The Other McCain

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Newt Attacks Santorum at Red State: Gingrich’s Bankrupt Narcissism

Posted on | March 20, 2012 | 39 Comments

“Newt Gingrich has more debt than cash on hand, according to the FEC report he will file today. . . . Gingrich continues to carry $1.55 million in debt and the cash flow has evidently slowed. . . . [T]here are already complaints in the extended Gingrich universe about unpaid bills. . . . Gingrich’s February fundraising total puts him at the back of the GOP pack, after Mitt Romney’s $11.5 million, Rick Santorum’s $9 million and Ron Paul’s $3.3 million.”
Alexander Burns, Politico

“Had the dominance of televised debates reduced the 2012 campaign to the level of a show-biz publicity stunt, manipulated by TV networks? Had the relationship between poll numbers and media coverage become a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy, so that only those with good poll numbers could expect good coverage, and vice-versa? Had network executives and pollsters completely replaced Republican voters as the deciders of the GOP nomination? These were obvious questions raised by the long campaign, but none of the moderators in any of the debates ever raised those questions, perhaps for the same reason the Wizard of Oz warned Dorothy to ignore that man behind the curtain.”
Robert Stacy McCain, “The Campaign as TV Show,” The American Spectator, March 2012

“The self-consciousness that mocks all attempts at spontaneous action or enjoyment derives in the last analysis from the waning belief in the reality of the external world, which has lost its immediacy in a society pervaded by ‘symbolically mediated information.’ . . . To the performing self, the only reality is the identity he can construct out of materials furnished by advertising and mass culture, themes of popular film and fiction, and fragments torn from a vast range of cultural traditions . . . In order to polish and perfect the part he has devised for himself, the new Narcissus gazes at his own reflection . . .”
Christopher Lasch, The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations, 1979

One of the great dangers of our age is the pervasive superficiality that mistakes seeming for being. This is a problem that extends throughout society and is certainly not a new thing under the sun. Christ excoriated the scribes and Pharisees for their hypocritical self-righteousness, describing them as “whited sepulchres” — whitewashed tombs — “which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.”

There have always been those who excel at seeming virtuous, but who fail spectacularly at actually being virtuous, and so skillful hypocrites have always been able to deceive those who view human nature superficially. Yet this problem has taken on new significance in an age when “symbolically mediated information” (or, as most of us call it, “the media”) so often shapes our perceptions and personalities.

The phenomenon of “the performing self,” as Lasch explained it, is peculiarly common in an era when so many people spend a significant part of their childhoods on the sofa watching TV, and thus are raised with the superficiality of perception that television encourages. (See the late Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death and The Disappearance of Childhood, for a deeper understanding of how TV affects our perceptions.) We cannot wish this phenomenon away; it is our new reality; and yet it important, if we wish to criticize the ways in which media influence our political discourse, to see this superficiality and the related role of “the performing self” as clearly as possible.

Grant this: The people who manipulate the media know what they’re doing. David Axelrod and George Stephanopoulos are experts at the manipulation of political perception. If some of us have learned to spot their handiwork (see my March 6 American Spectator column, “Political Puppet Show”) this does not mean we are entirely immune to manipulation. Republicans also engage in media manipulation and if you were shocked when Rick Santorum said Fox News had shown a pro-Romney bias, you should ask yourself why you hadn’t noticed it earlier.

This bias began to manifest itself clearly in February, after Newt Gingrich lost the Florida (Jan. 31) and Nevada (Feb. 4), and Santorum experienced a second surge with his triple victories Feb. 7 in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri. How many times did reporters and commentators on Fox News repeat the Romney campaign’s spin that these were “non-binding” contests? Technically true, but blatantly misleading, the repetition of this spin clearly served to dimish the importance of Santorum’s victories and, I suspect, reflected a deeper bias among some people at Fox: Gingrich was their preferred “Not Mitt” alternative, because Newt is good on TV.

Being good on TV is, of course, a basic qualification for presidential candidates in the modern era, but Gingrich’s excellence in debate and his amazing ability to deliver crisp sound-bites with such apparent spontaneity is quite nearly his only qualification as a candidate.

When Gingrich’s campaign imploded on the launch pad last June, I hoped we would be spared the painful experience of watching Newt demonstrate his incapacity for the larger tasks of organizing a national campaign. When the derailment of the Cain Train in November sparked a “second look at Newt” push by conservative pundits, I was astonished.

Really? The GOP is going to nominate Mr. Third Marriage, the guy whose current wife was the congressional staffer with whom he was having an extramarital affair during the Lewinsky scandal?

Whatever else Gingrich has said or done in his career, that episode permanently marred his biography and even if he were somehow to win the Republican nomination, that biographical datum alone would suffice to doom Newt in November. Say what you will about his ability to debate the issues, Americans wouldn’t elect Newt Gingrich president even if his Democratic opponent were Al Sharpton.

No matter how stupid Dave Weigel thinks GOP primary voters are, the overwhelming majority of Republicans are at least wise enough to understand Newt’s ultimate un-electability.

Nevertheless, Gingrich has always had a vocal squad of cheerleaders among those who think that “issues” are all that matters in politics, for whom the thought of Newt debating Obama is a favorite fantasy.

But it is a fantasy, and it was never anything more than that: Gingrich never had a shot at becoming the Republican nominee, because his biography is so clearly un-presidential. The “narrative arc” is wrong.

Besides, who believes “issues” were all that matters in politics? I think I’m pretty solid on the issues, so why am I not running for president?

Once you’ve stopped laughing at the absurd notion of me campaigning for president, ask yourself why anyone ever took Newt Gingrich’s campaign more seriously. He was a Congressman from Georgia who spent four years as Speaker of the House before being rejected by his own GOP majority. And maybe you should think about this question: Why, during the past 13 years, did Newt never run for senator or governor or any other statewide office in Georgia?

OK, now to my point: Think back to January, to the debates in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida. Think back to all of Newt’s speeches and media appearances in January when he said that there was nothing more important than preventing Mitt Romney from winning the Republican nomination. Think about the several times when Newt said that the only way — the only way — to stop Mitt was for all conservatives (including Santorum) to “coalesce” behind Newt Gingrich.

Obviously that didn’t happen and now, after having lost even in such of his supposed Deep South strongholds as Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi, after having finished fourth in 10 states in the past six weeks, with his campaign clearly teetering on the brink of complete collapse — now, I say, at this crucial point in the 2012 primary campaign, Newt publishes a column at Red State savaging Rick Santorum and once more insisting that he, Newt Gingrich, is the “only . . . candidate in this race who can offer the change our country desperately needs.”

Really? Fourth in Minnesota, fourth in Maine, fourth in Michigan, fourth in Washington State, fourth in Alaska, fourth in North Dakota, fourth in Vermont, fourth in Massachusetts, fourth in Idaho, fourth in Wyoming — if Newt Gingrich is so obviously “the change our country desperately needs,” why have so many Republican primary voters failed to see this?

Could it be that Newt Gingrich is deluded by his own narcissism?

Could it be that Newt was less than sincere in telling conservatives that stopping Mitt Romney was his top priority?

Could it be that Newt, knowing his own campaign is now hopelessly doomed, used this opportunity to damage Santorum’s chances as the last remaining viable alternative to Romney?

He could support Dede Scozzafava, but not Rick Santorum.

Newt is very good at seeming, but not so good at being what he seems. And he evidently thinks we’re too stupid to notice the difference.

No, Newt: We’re not that stupid. Unlike you, we have not lost all belief in “the reality of the external world.”

 

 

UPDATE: Speaking of narcissism, readers will forgive me for tooting my own horn about predicting Gingrich’s bankruptcy.

On Feb. 21, after the January campaign finance reports were published, I warned that Gingrich’s spending was “unsustainable.” Last Tuesday, March 13, I posted two important questions:

Question 1: How much did Newt raise in February? Question 2: What was his campaign’s cash-on-hand and total debt as of March 1?

Even then, I suspected that Gingrich would badly trail Santorum in February fundraising, and that he would have more debt than cash-on-hand when the FEC reports came in. That warning was repeated in various other posts over the past week until finally yesterday, I bluntly titled a post: “Is Newt’s Campaign Bankrupt?

Excuse me for pointing our my own prescience, but you might notice that (a) no other conservative blogger warned you about Newt’s impending bankruptcy, and (b) the same bloggers who failed to predict this outcome will also fail to give me credit for having successfully done so.

Why is this? What benefit do others seek to gain by depriving me of credit when I so clearly deserve credit? Is it just my hurt feelings that causes me to notice this, or does this point to some problem more significant than my bruised ego?

 


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Comments

  • Edwd Haas

    Your refernce to Lasch is so appropriate.  His book on narcissism got a lot of attention, but his previous work on the attack on the family reinforces your point even more.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_MJGP4QXZ5PRW2MFA5E25CV2WNU rosalie

    I’ve always had reservations about Newt and I think you explained why.   And you’re right, he  supported Scozzafava, who’s nothing more than another RINO, but not Rick Santorum.  Maybe Newt is looking to have Romney pay his campaign debts.

  • StrangernFiction

    Santorum is 19-1 against Gingrich in states that aren’t Georgia or don’t border Georgia (they are 2-2 in states that border Georgia).

  • robertstacymccain

    Haven in a Heartless World, indeed!

    It’s ironic how Lasch, a sincere liberal, saw so many things that so few of today’s liberals are able to see. And the same might be said of Neil Postman.

  • MarlaHughes

    BUT, Newt has more *bound* delegates than Santorum. Just a what if, but ‘what if’ some or even quite a few of those delegates everyone’s counting for Santorum or even Romney are actually those stealth delegates R. Paul keeps smiling about? Hhhmm? We wouldn’t even make it to the second round at the Convention if delegates who arrive unbound vote Paul on the first round. Chaos. Paul and Romney have been working this back room deal on delegates longer than the primary campaign. Expect shenanigans @ the Convention and you’d better hope someone with experience at halting such skull duggery like Newt is there to counter it. 

    Let’s not count our delegates before they hatch. 

  • http://www.leftbankofthecharles.com/ Charles

    Santorum is going to win more states than Huckabee, so has the social conservative movement really been damaged? Yes, you could add South Carolina and Georgia to the Santorum win column but so what? We know they’d vote socon for the right candidate.

    Gingrich took just as bad a pounding in Iowa from Santorum as from Romney, he owes Santorum nothing. And Santorum isn’t asking for his delegates nicely. The pure socon play has its limits and Santorum has hit up against them.

    If anyone has any complaint in this process, it’s the Tea Party. Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul represent that faction but very imperfectly. Mitt Romney is at least willing to consider Marco Rubio and Rand Paul for the VP slot on the ticket. That’s how you play this game to win.

    As for Newt Gingrich’s stack of unpaid bills, anyone who didn’t demand cash up front from him after Florida should have known better. No sympathy.

  • http://twitter.com/richard_mcenroe richard mcenroe

     Newt to vendors: “You f***ed up!  You trusted us!”  There’s a campaign motto to inspire trust!

    But seriously, such a punim!  Who couldn’t trust a smile like that?

  • TR

    Very odd and rash for you to run a column on Newt’s attack on Rick without 1) giving the link to Redstate Newt attack, and 2) without giving the link for the Rick S. precursor article as they appeared as a couplet on subsequent days. 

    Instead you start quoting the bible and some pseudo-psychobable about Narcissism.  Have you even read Otto Kernberg one of the true experts on pathological narcissism? 

    And this is the Ricky-boy defense.  How dare you Newt criticize Rick when you not leading in the polls! you must be narcissistic the bible says so. 

    Stacy you need some sleep dude.

  • http://twitter.com/richard_mcenroe richard mcenroe

    Newt. has got. no money.
    Newt. has got. no wins.
    You. has got. no clue.

  • robertstacymccain

    TR, did you miss this in the post? “… Newt publishes a column at Red State savaging Rick Santorum…”

    I did link it!

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/EU5DQWQTTHTPO4A4ZYSL3AAV2U Adjoran

    Newt is being as nice to Santorum as Rick is being to Gingrich, and both are to Romney and he is to them.  Politics ain’t beanbag.  Sissy boys who can’t take the heat should sign up for Nerf Politics and play with their Moms.

    I still don’t get why ANY vendor would bill a campaign for anything.  Once they lose, they are out of money and there is no one to sue to get paid.  Even if they win a primary, there is no incentive to pay you, you’re old news and the media and hotels in the next state may be smart enough to demand payment in advance. 

    But Newt’s “campaign” has been more like a stroll anyway.  He and Callista touring art museums and eating at famous restaurants – way to get the grassroots excited, there, Newt!  “Shucks, let’s us send Gingrich some more money – maybe he can buy Callista somethin’ reeeeeeal nice!”

  • TR

    You’re right, sorry.  (20+ paragraph into the story. I missed it)

  • Finrod Felagund

    Class act, Stacy, completely ignoring any of Newt’s points.

    Do you really think Santorum is going to be electable when he can’t shut his trap about the evils of birth control but at the same time he says that he doesn’t care about the unemployment rate?

    If you believe that, I’ve got a South Georgia ski resort to sell you.

  • Edwd Haas

    Thank you, I’d had a temporary (I hope) geezerhood moment re. the title of Lasch’s previous book . . . .

  • Edwd Haas

    Having looked at the outcomes of patients treated by therapists on the Kernberg/Kohut line of thinking, I don’t think charges of “pseudo . . . ” anything should be levelled at those skeptical of the individual/quasi-psychoanalytic application of these cultural theories to the real problems of patients.

  • robertstacymccain

    Finrod, your boundless contempt for Santorum is blinding you to my (implicit) point: Who is Gingrich, who has spent his own campaign into bankruptcy, to lecture Santorum about fiscal probity?

    Why is Newt’s credibility deficit not apparent to you?

  • Pathfinder’s wife

    That’s going to be a blast — the GOP convention, and if Romney’s going to win he is going to have to try and find a way to keep both the libertarian and the Tea Party people happy (and if he’s smart he’ll make amends to the socons, but the damage may have already been done).

    I should probably stock up on popcorn if this is what happens, because that’s the only good thing that will come out of it ( the opportunity to indulge in my love of popcorn).

  • TR

    I probably agree with you (although your comment has deeply embeded double negatives). 

    The real problems of pathological narcissism have been mixed into pop-cultural theories with little regard to the complex psychopathology involved.  While very few psychiatrists are using psychoanalytic techniques these days, there are some patient improvements from REBT, Cog-Behav. approaches, and Marsha Linehan who has a good approach particularly to borderline personality disorder. 

    Nonetheless, FYI, Kergberg does some great in-depth writing on Borderline Conditions and Pathological Narcissism (c) 1985, 1997  Jason Aronson, Inc).

  • Asian_chic

    Right, lets not count delegates except when you’re talking about Newt’s bound delegates. Don’t forget that Santorum won Kentucky so he is ahead. But that is not the main point. Do you really think that Newt’s main purpose is to keep Flipper’s from reaching 1144? If so, shouldn’t he be attacking Flipper? When are you going to open your eyes? What he is doing is not good for the country and anyone with brains can see this.

  • elaine

     You asked of Finrod:

    Why is Newt’s credibility deficit not apparent to you?

    Because he’s a hack supporter of Gingrich, blind to any of the man’s faults?

    Newt was calling for Santorum to step aside when he (Newt) had won a grand total of one race.  Talk about chutzpah!  And now that Santorum has won or at least finished well ahead of Newt in nearly every other race?

    Yeah… shoe’s on the other foot, Newt.  The conservative base didn’t coalesce behind you.  Pull up your big boy pants over your butthurt rear-end and do the right thing.  Quit.

    And stop playing attack dog for Romney against the only other conservative in the race.

    If Newt had truly wanted a more conservative choice to defeat Romney for the nomination — as he publicly said he did — he would have graciously stepped aside after his resounding defeat in Tennessee and given a heartfelt endorsement of Santorum.  But that didn’t happen, did it?

    And why not?  Because Newt is a self-aggrandizing a-hole.  Always has been, always will be.

    Finrod and his ilk aren’t going to admit to Gingrich’s credibility deficit now because doing so opens them up to the question of why didn’t they see it sooner, like the rest of us did?

    And admitting that would mean they’d have to admit they aren’t nearly as clever or insightful as most of the voters who’ve cast a ballot thus far this election cycle….

  • tranquil.night

    “Being good on TV is, of course, a basic qualification for presidential candidates in the modern era, but Gingrich’s excellence in debate and his amazing ability to deliver crisp sound-bites with such apparent spontaneity is quite nearly his only qualification as a candidate.”

    “Once you’ve stopped laughing at the absurd notion of me campaigning for president, ask yourself why anyone ever took Newt Gingrich’s campaign more seriously.”

    Stacy, I humbly suggest you self-reflect on your own headlining premise of this post.

    Going beyond Newt to insult and impugn those who support or supported him from your bully pulpit is what’s unconstructive to say the least, and probably what’s provoking people, whether you’re right or not.

    Santorum actually would be better served if he were to learn to harness and master qualities the other candidates have that connect with voters.

  • http://thepagantemple.blogspot.com/ ThePaganTemple

     WTF? Kentucky had a party primary and I wasn’t invited?

  • http://thepagantemple.blogspot.com/ ThePaganTemple

     Time for me to put on my fair hat here. That is a gross misrepresentation of what Santorum said and what he meant. And actually, he’s right. The emphasis should be on liberty and constitutional principles. On that score, Paul has been the most correct the whole time, despite his other nuttiness.

  • Asian_chic

    kansas

  • richard mcenroe

    IF you’re laughing at the idea of Stacy for Prez now, you shoud read the opposition research file the Jefferson Davis campaign put together on him…

  • K-Bob

    You have to be somewhat narcy to run a campaign.  Also, you have to be a bit psycho to sell stuff.  Or to be decent performer.

    The trick is being able to keep it under control, while surfing on those related pathologies to bring in the rubes.

    If we’re gonna compare Newt to say, Obama on the narcy scale, then Newt’s about a 6 and Obama is a solid 10.

    Santorum must be at least a 5 1/2 for running his campaign with little cash for so long.  I mean, if we’re gonna go there, well then, there you go.

    I’d put Romney at 6 with Newt, and Ron Paul at 7.

    Focusing on those “mental” aspects is a snoozer.  Any decent sales hack knows about ‘em, and so do all the campaign hacks.

  • K-Bob

     It’s a logarithmic scale.

  • Edwd Haas

    Thank You:  your “reference” suggestions may work for me:  I am an attorney with a lot of reading background in old-fashioned psychoanalysis.  I look at this mostly analytically(or, perhaps academically, if you will), not as a means to manipulate clients, witnesses, etc. . . . to digress, I always feel “double negatives” have their place in logical argument–but I accept your point that “deeply embedding” them may get out of hand!!

  • tranquil.night

    Politics is Hollywood for the ugly and War for weenies.

  • Pathfinder’s wife

    This is very true — and it is unfortunately also very true that people can be spun and misdirected into believing that he doesn’t care about the economy (which honestly, if you look at what’s been happening with the jobless reports, it can be made to not reflect reality).

    Oh well…

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  • http://thecampofthesaints.org Bob Belvedere

    You still have a copy!?!

    You were instructed to destroy it, Suuh!

  • MarlaHughes

     I was speaking specifically of bound delegates, not those from caucus states nor from states with primaries that let their delegates go to the Convention to vote for whom they please (unbound).
    A bound delegate is sworn to vote for the one the voters selected. Sometimes it’s a winner take all where all of the delegates are bound by oath to vote for the state wide winner or it can be proportional, but they *have* to vote for a previously selected candidate or candidates on the first round of voting. On the second round all delegates are unbound no matter what.
    *NO* candidate can depend upon delegates who can vote for who they want to once they reach the Convention. It’s the equivalent of sending someone to the store to purchase candy bars:
    Bound delegates= Swear to buy this candy bar only (or in the case of proportional delegations, buy this many of this kind and less of that kind).
    Unbound delegates= I want you to buy this kind of candy bar but if you decide to buy another kind, it’s okay with me.
    Hopefully you don’t have a preference for one kind of candy bar ’cause you don’t know what they’re bringing home for you.

  • Finrod Felagund

    And if Newt had $5 million in the bank, you’d be mocking him, saying that if he’d actually spent that money on his race, he might be more competitive.  You’d also very likely make some reference to that money going to buy jewelry for Callista Gingrich.

    When Newt led the House, we had balanced budgets.  When Santorum was in the Senate leadership, we had record deficits, until Obama came along, at least.

    And you claim that Santorum has any fiscal responsibility?

    Why should I take anything you say about Newt Gingrich at face value?  Gingrich’s post at RedState slamming Santorum was a direct response to Santorum’s post at RedState slamming Romney, but your readers would have never found that out from you.  The difference between them?  Santorum’s post was directly posted to the frontpage, while Gingrich posted his as a diary that then was promoted to the frontpage.  Heck, Newt even mixed it up in the comments.

  • Finrod Felagund

    You presume that Rick Santorum is a conservative.

    I dispute that.

  • Finrod Felagund

    You’re overlooking an important fact: in the now unlikely scenario that Santorum actually becomes the GOP nominee, he just handed the Obama campaign a videoclip to beat him to death with.

    Santorum just isn’t a good enough candidate to beat Romney; he shows it every time he opens his mouth, pretty much.

  • http://thepagantemple.blogspot.com/ ThePaganTemple

     Finrod you can’t go through life walking on eggshells in order to avoid giving the other side a talking point. The real problem with Santorum in this regard is not what he said, but how he articulates his position. If he can do so, that’s one thing, but if he comes across as he does all too often, like a yammering stammering idiot with a whiny chip on his shoulder, that’s something else again.

    In other words, its not what you say, its how you say it-and perhaps most importantly, how you follow through-that all too often makes all the difference in the world.

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