Friday, January 20, 2012

Sex, Lies, and Tax Returns: Damage Control in the GOP

Newt Gingrich has pulled ahead of Mitt Romney in three current polls for the South Carolina primary. It is uncertain whether the data reflects Thursday night’s revelations by Marianne Gingrich of the former speaker’s philandering ways; it is also uncertain how greatly Mr. Gingrich will be injured by those revelations. The former Mrs. Gingrich’s comments were not as inflammatory – or as inflaming – as one might have hoped. She didn’t actually use the word "threesome." Or, for that matter, the terms "menage-a-trois" or "Newtie Sandwich." Alas.

Mr. Gingrich’s handling of the potentially damaging story was masterful at Thursday’s South Carolina debate on CNN. Moderator John King led off with the good stuff – sex first; Mr. Romney’s shadowy financial empire later – and Newt responded with a calculated and seemingly effective anti-media tirade.

No Republican, it is safe to say, has ever been at fault for any of his actions; the fault has always rested with the media outlet reporting those actions. A recurrent riposte generally falls along the lines of "Why aren’t you reporting this stuff about Barack Obama?"

It is of course possible that the media has knowledge of Barack Obama engaging in a wide range of perverse sexual activities, and the egregious Liberal Media has chosen not to report such stories. Occam’s Razor, however, would suggest that a more likely scenario is that President Obama has never, for instance, approached the First Lady about including, say, Susan Rice in a nighttime orgy of socialist lust.

Regardless, the anti-media assault by Mr. Gingrich probably helped soften some of the blows he was about to take, and the recent revelations about Mr. Romney’s offshore Cayman Islands accounts will probably generate a similar hit on the increasingly shifty-eyed plutocrat. It really has become a delight to watch Mr. Romney’s Pavlovian response when ever the words "tax returns" are uttered. He immediately turns into the Good Kid with something Really Bad to hide. One can only speculate what that Bad Thing might be, but the speculation is quite a bit of fun. I suspect it is a combination of the Wealth of Croesus combined with multiple offshore accounts. Or something else. Worse. Who knows? And we won’t know until he releases his tax returns, and then we really won’t know either, because it will probably be only for the current year, and one can be certain that year will look much more gentle than an aggregate of the past dozen years, which will doubtless remain unseen.

Rick Santorum and, God love him, Ron Paul, are increasingly non-factors in the race. Santorum is out of his depth, and obviously angling for a VP spot, stressing that a true social conservative should be "on the ticket" – "How about me, guys?" – and one suspects Ron Paul at any moment will devolve into the favorite great-grandpa at the family reunion. "When I was in the Army, we were stationed on the Pakistan border...this was back in the 60s...and that was porous, you see...." He gets there, though, eventually, to the comparison with our own border, and how we should be bringing the troops – all the troops – home, and God love him for speaking the unspeakable. But it really does seem to take him a longer and longer time to get there, and we do hope this race won’t end up being a bad thing for him.

Polls in South Carolina open in 24 hours. Predicted order of finish:


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