What happened to the Gingrich campaign? What was it that led the 2012 Republican presidential hopeful to right out of the gate break with party orthodoxy and say what he genuinely thought of the GOP Ryan budget plan and then to wander away from the campaign trail in a way that spurred his staff to band together and jump ship. Maybe it was the phone call Gingrich took a couple months ago from Dr. Malik Hasan, of the Colorado Hasans, longtime major GOP financial backers.
As Salon’s Justin Elliott reports, Hasan made the call this spring because he was upset with Gingrich, whom he had supported for years to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars. He told Gingrich to lay off the Muslim bashing and reminded him of the specific leadership qualities that had inspired Hasan and others in the past who thought they saw them in the former Speaker of the House. Hasan said he believes Gingrich had been successful because he was the kind of politician who “recognizes the necessity that we start out from a non-ideological viewpoint to make the government efficient.”
On the phone, he told Gingrich that “the president is the president of all Americans. He’s not the president of a narrow group of people.”
Hasan told Elliott that Gingrich seemed “receptive” on the call and so Hasan was hopeful that the tone of the Gingrich campaign would change.
Yesterday, when Gingrich addressed questions about the amazing mass defection of his staff, there did seem to be some toning down taking place. The candidate struck a kind of cotton-headed Buddha posture with reporters.
Fresh off a cruise to Greece, the near-eastern birthplace of democracy now ringed by the Muslim Mediterranean world, Gingrich said he was going to go his own way. He said his consultants were old-school and that he no longer wants to run a traditional confrontational kind of campaign.
“I want to campaign on ideas and on solutions and I want to do it in a way that brings Americans together into a large movement,” he said.
ABC News reports:
Newt Gingrich wanting to bring Americans together with his politics would be a change.
Gingrich began attacking Islam with a vengeance last year when the “ground zero mosque” controversy broke and Islamophobia spread like wildfire on the talk-radio right. Gingrich seemed determined to lead the broad-stroke discussion on the threat shariah law and Muslims as a group pose to U.S. security and American culture.
The new anti-Muslim Gingrich may have come as a surprise to Malik Hasan but it wasn’t a surprise to many other Newt watchers.
As Salon editor Steve Kornacki writes today, Gingrich’s rise in the 1980s and 1990s was marked by similarly devious confrontationalism.
Early on in his congressional career, Gingrich formed the Conservative Opportunity Society with fellow far-right lawmakers and pushed party leaders to engage in harsh personal attacks on their Democratic colleagues.
In 1984, he made a low-water-mark Joe McCarthy-style speech on the House floor in which he read off the names of ten Democratic members who had sent a letter to Daniel Ortega, the socialist Sandinista leader of Nicaragua, urging him to hold fair elections. Gingrich said the letter-writers should be brought up on charges for undermining U.S. foreign policy. They were, in effect, traitors and, like Muslims today, posed a threat.
Ten years later, he used the tragic story of deranged South Carolinan Susan Smith, who drowned her two young sons, to suggest that Democratic leadership had eroded U.S. social values. He said shocked Americans should vote Republican. The theme was that degenerate Democrats posed a threat.
In 1998, he led the crusade to impeach President Clinton for conducting and covering up his affair with Monica Lewinsky. Gingrich was conducting and covering up his own extra-marital affair at the time, but he said Clinton had to go because, as president, he threatened to lead the nation into moral bankruptcy.
In his talk yesterday with reporters, the old broad-brush alarmist Gingrich peeked out at America through the hazy bromides about his plan to energetically bring us together.
“We live in a time when Americans are genuinely frightened for their country’s future,” he said.
“I am a candidate for president of the United States because I think we are in the early stages of the Obama Depression,” he said.
He told ABC that he’s committed to bringing what’s left of his campaign to planned events in Los Angeles on Sunday and that he’ll attend the New Hampshire debate on Monday.