or confidence. But on substance... Gingrich is right. The ad that claims he "supports amnesty" plays loose with his fanciful, but not-amnesty, immigration position. Romney is escaping any criticism for going negative because his Super PAC, Restore Our Future, is running these ads. Gingrich is universally mocked for going negative because he previously promised that he wouldn't. Which of these is a bigger problem? Gingrich's pretentiousness or the new campaign finance laws that allow you to fire shots at someone without anyone spotting you?

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.