When Should a Scandal-Plagued Politician Just Go Away?

This week, I’m wrangling with honor, shame, and the idea of “second chances” in light of the (most recent) Weiner scandal: [Read more...]

Path for Romney Getting Clearer

The Wall Street Journal has a great article about Gov. Romney’s status as the frontrunner:

The fight for the Republican presidential nomination appeared closer to a conclusion as Newt Gingrich on Sunday all but conceded to Mitt Romney, and Rick Santorum continued facing a money shortage in his home state of Pennsylvania, where he has two weeks to make a last stand before the primary.

Mr. Gingrich, a former House speaker, called Mr. Romney “far and away the most likely Republican nominee,” during a TV appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” adding he would throw his support behind the front-runner if Mr. Romney secured the requisite number of GOP convention delegates.

Mr. Gingrich, who early this year briefly held a lead over his Republican rivals in nationwide polls, spoke of his campaign in the past tense, saying, “I’m glad I did this,” but “it turned out to be much harder than I thought.”

Read the rest here.

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Santorum the Stingy?

When Rick Santorum released his income taxes, one thing became clear.

He gave only 2.2% of the more than $3.6 million in total income he earned since leaving the Senate.  Mark DeMoss is incredulous:

At best it shows political bad judgment and at worst it shows a lack of personal commitment to a principle that religious conservatives and political conservatives believe in, which is being generous with our money.”

“And so I just think it’s a mistake. And look, Santorum and (Newt) Gingrich, these two candidates, they’re not the first to appear on the low end of this spectrum. Every four years we see it. And im always surprised. I am always surprised that someone running for president or who actually becomes president doesn’t have a record of a higher percentage of giving.”

DeMoss stressed that he’s not brought up the topic of Santorum and Gingrich’s charitable giving with Romney headquarters. In his own life, DeMoss said he gives away 20 percent of his family income to charitable causes.

“This is just something I feel strongly about myself,” he said. “We’ve been blessed. I’ve been very fortunate in my life. And I’m not running for anything. But if I were running I’d make sure that number stayed up there because I think it looks good.”

For comparison,

Santorum gave just over 2 percent of his income to charity over the four years covered in the returns he released, reaching its lowest percentage in 2010 at 1.76 percent. For the same year, Romney gave 13.8 percent of his income to charity, and President Obama donated 14.2 percent. (Newt Gingrich, for comparison, gave away 2.6 percent)

Going Positive on Mitt and Negative on Newt

I’ve slowed down slightly on posting, but that doesn’t mean I’ve slowed down on writing.  Today in the Washington Post, Jordan Sekulow, Matt Clark, and I make the positive case that conservative Christians and Tea Partiers are moving to Mitt:

Buried in the exit polls from Romney’s more than 15 point win over Newt Gingrich is the fact that Romney won Protestants, Catholics, and virtually tied among evangelicals. Tea Partiers too broke for Romney.

With this, Romney has won the conservative Christian vote in half of the primary contests so far This critical group makes up a plurality of the Republican primary vote in Florida, over 40 percent.

There are several key factors that have led conservative Christians to rally around Romney.  First, Romney stands for the values that evangelicals and social conservatives hold dear.  He is strongly pro-life. In addition to winning an award from a major pro-life organization in Massachusetts as governor after vetoing expanded access to the morning-after pill and expanded fetal stem-cell research, Romney pro-family, pro-life values are now touted by Florida’s pro-life advocates as well as those in other states across the country.

He has been steadfast in his defense of marriage and religious liberty.  After the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court legalized same-sex marriage by judicial fiat, then-Gov. Romney went so far as to file a lawsuit to force the Massachusetts legislature to act on a citizen-initiated marriage amendment.  His defense of religious liberty earned him the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty’s coveted “Canterbury Medal,” an award given to leaders in the fight for freedom.

Yesterday on CNN.com, I made a strongly-worded case against Newt:

Many evangelicals are angry, and rightly so. They’re angry with a president who embraces abortion rights, who restricts religious liberty and who saddles their children and grandchildren with a mountain of debt. They understand the necessity of protecting life and the imperative of financial stewardship.

But they also understand that we don’t discard our core values for the sake of political victories. Fidelity, honesty, humility and charity matter.

No one doubts that God forgives, but only God knows Newt Gingrich’s heart.  We only know his actions, and we know that he has a history of deceiving even those who are closest to him.

Three other Republican candidates are anti-abortion. Three other Republican candidates have been faithful and honest in their personal and professional lives. With honest alternatives to choose from, evangelicals will soon abandon Gingrich.

I’ve gotten several messages from people who tell me that I’m too negative on Gingrich. Yet other Republican candidates have not only advanced the right values, they live them as well.  The values that Gingrich has lived have on many occasions been hypocritical and reprehensible, and I’m quite puzzled at the insistence of people who have never met him and will never meet him that he’s unquestionably sincere in his regrets.  You have no way of knowing that and many reasons not to trust him.

I have good friends who support Rick Santorum, and I understand why.  He’s a hero of the pro-life movement, a man with an exemplary personal reputation, and a person who is living the values we hold dear.  I simply don’t think he’s best-equipped to handle the economic crisis we face.  Mitt Romney is also a man with an exemplary personal reputation and is living the values we hold dear.  Why are so many people taking such a massive risk with Newt Gingrich?  Could it be that he channels the anger they feel and that anger is clouding their good judgment?

Newt Accused Clinton of “Decadence,” Evoking “Jerry Springer,” and Creating “Tabloid Headlines”

Univision’s talented Jorge Ramos asked Newt Gingrich a great question in an interview released yesterday:

RAMOS: When you were Speaker of the House, you criticized President Clinton for having an extramarital affair.

GINGRICH: No, I criticized him for lying under oath in front of a federal judge, for committing perjury, which is a felony for which normal people go to jail.

However, that’s not quite true.  In a commentary for a conservative publication, he seemed to go much further than merely critiquing Clinton’s perjury.

In the May 22, 1998 Human Events, he wrote that President Clinton had degraded the presidency to “a level of disrespect and decadence that should appall every American.”

He also said the American presidency was globally perceived as a “rough equivalent of the Jerry Springer show.”

He went on to say that the “tabloid headlines” cause Americans to lose further trust in the government and the rule of law.

In other words, Newt didn’t limit his criticism surrounding the terrible Lewinsky affair to Clinton’s perjury.  So, the growing list of Newt’s lies keeps growing at an alarming rate.  Who is surprised?  Not Jackie Battley, his former high school geometry teacher whom he married in 1962.  Not Marianne Ginther, whom he married in 1981.

Come on, American women voters. Let’s take a stand against this.

Why Newt’s Answer Was Wrong

Everyone says he “knocked it out of the ballpark.”  Really?

No Candidate Except Gov. Romney Presents a Full Slate of Delegates in Tennessee

With all the hoopla surrounding the Virginia ballot, I wondered how the candidates fared in my home state.  Tennessee works a little differently than other states.  In fact, it seems that every state has a little tweak, a little nuance that makes it a little different from the others.  That’s why the process is a great peek into how a candidate can handle complicated issues that require organization and hard work.

Tennessee will have fifty-eight delegates to the Tampa Republican National Convention. Each of our nine congressional districts will have three delegates.  That means that Presidential candidates must find delegates who are leaders in their community willing to walk around with a clipboard asking friends and strangers to sign their names and their addresses on behalf of their candidacy for their preferred Presidential candidate. Each delegate had to get one hundred valid signatures of registered voters.  So there’s several ways this could go wrong – illegible signatures, addresses that don’t match the person’s voter registration address (perhaps because they’ve moved), signers who claimed to be registered to vote but weren’t, or signers who thought they lived in a certain congressional district but didn’t.

My husband and I did this process in the 4th Congressional district of Tennessee on behalf of Gov. Romney, and the process wasn’t easy.  We literally took our little clipboards with us while taking the kids trick-or-treating, to our church parking lot, to the drop-off line at Zion Christian Academy, and football games!  It’s not an elegant process, rather it demands putting your feet on the pavement and your heart on your sleeve. Since almost no one in this day and age will sign a form without really understanding it, we had to explain why Mitt Romney should be the next President to my friends and neighbors, sometimes in the freezing cold.  During this contentious campaign season, this also meant our heated conversations usually made us forget the cold weather.

In addition to the congressional delegates, fourteen “at large” delegates will be elected. These delegates had a slightly easier job, because they weren’t restricted to a certain district and could signatures from any registered voter in our state.

A full slate of delegate candidates would be forty-one.

So which candidates were able to supply a full slate for Tennessee?  Only one:

Michelle Bachmann: 0

Gary Johnson: 0

Rick Santorum: 0

Ron Paul: 35

Newt Gingrich: 34

Rick Perry: 27

Mitt Romney: 48

(Here’s the complete list of how the candidates did.)

But Gingrich and Perry fans mustn’t worry: Tennessee is not as restrictive as Virginia. Candidates without a full slate can still win them at the polls and have delegates appointed later by the state Republican Executive Committee under party rules.

However, it’s worth noting that the Yankee governor received forty-eight delegates in our southern state, pulling off what no other candidate could.  What does this say about the conventional wisdom that southerners won’t warm to him?

Perhaps the Knoxville News Sentinel reported it best with this lead sentence:

Four of the nine Republican candidates in Tennessee’s presidential primary ballot will have no committed delegates on the ballot with them on the March 6 ballot, while Mitt Romney has a surplus wanting to represent him at the Republican National Convention.

Gingrich, Bachman, Santorum, Perry Give Romney a Christmas Gift: Failed to Qualify for Virginia Ballot!

During the last Presidential campaign, I was in charge of the entire state of Tennessee’s Romney delegation — overseeing our nine Congressional districts that encompass  ninety-five counties. (Read about me going into a bar with my petition here during hte last cycle, when a fight over the war broke out!) Every state has different legal requirements, which makes it an organizational feat to get on the ballot in every state.  This year, after having adopted a sweet baby girl from Africa, I wasn’t able to take an organizational role in the process.  However, I was asked to represent him in the fourth Congressional district, along with my husband again.  And so, for months, I went around Tennessee with some pens, a smile, and a clipboard with Gov. Romney’s name at the top, trying to make sure his name could legally appear on the ballot in the great state of Tennessee.

I assumed there were other poor delegates out there doing the same thing for their guy… nervously clearing their throat, hesitating to bring it up to their friends, sticking their ballots in their purses in case an appropriate moment in conversation presented itself. I told myself if I met someone trying to collect signatures with Rick Perry’s name on it, or Newt’s, or Paul’s, that I’d sign their petitions.  After all, we need to be able to select from a wide range of options, right?

Imagine my surprise when I woke up to find out this:

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has failed to qualify for Virginia’s March 6 Republican primary, a development that complicates his bid to win the GOP presidential nomination. “After verification, RPV has determined that Newt Gingrich did not submit required 10k signatures and has not qualified for the VA primary,” the Republican Party of Virginia announced early Saturday on its Twitter website. Texas Gov. Rick Perry also fell short of the 10,000 signatures of registered voters required for a candidate’s name to be on the primary ballot, but former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas Rep. Ron Paul will be on the ballot. . .

(via FoxNews, via NRO)

I honestly can’t believe they neglected to cross their t’s and dot their i’s.  And we’re expected to believe they’re competent enough for the White House?

Gingrich’s new campaign motto: I Can’t Run a Campaign, Just My Mouth.

So, this means that there are only two options for Virginia Republicans: Ron Paul or Mitt Romney.  Newt and  Perry couldn’t gather the required 10,000 signatures, and Rick Santorum and Michelle Bachmann may not have even submitted a petition in the first place.

Guys, this is a clarifying moment.  And not just for Virginians.

The Agony of Newt Gingrich

I’ll never forget the moment.  It was very late on election night in November, 1994, and I was at a friend’s house transfixed by election coverage.  The Republicans had done it.  Led by Newt Gingrich, the combative Georgia congressman, they had ended decades of Democratic dominance in the House, they were taking the Senate, and Bill Clinton was on the ropes.

Here was the triumph, recorded for posterity on YouTube:

This was the “Republican Revolution,” the moment when the party — demoralized by defeat in 1992 — was reborn, when the grassroots conservative movement cultivated by Ronald Reagan finally achieved dominance. We were sure our best days were ahead. Gingrich would confront the hated Bill Clinton (people forget how much conservatives loathed Bill Clinton) and our brilliant champion would win the day. Victories in Congress would be followed by victory two years later, and Reagan’s vision of a conservative America would finally be realized. It was a great night.

Sadly, it was also our best night. What followed was perhaps the most agonizing slow-motion train wreck of my political life.

Our champion walked into the arena, faced off against Bill Clinton, and was crushed. For those with long political memories, the stories are well-known:

-Gingrich shut down the government partially because he was annoyed at his seating on Air Force One . . . and admitted it to the press.

-He was the first sitting Speaker reprimanded for ethics violations, with the vast majority of Republicans voting against him.

-Even before Clinton’s resounding re-election, Gingrich was arguably the least-liked politician in the entire country, with only 9% of (yes, you read that correctly, nine percent) of Americans wanting him to become president and 49% calling him “scary.”  By 1997, his approval rating was a dismal 25%.  He became known as the “nation’s most unpopular politician.”

-Even as Bill Clinton was being impeached, Newt Gingrich was carrying on an affair (and not his first), an affair he carried on for years before ending his second marriage, a marriage that was also born in an affair.

-Despite being an open secret in Washington, Gingrich didn’t publicly admit his affair until 2007, almost a full decade later, as he mulled a presidential run.

-He endured revolts against his leadership, including revolts led by some of the House’s leading conservatives.

-He finally resigned in disgrace in 1998 even as his nemesis, Bill Clinton, continued to enjoy shockingly high approval ratings.

-When George Bush emerged in 1999 with his “compassionate conservative” message, it was consciously designed to distance Republicans from the Gingrich era. He couldn’t ride the wave of the Republican Revolution; the wave had already crashed.

To be sure, Gingrich did have some significant accomplishments.  Welfare reform was critical, and the federal government did grow at a slower rate, so our massive tech-fueled economic boom took us to a short-lived surplus.  But can he take more credit for these things than Bill Clinton?  The economy of the 1990s was no more the “Gingrich boom” than our current economy represents the “Boehner stagnation.”

As we look at these facts, I must confess that I’m amused when fellow conservatives state with absolute certainty that Newt Gingrich will somehow dominate Barack Obama in debates and on the campaign trail.  Really?  After all, Barack Obama is the only politician in America to have defeated the Clinton machine, and his campaign often reduced Bill himself — one of the most gifted politicians of my lifetime — to sputtering, impotent rage.

I’m much less amused by growing evangelical support for Gingrich.  Yes, he’s pro-life, but so is every single Republican in the race (it may be the only issue they all agree on).  But what about the three marriages?  The serial affairs?  The ethics reprimand?  And let’s not forget about humility.  Newt Gingrich may well have the most transparent self-regard of any leading politician in America.  I have a serious question: If evangelicals choose to reject numerous alternatives and wrap both arms around a serial philandering, hopelessly grandiose politician, then what is our distinctive witness in this process?  Do we have one?

Yes, I understand repentance.  By all accounts, his conversion to Catholicism has been genuine and positive.  But do we want to look at that past and nominate a man to the presidency just trusting that our nation’s highest office — the most powerful and consequential political office in the world — will be his first scandal-free government post?

I remember the thrill of victory in November, 1994. I also remember the agony of defeat in the years that followed and lasting consequences of those losses. It’s an experience I do not want to repeat.

Are Ideological Witch Hunts Killing the Tea Party?

Remember the early days of the Tea Party?  Remember the wave of energy that swept across the conservative movement?  Confronted with the combined legislative onslaught of Obamacare, a bloated stimulus (“porkulus”) package that cost more than the Iraq war, and economy-reshaping initiatives like cap and trade, the Tea Party yanked conservatives out of defeatism and depression, reminded Americans of their constitutional heritage, and confronted our fiscal irresponsibility not just in economic terms but with cultural and moral arguments as well.

And the Left was furious.  Lies and slander spewed from the mainstream media.  Somehow, a collection of middle-aged professionals who left public spaces cleaner than when they arrived suddenly became a “violent” and “dangerous” threat to the republic.  Yes, many Tea Partiers were angry at the direction of the country, but that anger was expressed in isolated verbal outbursts at Town Halls and protests.  They simply exercised their First Amendment rights, and the intensity of their protest paled in comparison to the recent Wisconsin union battles or the Occupy marches and encampments.

Even in the face of overwhelming media invective, the Tea Party remained popular, at one point exceeding the favorability ratings of both major political parties.  In November 2010, the Tea Party triumphed, providing the energy and activism that transformed the political landscape.  A new day had arrived.

Or had it?  Even as the Tea Party hailed its great victory, signs of trouble were all around.  In some jurisdictions (Alaska, Colorado, Nevada, Delaware), a dedication to ideological purity over all else resulted in nominating deeply flawed candidates.  And public opinion was beginning to turn.  By mid-2011, Tea Party popularity had turned upside-down, with significantly more Americans viewing it unfavorably.

Tea Party defenders blamed the media, and they were right — at least partly.  The invective and slander kept spewing from the Left, with labels like “extremist,” “racist,” and “violent” used virtually as talking points.  But something else was happening, something far more dangerous to the long-term health of the movement.

For many activists, the focus changed — moving away from making constitutional arguments to the American people against Obama’s excesses and towards a vicious ideological battle within the Republican party.  Peruse popular conservative websites, and you’ll see writers calling fellow conservatives “gnomes” and some of the most popular even banning dissent from their comment boards.  On talk radio, hosts are attacking other conservative candidates with unrestrained ferocity.  In a strange turn of events, a conservative can agree with a fellow conservative on every major substantive plank of conservatism and still be labeled a “RINO” if their tone isn’t angry enough or if they support a different Republican in the primary.

Simply put, this kind of conduct is annoying and infuriating to everyone who is not in the constantly-shifting “in” crowd.  And it’s happening in local venues where once-vibrant Tea Party groups are being increasingly dominated by an angry fringe that has long floated around the periphery of conservative circles.  I’ve seen Republicans who one year ago loved to talk about the Tea Party now roll their eyes whenever they get one of the incessant, incoherent emails sent by this or that local activist.

If you talk about fiscal responsibility, decreased tax and regulatory burdens, and a culture of life, you tend to unite conservatives and many, many independents.  When you tell a fellow lifetime conservative that they’re morally deficient for backing Mitt Romney or a “coward” for not advising public officials to violate the law to implement “conservative” policies (just to take two recent examples from my life), you not only alienate your allies, you look downright strange to independents.

Why bring this up?  Because the polls are moving from bad to worse, with the Tea Party now enjoying only 25% agreement in Tea Party districts.  These are the very districts most impervious to liberal media influence, the very districts often most gerrymandered to ensure a permanent conservative presence in Congress — and yet the Tea Party is at 25%?

The rise of Newt Gingrich as the “anti-Mitt” represents a serious blow to Tea Party dominance.  Conservatives like Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum have to be shaking their heads.  Wasn’t this the year for the “true conservative?”  Don’t their lifetime flawless conservative records count for something?  Yet in Newt Gingrich you have the very essence of the establishment Republican, a former Speaker of the House who has made millions as a quasi-lobbyist.

Obviously it’s way too early to write the Tea Party’s obituary, but that obituary is inevitable if self-proclaimed “true conservatives” continue to act like the fratricidal ideological scolds they’ve become.