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In cutely merging the first and last names of her two major competitors for the nomination — Newt Romney — Michele Bachmann has a much more interesting point than she is getting credit for. In the latest back and forth between Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, Romney smacked at Newt for taking Freddie Mac bucks.
OK. Fair enough.
But the fastball Newt sent in response — an attack on Bain Capital — was deceptively clever.
Yes, on the surface, as has been pointed out elsewhere here by Robert Kirchhoefer, Newt Gingrich is appallingly wrong in his response to Romney, the latter now saying Newt should give back his Fannie Mae bucks. Our colleague Joe Lawler took after Newt, quite correctly, on the same point. But there’s an elephant in the room here which is being missed.
In fact, both Romney and Gingrich are really communicating — not that one would ever get this from the media — that both of them have zero intention of dismantling the Washington lobbyist establishment.
Yes — Romney is right. Gingrich took the money. But the not-so-dirty little secret is that Romney is taking precisely the same money — in the form of campaign contributions. Campaign contributions from Washington lobbyists who earn the money they use to fund Romney’s campaign from, to use Kirchhoefer’s wonderful term, boils on the backside of the federal government.
So if Gingrich should give back the money he has taken in the form of a fee — so too should Romney have his campaign give back any contributions earned in precisely the same way Gingrich earned his fees. But curiously, Gingrich refused to smack Romney for taking all manner of money from the very kind of sources that compose the guts of the dragon that Newt Gingrich milked for bucks.
Why? Because, to use the Bachmann formulation, “Newt Romney” is utterly dependent for campaign dollars and support on exactly the same institution — the Washington Republican Lobby Establishment. The real question Gingrich should have posed to Romney is not about money from Bain Capital…but whether he, Romney, considers, say, ex-Washington lobbyist, ex-RNC Chair and now Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour to somehow be tainted because Barbour’s wealth…like Gingrich’s…comes from lobbying. Romney is quiet as a church mouse on the subject.
Why? Because he wants Barbour’s support. The last thing Romney would want to do is antagonize a popular and well-connected ex-RNC chair and governor. But more to the point: Mitt Romney has zero intention….none…of changing a thing in Washington. Why? Like Newt Gingrich, he takes Washington lobby money. Big time. He would no more smack the GOP Washington Lobby Establishment than he would divorce wife Ann. Why? Because Mitt Romney is politically married to these good folks. To the institution. To the concept of the whole big deal.
The only problem for him is that Newt is not some billionaire’s son from Utah — but a card carrying member of the same group which Romney has to pretend to disdain. If Mitt Romney really feels this way, when will he attack Haley Barbour? Will he dismiss anyone connected with his own campaign who has made a living doing precisely the same thing as Newt — and everybody else in Washington? Hmm. Don’t wait up. But maybe there really is a serious discussion to be had here…yes? Can you say: Clark Clifford Republicans?
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