Sorry, I simply could not help using that title. I tried to type in something else, but it just would not appear as anything other than “Newtered.” But, to business.
With Trump and Huckabee out of the race, the herd of Republican presidential candidates has thinned. In Trump’s case, he seems to have milked the media coverage as much as he could. If he declared his candidacy, this would both limit and expose him in ways he probably would not like. In the case of Huckabee, he is probably content with his sweet deal on Fox.
Newt, well known for his multiple marriages and being one of the intellectual powerhouses of the Republican party, seems to have gotten off on a very bad start. Since someone put my email on the CFACT mailing list, I received their scathing attack on Newt for his appearing with Nancy Pelosi to talk about climate change. To even consider the possibility that human activity has had any impact on climate conditions seems to be regarded by some conservatives as a vile heresy.
The impact of those past appearances will probably be minimal, however. In fact, it might be dismissed as a youthful indiscretion: he was young(er) and everyone was doing it back then. In any case, Newt does not seem terribly worried about this matter.
What does seem to be bothering him is the reaction to his criticism, made on Meet the Press, of House Budget Committee Chairman Ryan’s proposal regarding health care. While Newt was critical of Obamacare, he went beyond criticizing the left and claimed he “would be against a conservative imposing radical change.” Newt also seemed to present what would appear to be a consistent position: he noted that he is against social engineering from the left and the right. I actually agree with Newt: engineering from the extremes generally seems to have negative consequences for everyone in the middle.
When I saw the original clip, I briefly hoped that Newt was redefining himself as a candidate who would take a principled stand based on a reasonable assessment of an issue. That would indeed be a refreshing change and I would like to think that it could actually be a viable path for a candidate.
I was not, however, surprised when it quickly turned out that this miniscule flicker of hope was unfounded. After being savagely attacked by his fellow Republicans, Newt quickly repudiated his words and presented a response that managed to get beyond even the sort of double talk presented by politicians:”any ad which quotes what I said Sunday is a falsehood and because I have said publicly, those words were inaccurate and unfortunate.”
To quote Newt out of context and incompletely would, of course, be the fallacy of accent (or incomplete evidence). However, he has not been damned for a quote pulled out of context, but for his full remarks in full context. As such, an ad that includes what he said (in full and in context) would not seem to be a falsehood: it would report what he actually said, without any deceit by omission.
Newt has tried to blame the media for hitting him with questions calculated to get the answers they wanted (perhaps loaded or complex questions). However, Newt is an experienced politician and has appeared on Meet the Press numerous times. As such, to claim that he was cleverly tricked by, as Palin would say, the “lamestream” media seems unlikely. While it is possible that Newt was led like a lamb to the slaughter, that would certainly raise doubts about his chops. After all, a candidate who cannot stand up to a TV show host might reasonably be regarded as not having what it takes to be the leader of the free world.There is also the concern that if he says what he does not mean and says that he does not mean it, then the voters might be forgiven for having doubts about anything he says. While we do not have much faith in politicians, we generally prefer that they do not say that they say things they do not mean. We’d rather have them say things they do not mean and leave it at that. But, to be fair to Newt, everyone does have bad days and it is worth considering the possibility that he did not really mean what he said.