The Newt/Mitt rivalry is getting new life by virtue of the Old Gray Lady and a little artful questioning -- artful in the truest sense of the pejorative that it is.
The latest headline is now a quip that Mitt called Newt "zany," or that Mitt thinks Newt is too "zany" to be President.
But the true exchange was something much less titillating. Rather, it was journalistic questioning that exemplifies 2012 "Race" Baiting at its best… or worst.
N.Y. Times reporter Jeff Zeleny, looking for an obvious headline got it when he suggested the word, "zany" to the Governor. First he asked a seemingly benign question: "Do you think that the American voters are getting a sense of what [Newt Gingrich] might do, or is there some worry that, as president, should he win, there might be some zany things coming from the Oval Office?"
Romney: "Well, zany is not what we need in a President. Zany is great in a campaign, it's great on talk radio, it's great in the print, it makes for fun reading. But in terms of the President we need a leader. And a leader needs to be someone who can bring Americans together. A leader needs to be someone of sobriety and stability."
Zeleny: "You say stability, though, what do you mean by stability? Is Newt Gingrich unstable?"
Romney: "I believe the comments he's made over the years suggest that he's unreliable as a spokesman for conservatism."
Zeleny: "What does unreliable mean? Is that the same as unstable?"
Romney: "It means he's taken some positions that are not consistent with the principles of conservatism that I think are most important. Cap & Trade for instance..."
(My question): And what does Cap & Trade mean, is that the same thing as unstable? Okay, no, that question was not asked, but I'm sure it was somewhere down the list. It's amazing how hard the media looks to create these sort of inner-party chasms in hopes that the candidates do the dirty work for the opposition.
Did Mitt call Newt zany? No, not really. But he did enjoy letting the reporter's insinuation linger a little. Nevertheless, the perpetual baiting and hounding, looking to ferret out a negative comment from one candidate to the other shows that most of these interviews are less about extracting useful information than baiting Republican candidates to pick unnecessary fights with each other. The candidates would do well to avoid these entanglements, thus freeing themselves to fight for things beyond synonyms, homonyms, and unreliable instability. Otherwise, all too soon, one side of the field will be empty and we'll be back to determining what the meaning of the word is...is.
You want a definition of zany, you need go no further.
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