Top conservatives and members of the GOP establishment are now in a full throttle (figuratively and literally) assault against former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s attempt to win the 2012 Republican nomination by painting himself as a great party man and conservative. And one of the biggest Republican establishment guns from days past has entered the fray: former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, who headed the Republican ticket in 1996. Dole has issued just about the most blunt, stripped-of-niceties comment on Dole yet.
Dole articulates what many GOP sources have partially said, or hinted about, in their comments to the press. This is about as blunt as you can get, as carried in NRO online:
I have not been critical of Newt Gingrich but it is now time to take a stand before it is too late. If Gingrich is the nominee it will have an adverse impact on Republican candidates running for county, state, and federal offices. Hardly anyone who served with Newt in Congress has endorsed him and that fact speaks for itself. He was a one-man-band who rarely took advice. It was his way or the highway.
Note that this fits in with a lot of the other comments, op-ed pieces and posts coming out about Gingrich from other Republican sources.
Gingrich served as Speaker from 1995 to 1999 and had trouble within his own party. By 1997 a number of House Republican members wanted to throw him out as Speaker. But he hung on until after the 1998 elections when Newt could read the writing on the wall. His mounting ethics problems caused him to resign in early 1999. I know whereof I speak as I helped establish a line of credit of $150,000 to help Newt pay off the fine for his ethics violations. In the end, he paid the fine with money from other sources.
This should have added credibility with younger GOPers: Dole didn’t just hear about Gingrich’s problems, he was in the middle of it trying to help Gingrich.
Dole also doesn’t mince words when describing Gingrich’s personality:
Gingrich had a new idea every minute and most of them were off the wall. He loved picking a fight with President Clinton because he knew this would get the attention of the press. This and a myriad of other specifics like shutting down the government helped to topple Gingrich in 1998.
In my run for the presidency in 1996 the Democrats greeted me with a number of negative TV ads and in every one of them Newt was in the ad. He was very unpopular and I am not only certain that this did not help me, but that it also cost House seats that year. Newt would show up at the campaign headquarters with an empty bucket in his hand — that was a symbol of some sort for him — and I never did know what he was doing or why he was doing it, and I’m not certain he knew either.
The Democrats are spending millions of dollars running negative ads against Romney as they are hoping that Gingrich will be the nominee which could result in a landslide victory for Obama and a crushing defeat for Republicans from the courthouse to the White House. Democrats are not running ads against Gingrich which is further proof they want to derail Governor Romney.
In my opinion if we want to avoid a sweeping victory by Obama in November, Republicans should nominate Governor Romney as our standard bearer. He could win because he has the requisite experience in the public and private sectors. He would be a president in whom we could have confidence and he would make us proud.
And so you have it. Dole’s statement is coming out on a day when Gingrich is in full attack mode, blasting Romney for his immigration stand and raising several issues about Romney’s wealth. I need to say this:
No, I am not a partisan of Bob Dole’s (I’m an independent). But when I worked on the Wichita Eagle as a reporter from January 1980 through January of 1982 Dole was one of the most respected politicians in Kansas. On two occasions I was sent out to cover his speeches. Dole was not considered fun and games. People — even if they opposed him politically — respected him due to his record as a war hero. They also considered him a blunt spoken, sincere type — almost a Republican Harry Truman. To be sure, he ran a notably tepid and uninspiring Presidential campaign.
But when Dole spoke in Kansas, voters listened.
And I suspect if his statement is seen by many GOPers, many of them will listen as well.
UPDATE: And as the (Republican establishment) empire strikes back, Gingrich is being defended by talk show hosts Rush Limbaugh and Michael Reagan. I’m not surprised. I have often said there is a real disconnect between Republicans who are darlings of and pushed by talk radio hosts and Republicans who have wider appeal. Republican politicians who are full fledged members of the talk radio political culture will have a far more difficult time winning over independents in a general election. But primaries aren’t about that: the punchy sound bites are what win votes (just like they win demographics for talk show hosts).