January 28th, 2012

Gingrich and Romney—and Tsongas

[NOTE: Please make sure you watch the video at the end of the post.]

It’s reported that Newt Gingrich is preparing a new and “brutal” anti-Romney ad. Part of it is alleged to go something like this:

“Romney said he has always voted Republican when he had the opportunity.”

“But in the 1992 Massachusetts Primary Romney had the chance to vote for George H.W. Bush or Pat Buchanan, but he voted for a liberal Democrat instead.”

Actually, Romney didn’t say that. What he said was this:

ROMNEY: Just a — just a short clarification. I — I’ve never voted for a Democrat when there was a Republican on the ballot. And — and in my state of Massachusetts, you could register as an independent and go vote in which — either primary happens to be very interesting. And any chance I got to vote against Bill Clinton or Ted Kennedy, I took. And so I — I’m…[APPLAUSE}...I have voted -- I have always voted for a Republican any time there was a Republican on the ballot.

What's more, if we want to get really really technical about it (and hey, why not?), there's this:

When Romney walked into the polling place and was handed a Democratic ballot, it’s true that there was no Republican on it. The Republican ballot was separate. So, by this interpretation, Romney is correct that there was no "Republican on the ballot" that day.

That "liberal Democrat" that Gingrich is talking about was Paul Tsongas, by the way. But more about that later.

As you political junkies probably already know, it's a not uncommon practice in states with open primaries (where Independents can vote for either party), for fairly partisan people to still register as Independents in order to be able to vote in one primary or another for strategic reasons. By the time the 1992 Massachusetts primary rolled around (it's usually some time in March), George H.W. Bush was almost undoubtedly going to be the Republican nominee, despite some early challenges from Buchanan. Incumbent President Bush won every single primary handily that year: "Buchanan's campaign never attracted serious opposition to President Bush" after the very first primary in NH, which was a distant memory by the time Massachusetts had its turn. Although it is technically correct that Romney could have voted for Bush, such a vote would have been essentially meaningless.

So if Romney voted for Tsongas, as he himself has long admitted, could the meaning of his remark during the debate not just be that he voted for a Republican whenever one was on the ballot versus a Democrat? Otherwise, it's really a tiny and almost meaningless point; for example, I doubt that Romney meant to say he voted in every Republican primary even if the Republican was running completely uncontested!

Romney offered more on the subject in an interview back in 2007:

When there was no real contest in the Republican primary, I'd vote in the Democrat primary, vote for the person who I thought would be the weakest opponent for Republican. In the general election...I don't recall ever once voting for anyone other than a Republican. So, yeah, as an independent, I'll go in and play in their primary, but I'm a Republican and have been through my life. I was with Young Republicans when I was in college back at Stanford. But a registered independent, so I could vote in either primary.

This whole discussion is kind of like arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, isn't it? So you might ask, why do I (neo-neocon, that is) care about such minutiae? Well, I'm always interested in fact-checking and the history behind the sound bite. But in this case I have an extra interest because the topic is Paul Tsongas, a politician I deeply admired, and whose failure to win the Democratic nomination in 1992 was a bitter disappointment to me.

So, as Lloyd Bentson might say, I remember Paul Tsongas, and if Gingrich does run an ad saying that Tsongas was a "liberal Democrat," that is in itself a misrepresentation. The nicest thing you could possibly call it would be to characterize it as a purposely misleading half-truth.

Whether or not Gingrich ends up running the ad, he's said as much already anyway:

...[Romney] voted in the Democratic primary for [Massachusetts'] Paul Tsongas, who was the most liberal person…

If I were given to hyperbole, I’d even say that Gingrich was lying there. But let’s just say that he’s quite mistaken about Paul Tsongas because Paul Tsongas was more conservative than Bill Clinton, the eventual winner. Another person who appeared to have been on that Massachusetts ballot in 1992 was Jerry Brown, certainly not more conservative than Paul Tsongas. In fact, Tsongas was probably the most conservative person in the race that year, at least fiscally.

And I must submit that if I know this about Tsongas, we can safely assume that Newt Gingrich the historian (and political figure in 1992) ought to know it too. While it’s certainly true that Tsongas was a Democrat, and socially liberal (at least by today’s standards), he ran as a pro-business fiscal conservative in 1992 and had long been known for that stance. But don’t take my word for it; read this:

Tsongas was criticized on occasion by opponents as a Reaganomics-style politician, and as being closer to Republicans with regard to such issues.

In a tribute I wrote to Paul Tsongas last summer, I ended with this sentence, “But if [Tsongas] were around today, he’s probably the only Democrat I’d consider voting for again—although I’m not so sure he’d be allowed in the Democratic Party any more.” That’s how conservative the guy was.

So, who’s the greater liar here? You be the judge.

In closing, I’m going to post a video of a talk that that flaming liberal Paul Tsongas gave in 1993, after he lost the 1992 primary race to Clinton, and after Clinton had won the presidency. The election he refers to is the presidential contest of 1992. I don’t know about you, but by the end of this clip I had tears in my eyes:

RIP, Paul Tsongas.

16 Responses to “Gingrich and Romney—and Tsongas”

  1. Don Carlos Says:

    Let’s consider the Tsongas clip. It is eighteen years old. He wasn’t heeded then. nor is he now, except by those stupid Tea Party folks.
    We are outa good luck, done pissed it away. The Mitt-Newt Show is disgustingly destructive of both, with us all as collateral damage.

    Santorum is the nearest thing we have to a Tsongas. And he’s doing about as well.

  2. Baklava Says:

    I loved Paul Tsongas back in 1991 before my core belief change.

    But guess what.

    I still love Paul Tsongas.

    People like Paul and Patrick Moynihan don’t seem to exist in the Democrat party anymore.

    There is no Zell Miller.

    There is no economically literate, generationally responsible Democrat in office that I know.

  3. Baklava Says:

    Don Carlos,

    I disagree with you.

    I like Santorum better than Romney but Romney does understand economics better than Gingrich and can represent free markets and generational responsibility.

    This I believe.

  4. NeoConScum Says:

    neoneocon…Thanks for the Tsongas clip. Nearly teared up myself. Class man in another lifetime.

  5. Baklava Says:

    Can a liberal reader here pipe up and comment for a second?

    Please tell us how we can get to a situation where the federal government (letting alone the state, county and city governments) have by themselves a 60 TRILLION plus obligation for entitlements….

    … on top of the 15 TRILLION dollar debt…

    … on top of the 1.6 TRILLION dollars added to the debt (a defecit) each year representing 40% of spending that isn’t met with revenues…

    and you aren’t scared for our kids and grandkids and have no sense of obligation.

    DO YOU UNDERSTAND that every great and huge nation has fallen and you can’t explain it as we are too great and too prosperous.

    The law of economics applies to everyone.

    Nobody will lend money to a cocaine addict except for liberals maybe.

    China and other countries with cash want to see more on their return (this translates to higher interest rates)

    Our debt represents over 100% GDP and this does NOT equate to a family budget where a family owes 200,000 on a house when they only make $60,000.

    This is because the debt is not going to an assett. There is NO TURN around here.

    This is owing $60,000 when you make $60,000 and seeing no change in spending patterns adding 40% more to that debt over income ongoing.

    I have friends who have shopping problems.

    At the same time they have health problems representing the 60 trillion in obligations – in their case it’s hundreds of thousands of obligations to their own issues yet they have a spending problem now.

    It’s a sickness.

    It’s robbing our future generation.

    It’s not ok even in the name of “do-goodism”.

    Especially if you tear down conservatives as not caring. You can take your liberal stone cold hearted conservative name calling self and process yourself into hell for what you are doing – all in the name of do-goodism.

    Let’s figure out a way to work together now that our name calling is done. Look at yourself in the mirror, then come on this blog and tell us you understand now. We ALL care. Liberals don’t hold a monopoly on caring.

    In fact – I’d say that liberals are lazy and non-adult like because they can’t make the adult decisions.

    It’s better to teach a man to fish than give him fish. (I’m not talking about the elderly)

  6. Pat Dooley Says:

    Well, if Gingrich is stooping to using the same tactics as Romney is using against him, then shame on him. I refer to Romney’s use of a Tom Brokaw clip to slam Newt on ethics charges back in 1997.

    In the end, the IRS reviewed the charges against Gingrich and cleared him. It was a left wing witch hunt and the RINOs swallowed it. Byron York has a very good post explaining the history at the Washington Examiner.

    Here’s how it works. Find some issue that might be spun to be an ethics violation. File a bunch of ethics complaints. Get the media to hype the charges. File some more charges to keep the pot stirred. Force the target to spend a fortune on lawyers defending themselves. When the target eventually resigns or retreats, claim a victory for the people against an unethical politician.

    They did this with Palin, starting with troopergate, and continued, until she was $500,000 in debt, hopelessy bogged down defending herself and her administration, and with no help from her own party (mainly because she’d nailed too many of them on corruption charges).

    They did this with Tom DeLay.

    And they did it to Gingrich.

    For Romney to use this, without disclosing that Gingrich was cleared of all charges, is pretty low by my book.

  7. foxmarks Says:

    Tsongas is wrong. The country does not need leadership. That view accepts the implicit conflation of “country” with “government”. The country, the people, will be fine if left to their own devices. If they need leadership, they can turn toward God.

    It is a great country. The government, however, has become a stinking morass of self-serving filth. Perhaps Tsongas was one of the few good people who wanted to serve humbly and was not mired in political power-shuffling. He was still wrong. Leadership is not developed by political means.

    The politicization of everything is both cause and symptom of our national decay.

  8. gellieba Says:

    Way to go Michael (Graham):

    “Smoke gets in Mitt’s guise:

    “You really want to stop Newt? It’s simple. Dump Mitt. Stop whining about Gingrich winning, stop flogging the GOP’s “designated establishment loser of 2012” and back someone else”.

    “As long as the Republican Party stamps its feet and demands conservatives support the unsupportable Mitt Romney, they’re going to lose”.


  9. gellieba Says:

    Great News – Exclusive Poll:
    “Gingrich, Romney in Dead Heat Statewide”

    “Florida is up for grabs when it comes to next week’s Republican primary, according to a new Dixie Strategies/First Coast News poll”.
    “According to the new results out today, Newt Gingrich leads over Mitt Romney statewide, but his lead is well within the poll’s1.93 percent margin of error”…


  10. renminbi Says:

    You run an excellent blog and your readers often have worthwhile comments to make. Newt is a very articulate and intelligent speaker ,but unfortunately all this is directed to aggrandizing his ambition rather than showing a coherent vision for the country. He has a character problem. The only thing in his favor is that he would be better than BO,but that isn’t much of a reccommendation,is it?

    The link to Tsongas was nice-too bad his campaign ran out of money.

  11. gellieba Says:

    “Giuliani Knocks Romney, Praises Gingrich”

    “It may be that Newt is appealing to some that maybe Mitt isn’t appealing to,” Giuliani explained”…


  12. Parker Says:

    “The basic, sacred obligation of one generation to the next has been violated.”

    So very true and very sad as it has been violated 10E6 these last 30 years.

    “The country, the people, will be fine if left to their own devices.”

    True foxmarks as long as we allow fools to suffer for the folly of their actions. But that lesson has been lost and fools seem to out number us 2 to 1.

  13. Frances Says:

    All actions towards Gingrich are from self-inflicted wounds. It’s so cute to see Gingrich being endorse by Perry and Cain. I’m sure Gingrich will watch with his own awe Perry’s “Deer in the head lights look” as he repeats “Oops” over and over again! And Cain’s endorsement reeks of complacency with Newton’s gregarious philandering. Gingrich – the defrocked speaker of the House, original godfather of government gridlock, two-faced philandering impeacher of Bill Clinton, fondler of six-figure Tiffany jewels and now in a dead heat with Romney? Not! I like the debates and wait for one or two go down in flames. This is bigotry and discrimination in America. This bigotry and prejudice is taught. From mother and father and friendships. It even emanates from our political leaders. Bigotry and prejudice are alive in 2012! Newton Leroy called Barack Obama the “Food Stamp President! Continuing with poor people should want paychecks, not handouts. In South Carolina, the center of bigotry and discrimination in the South as they still fly the Confederacy flag. His tactic in South Carolina smacks of the type of rhetoric used in his “Southern Strategy” and his “bread and butter” wordage bordering on racism. Romney and Gingrich sniping at each other proves how childish these guys are. Every politician running for any office any where in America should be held to the judicial standard of Voir Dire in every word they speak!

  14. Trebuchet Says:

    Romney is toast. In 1994 Damon Corp a medical diagnostics company which Bain invested in and Romney sat on the Board of Directors of, was fined $119,000,000 for Medicare fraud for defrauding Medicare to the tune of $25,000,000. Bain then drew $12,000,000 out of the company, $400,000 of which went into Romney’s pocket, and it went bankrupt in 2000. You can bet Obama knows this and he and the MSM will clobber Romney with it and by the time they’re done with him Romney will be about as electable as Bruno Hauptman.

  15. thomass Says:

    It is going to be hard to hold my nose for Gingrich. Not only do I have a problem with this casual dishonesty… it comes back to bite groups that use it. The general public dislikes ‘liberals’ but not ‘conservatives’ (even if they don’t vote for them; the negatives with the general public are not there).

  16. TR Says:

    I apologize that this comment is slightly off-topic. I’ll try not to make a lot of them.

    Today, Jan. 30, 2012, The Muppets/puppets, “responded to” comments made by Fox news. Some Fox News reporters took issue with the 2012 film: “The Muppets”. Some FN reporters thought that the film might be doing anti-capitalist/anti-big business propaganda, propaganda aimed at kids, since the film has an oil executive as the villain.

    To me, that is all very well.
    However, today, the Muppets puppets, Miss Piggy + Kermit, had a [news conference] to counter what the Fox News people had said.

    Well, to keep the people, who run the Muppets TV shows + movies, looking legitimate, I would’ve liked the writers of the puppet movies doing a response, instead of the daft or underhanded tactic of having [fictional puppet characters] talk to the press, and children and adults, [about real life issues and problems].
    In the press meeting, Kermit stated that “the Muppets” are not against oil companies.

    In the same meeting, Miss Piggy made a statement like: [are the Muppets and U.S. liberals trying to brainwash your kids against capitalism? that is so absurd. That is like saying Fox News actually reports News].

    Ok, if firstly, if I actually debate what M. Piggy and Kermit have said, then I guess I’m giving the M. Piggy + Kermit puppets an actual voice in U.S. politics. Very well, to respond to MP’s + Kermit’s statements, and/or the statements made by MP + Kermit’s writers + “puppet performers” I guess I must address what M. Piggy + Kermit, and the real life [Muppets company], have said.
    I am slightly ok with the Muppets puppets responding to a reporter’s statements.

    If the Muppets writers want to act dumb or daft, by talking to REAL LIFE reporters, by talking through puppets, well, in my view, if the people using puppets turn others against Fox News: 1) the Muppet puppeteers are brainwashing kids with little/or no rational thoughts, kids under 9, who can’t vote, so those kids don’t bother my political life or 2) if a man voter or woman voter, is dumb enough to let [talking puppets] sway them to dislike Fox News, then that voter is no smarter than that 8-year-old child, in my view.
    Having puppeteers use puppets, to respond to real life reporters, or respond to political events, is patently absurd, I realize.

    But I take issue with Miss Piggy’s puppet operator implying that: Fox News doesn’t report actual news or truthful news.

    The original challenge, or concern, of the Fox News reporter, was that the Muppet puppets maybe are being used to brainwash kids against- certain companies or people.
    When the puppeteer has Miss Piggy, the puppet, imply, [Fox News doesn't report real news], then, The Muppets puppet company actually IS doing negative propaganda/brainwashing against the Fox News employees and/or real people.
    Just a request: Don’t respond to accusations of negative propaganda, with ACTUAL negative propaganda.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.


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