Can a Standing O Shake a Worldview? UPDATED

If you did not see the standing ovation given Newt Gingrich when went “smackdown” on John King during last night’s debate, here it is:

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I came to the debate a few minutes late so I didn’t see it live. At the end of the debate, when CNN replayed “highlights” the standing-O wasn’t included (it certainly seemed like a “highlight” whether one liked it or not), so I only became aware of it thanks to the internet, and social media.

This morning I got an email from a friend who scours the papers, and he wrote:

AP and others did not even mention the standing O

I took a quick look around at various mainstream reports and discovered that my friend was correct. Even pieces identifying themselves as analysis of “winners and losers” or “views from the bleachers” made no mention of the standing ovation that accompanied Newt’s smackdown of King. From the bleachers, this is what it looked like to CNN:

He opened by offering Newt Gingrich a chance to respond to his allegations from his ex-wife in an interview on ABC. Gingrich delivers a flat “No” and the segmented crowd becomes uniform in its applause as Gingrich attacked the media.

The writers, Soledad O’Brien and Rose Arce (two sets of eyes!) were in the bleachers and saw the crowd “become uniform,” but they can’t bring themselves to report what they actually saw.

Several reports did make mention of the other unusual moment of the night, when John King asked Santorum, Gingrich and Romney about their pro-life positions and then then moved on. The audience (and even my husband and I at home) yelled at the moderator, “what about Paul! He’s a doctor!” And King was forced to allow Paul to be part of the discussion. The press was right to mention the moment, but — as my friend said — they seem to be determined to ignore Newt’s standing-o, which is something completely foreign to debates; in my memory it has never happened before. That alone makes it news-worthy and yet it’s not considered mentionable. To the press, it was not a “highlight.”

Which means we must ask, why is that?

Perhaps they are in denial. They have a very tidy playbook about how to go about destroying Republican candidates: you call them stupid; you call them crazy; you feature ugly or unflattering pictures of them; you delve into their trash and their college transcripts (but only theirs) or you expose their sins (but only theirs), confident in the knowledge that people are sheep, susceptible to gossip and the media’s leading leash; conservatives, after all, are judgmental “values voters” who will (according to the playbook) be repelled by tawdry stories of narcissistic (Republican, only) politicians who serially cheat on their wives!

And last night, John King asked a question about Newt Gingrich’s past marriage issues — this is a big gun that’s supposed to do serious damage — and the thing backfired on them; it blew up in their hands as the audience “became uniform” in expressing its disgust not for the tawdry politician, but for the press that has become so nakedly overt in its bias, and so selective in what it finds newsworthy and what it does not.

The standing ovation for Newt’s remarks were not an endorsement of his behavior — many conservatives are troubled by Gingrich’s past and character does matter to them, while other conservatives are remembering their own sins and falling back on what they know of mercy, for the time being. No, that ovation was an endorsement of Gingrich’s disdain for the mainstream media, which they share, and a declaration to that same media that their playbook is played-out. It said:

“We are done responding like Pavlovian dogs to your bells; we no longer trust you; we understand that you are no longer a press that is free, but one that is enthralled to its own ideologies and agendas. From this point on, a candidate is going to rise or fall on the substance of their ideas and abilities, not on your prosy gushes about his brilliance, or stern warnings about her stupidity. You savaged George W. Bush you savaged Sarah Palin and you got away with it. You carried your own preferred, utterly inexperienced, passionate ideologue into the White House with over-effusive rhetoric and you have buffeted him from inquiry (tax returns? Hell, we’d just like to see Obama’s college transcripts!), or what you perceive to be damaging stories, but you elevated your favorite at the cost of your own credibility, and now it comes back to bite you. Because a press with no credibility has nothing to offer us. It has nowhere to go, now, except into the arms of the political machine it has loved. Just like Pravda, actually.”

The mainstream press does not want to discuss last night’s standing ovation because it shakes their worldview. They were supposed to be able to control the narrative; they were supposed to be able to corral the sheep. And last night, the sheep indicated that they’re no longer willing to be herded, no longer going to allow their own moral judgments to be exploited in a time when the nation is facing serious issues. They’ve decided they’re going to make up their own minds, thank you, about who they think is up to dealing with those issues. They’re looking at the press and saying, “Scallywags, heal thyselves!”

This has to be a true shake-up for the press. No wonder they don’t mind, so much, the idea of the government being able to shut down the internet at will. Without it, it will be so much easier to hide what they’d rather not have to discuss.

Which is precisely why we really need to make sure the internet remains unencumbered. Shutting it down may be the only play the mainstream media has left.

Understand, this is not about loving or hating Newt; this is simply a look at the press and where it’s at and how it got here.

UPDATE: In the combox, Kathy Shaidle from Five Feet of Fury has a different interpretation of the ovation, one that I admit did not occur to me, likely because I am (as usual) part of the stone-throwing rabble, and I think her point is certainly one that is worth consideration:

To me they are the equivalent of the OJ jury:

Yeah, we know he’s guilty, but THIS is for all the innocents (we think) were “wrongly accused”/roughed up by cops, etc

That is not the dignified, intelligent position, no matter how deeply tempting it is and no matter whose side adopts it.

The response was one of a team scoring a touchdown. And the Blue/Red “team” mentality of electoral politics is part of what’s wrong with it, not something to be encouraged.

Yes, the media is hopelessly biased and corrupt. I’ve been blogging for 12 years and bow to no one in my championship of alternative media. Everything you’re saying about them is 100% true. I don’t even believe in “not stooping to their level” — I say stoop away. Anything else is a mug’s game.

And yet: that standing o was so “reptilian brain” it curdled my stomach.

A bit of conscience-singe for Christians? Perhaps. As I said, it’s worth pondering, and asking, “is it me, Lord?” We are, after all, supposed to be better than all that.

Meanwhile Francis Beckwith,
who before the debate wondered if some think it’s better to be an adulterer than a Mormon, has a followup: on Gingrich, Romney and the Evangelicals

The slings and arrows of Christianity, kids — we have to ask these questions seriously and answer them honestly. Otherwise we’re just clanging gongs.

A look back: at how we got here

More reactions to last night, as I find them:
Rich Lowry: An overview
Ross Douthat: So what are Newt’s big ideas?
Ed Morrissey: Santorum Wins: is it too little too late?
Krauthammer: GOP Suicide March?
Barone: A good night for Santorum and Romney
James Taranto: “No-Fault Newt?”

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Todd

    “Todd, this wasn’t a wake up call for conservatives, it was a wake-up call for the press.”


    The mainstream press, tv and print, are the mouthpieces of the corporations. For the most part, journalists in the limelight have sold out. See below.

    “How many times has Todd bashed Rush and Fox news here and wherever else he comments.”

    I’m a contrarian. So? You don’t read the liberal web sites, and you certainly don’t comment there.

    This commentariat is pretty similar to the audience in South Carolina. It was a *Republican* event, people. How many Democrats and liberal independents were there. How many cared?

    This was an event for the GOP Faithful, and the Tea Party, and whatnot. Kathy S is right: this was Mr Gingrich’s OJ moment. I applaud them too: hat’s off. Good show. But it’s not mainstream America these days.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    daisy, yes, Kathy Shaidle is not anyone anybody should take seriously.

    She has some very weird fixations, and prejudices.

  • Carol McL

    I can see Kathy’s point, but I am with The Anchoress on this one.
    That Kathy Shaidle has an opinion different from that of the Anchoress and yourself doesn’t make her a person who should not be taken seriously, Rhinestone Suderman. We all have our own fixations and prejudices. I find her fantastic myself. Do I agree with her on everything? No. Doesn’t change my opinion of her blog (a must-read for me) and her work: great stuff.

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  • currently

    Elizabeth, I think you’re first reaction was the correct one. Hope you stay part of the “stone-throwing rabble”.

  • T D

    Yes, we know he’s guilty? Of what? Of asking for an “open” marriage. We don’t know that. That he’s guilty of two divorces? Not really a guilt question in any legal or political sense.

    Maybe Shaidle doesn’t know that lust = adultery in moral terms and hatred = murder, and the Lord isn’t too keen on lying or false accusations either. So, if we’re talking moral guilt . . . neither Shaidle nor I, not to mention the other three on the stage or the questioners, pass the OJ jury test either.

    OJ was guilty (or not) of murder. A horrible crime. People go to jail and are sometimes executed for it. No one goes to jail in the US for divorce, adultery or other consenting adult issues. To compare the two is not just boneheaded, it’s twisted.

  • bobby b

    “And yet: that standing o was so “reptilian brain” it curdled my stomach.”
    – - –
    So, ABC pulls a typical ABC sleazy stunt and airs it when it did. And then CNN puts it out as the very first question in the nationally-televised presidential debate. Newt, plainly angry, essentially answers “up yours, jerkface!” And quickly, happily, spontaneously, the crowd is on its feet cheering someone who refused to play the MSM’s game.

    Newt’s not going to mumble some half-hearted response about “difficult times in the past” or try to slip past the question. In the past, with other Republicans hammered by the same networks and actors with contrived, dishonest, facially goofy crap, our standard response has been to look at each other with shocked faces and quickly move past it, all the while hoping it had little impact. The whole idea that only shytes and barstards could tell such venal tales just so their side could win – well, everyone did in fact believe that as we do now, but they also felt that the behavior had usually been so wrong, so unacceptable, so deviant, that the press must already know how slimey and contemptible they’d been, and they also must know that we all knew it too, so it was just politeness not to talk about something they already knew. But they read that politeness as a weakness.

    As far as his response went, Newt didn’t so much say it as slap that gameshow host in the face with it. And, sorry, reptile lady, but many of us just felt ourselves resonating inside with the truth and correctness of how he responded. For eons, we treated y’all as decent folk, and when one of yours did something this sleazy, we’d do the shocked act, but we’d just sort of let y’all skate away, on the general principle that what you had done was despicable enough so that even y’all must be right ashamed of yourselves, as would any decent people who had done what was done.

    I will say that I found your “reptilian” reaction to this very visceral resonance we all felt with Newt at that moment to be cold-blooded and unemphatic.

    “Reptilian,” I guess.

  • bobby b



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  • Jim Treacher

    The thing is: a touchdown is a touchdown, even if you don’t like the quarterback of the team that scored it.

  • Brown Line

    Newt made three points. One was about the nature of the accusation against him, the second was the manner in which the Pravda Media is directing public discourse in this country, and the third is about the Pravda Media’s partisanship.

    Kathy Shaidle addresses the first point, and she may be right. But the crowd wasn’t cheering Newt’s rebuttal of the charges made against him personally: they were cheering his second and third points. With regard to how the Pravda Media conducts public discourse: At a time when the world economy is in serious trouble, Islamism is on the rise, an aggressive theocracy is actively seeking nuclear weapons, the moderator of the “debate” opens the proceeding with a question about a mud-flinging story from an ex-wife. Enough said. With regard to partisanship, compare how the PM has handled the Gingrich accusations, with how they dealt with those against John Edwards. And if any Republican had confessed to having used cocaine, as President Obama did in his autobiography, does anyone honestly think that the PM would simply let the matter rest?

    In the early 1980s, the late newspaperman Joseph Kraft published an essay in “Commentary”, in which he compared the media in this country to an occupying army: a force alien, imposed, whose purpose isn’t service, but control. Newt’s forceful statement of that truth is what brought the crowd to its feet.

  • willis

    “And the Blue/Red “team” mentality of electoral politics is part of what’s wrong with it, not something to be encouraged.”

    The Blue/Red “team” is not a state of mentality. It is a the preponderance of differences in political viewpoint. Campaigns are waged to attract support from the non-committed, or even non-political, to one’s viewpoint(s). The effectiveness in promoting such viewpoints, along with the appeal of the candidates, determine the outcome of the election. To say that the visual depiction of such differences by means of, say, a standing ovation, is not something to be encouraged to to totally misread the entire political process.

  • Claude Hopper

    It seems Newt’s rise in the polls is due to his continuing challenging of the MSM types. That skill doesn’t a president make!

  • Westie

    Agree completely with Brown Line on the response from the audience. The Media is the enemy of truth.

  • Bruce

    Challenging the MSM will not change their minds. But most people know the MSM are compulsive liars and will, even just for a short period of time, cause many people on both sides of the political spectrum to support Newt. Kissing MSM ass (McCain) is a recipe for disaster.

    As for Kathy Shaidle … she’s wrong. I used to read her. As of today, no more.

  • Kevin

    Oj analogy was bizarre and laughable. Bringing oj into this is like bringing hitler into most debates. It means you’re losing or have lost the capacity for rational argument.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Each to their own, Carol.

    You like Cathy’s writing—I don’t, and not just because of the “Reptilian Brain” comment; while sometimes amusing, there’s a bilious undercurrent to much of her stuff that I dislike—and I really dislike the prejudices she indulges in. It’s a free country. You’re free to consider her, “Must read” material; I am not.

    As for the standing and cheering, I am glad to see Republicans not just knuckling under to media, anymore. (And to my mind, there’s nothing “Reptilian brained” about simply standing and clapping.) One thing I do like about Newt; he’s not afraid to fight back.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Yes, the O.J. analogy is, um—strange. It is kinda like the “That’s just like Hitler!” non argument.

  • k

    Amen, lady. When I read this, I stood with them and felt energized.

    Good people have a tendency to keep quiet too long. They are too willing to be polite and not willing enough to draw lines and stand on them – not willing to be so rude and unkind as to assume harm in another person. Which is how date rape happens, I believe.

    I just wonder if these things that you’ve observed – is it too late? Is the power too far past us now? I remember when gas rose so high because of the “shortages,” I was sure that within five years there’d be not one car on the road. Plenty of cars on the road – plenty more than there were then, but the prices, so strangely, never came down.

  • Robert Hanson

    What in the world is the matter with the Republican Party, that they allow their enemies to direct their debates? Resulting in absurd questions, like what would you do if you found out your son was gay. A nonsense question at a time of unparalleled deficits and debt, un/underemployment, millions losing their houses, and Iran approaching nuclear capability. How stupid of them to allow the oh so biased MSM, which are totally committed to Obama’s re-election, to deform the debates in ways that slant their direction to the detriment of both candidates and the Party itself.

    Ask yourself this, would the Democrats ever allow their debates to be “moderated” by Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter?

    In the same vein, calling the entire debate audience “reptilian”, and the equivalent of the OJ jury is utterly despicable. The OJ jury acquited him based on race. This is just another sneaky way of denigrating Republicans as “racist”. They applauded for the very reason I just mentioned, they are sick and tired of Democrats masquerading as journalists turning the debates away from pressing national issues towards issues of personal disparagement.

  • Kevin

    I wonder if oj has tracked down the real killers yet. More importantly i want to know who obama’s drug dealer was.

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  • bastiches

    There is nothing noble about adopting a bloodless, passive response to the slander from the mainstream press. To say that it’s unseemly to have some passion in the face mud flung at us daily is in itself another insult.

    Politics has always been a rough trade. Those that think losing gracefully is the key should keep their counsel to themselves.

  • Dion

    Like the OJ jury? What absolute rubbish–a garbage analogy. Those allegations about Newt have been around a long time and there was absolutely no reason for that “news” story or King’s question other than throwing a leftist/media bomb.

    Did Newt hack two people to death with the tacit approval and cheers of the racists and media that voted 1000 to 1 for Obama?

    Five feet of Canadian bullshit. Yes, they do stack it that high, apparently.

  • SDN

    Jeremy, Cain didn’t have to drop out; he could have done exactly what Newt did (and should have). He chose to quit rather than fight.

  • deborh

    I agree with the point made about the media…in all sensationalistic forms. That would apply to FOX also. I agree with Many of Gingrich’s views. Do I trust him? No. e is a very smart, articulate man playing a ping pong match of wits wit the press. When Clinton was on trial with the Lewinski affair- Newt was front and center to criticize. Hmmm, would’nt that be around the time he WAS also having an affair. I believe he can dish it out but can’t take it. Americans have a short memory.

  • Doc

    Robert, you stole my point. It’s been said that we have the Evil Party and the Stupid Party. The Evil Party isn’t dumb enough to let Rush, Sean, and Levin moderate any, much less every one of their debates. The RNC is happy to continue stumbling along with a big Kick Me sign taped to its back.

    My guess is Cain dropped out to save his marriage, which makes me respect him a bit more than Newt, although if it came down to Newt vs Obama, it’s Newt.

  • jason taylor

    “OJ was guilty (or not) of murder. A horrible crime. People go to jail and are sometimes executed for it. No one goes to jail in the US for divorce, adultery or other consenting adult issues. To compare the two is not just boneheaded, it’s twisted.”

    Perhaps so but the opinions of the US justice system do not decide which sin is more henious, only which sin is most inconvenient to the government. The Bible says to respect the authorities and there is overlap between morality and law. Nonetheless using the Criminal Justice System as the primary basis for comparison is rather dubious. This is a theological and philosophical blog, not a jury.

  • Greta

    Deborh, you say “When Clinton was on trial with the Lewinski affair- Newt was front and center to criticize” is wrong. Newt resigned after his prediction of gaining house seats in the 1998 election proved wrong and some blamed his leadership for this failure. The “trial” came after newt left his position so he was hardly front and center. We also now know that privately, Newt advised Clinton to come clean and tell the people he had indeed had an affair and “not” to lie under oath on the matter. Newt by this time had a fairly good relationship with Clinton. For those who have short memories, Clinton was being forced to answer questions because he was being sued by Paula Jones for his sexual harrassment and this lawsuit is what started the entire matter. It was during his depositions in the Paula Jones suit for sexual harrassment that Clinton first lied under oath. Also remember that since the Clarence Thomas hearings, the issue of sexual harrassment had been front and center and anyone accused of this found themselves toast politically as with Packwood, a moderately liberal republican. Every company was spending millions on sexual harrassment training sessions for all employees with major training for all management. Now we had a president, who has more power than any CEO, having sex with an intern who obviously had zero power. This was a case where if a CEO was guilty of it in any way, would have been fired and taken to the cleaners. Womens rights had successfully made major strides in ending this problem in the workplace and now everything was lost because now they had to defend Clinton to keep him in office showing their total hypocrisy. So don’t try to lay this on Newt. Newt did not swear under oath because he had not sexually harrassed a string of women requiring lawsuit defense. He fell in love with another woman and both times ended up marrying her. This happens every day in America much to my regret but it is also why those trying to make this a Clinton equivalent have lost touch with reality.

  • Greta

    S Carolina election over. Newt wins big. Wins big with women. Wins big in every catagory measured and in every country dispelling that only the strong right conservatives would support him and he would split the anti-romeney vote with Santorum and paul. So much for the bitter wife promise to come out and end his campaign/career. So much for the elite media chasing her down and enticing her to come out so they could hurt newt. Now on to Florida with a full head of steam. And if the ‘establishment’ republicans now try to take the conservative down to give us another dole or mcrino, they will spur a third party backlash for generations. They need to stay out and let the voters decide who they want for the nominee. Anyone who believes this needs to make sure their voice is heard to the republican powers right now.


    The media don’t give a damn that they hurting Gingrich’s ex-wife. She’s just this week’s cannon-fodder. And all to keep a President in office who can’t say a straight word about ANYTHING.

  • David M. Brown

    I liked the piece until I got to the horrific update part. I can’t argue against this second “thought” except to refer to the preceding.

    All happy marriages are different, but every unhappy marriage ending in divorce is alike in that persons not directly witnessing the course of the dissolution are really not in a good position to opine about what went wrong and who is to blame and to what extent. Fat biographies can’t resolve these things to the satisfaction of objective readers with no axe to grind–and it’s supposed to be definitively settled during a two-minute back-and-forth in a primary debate?

    There was NO warrant–none whatever–for trying to make political fodder out of such a marital situation. Setting aside cases in which a spouse has filed multiple complaints of assault and battery, or is standing over the corpse of a formerly beloved with a dripping axe, the conduct of a failed marriage usually can’t be fairly pronounced upon by anybody in any general social context, let alone the context of a bitter political contest in which the Obama-pocketed media are intent upon flinging accusations around at random. And what on earth has the decision to end an unhappy marriage got to do with Newt Gingrich’s qualifications to be the President?

    The blog post’s PRE-update, PRE-equivocating analysis has it exactly right. What else could the audience have been responding to except their disdain for left-leaning media bearing smears? What could the audience members have meant to convey but their own enthusiastic endorsement of a response that eschewed hedging and hemming and hawing but consisted in fighting back good and hard? Sure, they cheered Gingrich. What else could they do and still retain their self-respect? Should they have clapped their hands a couple times and nodded until they had obtained proper time to mull the pros and cons of either lending their support to the smear-target or letting their silence aid and abet the wielders of the smear?

    I don’t find the update “open-minded.” I find it offensive.