Here’s yet another sign that some GOPers want their party — for a while at least — to move away from being the lock-step talk radio political culture party, indulging in mega partisan accusatory attacks at the drop of even the hint of a hat, before the hat’s existence is even proven: former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has denounced the RNC’s campaign that is attempting to link President Elect Barack Obama with Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich’s Senate Seat For Sale scandal.
The Politico has the Gingrich press release, which we include in full below. But it is notable that Gingrich’s comments come in the well-publicized wake of former Republican presidential campaign Sen. John McCain’s comments urging the RNC to put aside partisanship on the Illinois scandal and focus on tackling the country’s big problems.
The larger issue here: McCain and Gingrich are signaling that post-election American is not in the mood for rhetoric that sounds like what you can hear (any day) on Rush’s or Sean’s shows but seeks all sides to work together on serious issues. It’s the party that can offer the best solutions to help get America out of the mess that’s going to gain support moving further into the troubled 21st century.
McCain was far more polite than Gingrich…who didn’t mince words. The former speaker said this a letter to RNC Chairman Mike Duncan:
I was saddened to learn that at a time of national trial, when a president-elect is preparing to take office in the midst of the worst financial crisis in over seventy years, that the Republican National Committee is engaged in the sort of negative, attack politics that the voters rejected in the 2006 and 2008 election cycles.
That’s about as blunt as you can get.
The recent web advertisement, “Questions Remain,” is a destructive distraction. Clearly, we should insist that all taped communications regarding the Senate seat should be made public. However, that should be a matter of public policy, not an excuse for political attack.
In a time when America is facing real challenges, Republicans should be working to help the incoming President succeed in meeting them, regardless of his Party.
From now until the inaugural, Republicans should be offering to help the President-elect prepare to take office.
Furthermore, once President Obama takes office, Republicans should be eager to work with him when he is right, and, when he is wrong, offer a better solution, instead of just opposing him.
And here is where Gingrich hits the political nail square on the head:
This is the only way the Republican Party will become known as the “better solutions” party, not just an opposition party. And this is the only way Republicans will ever regain the trust of the voters to return to the majority.
This ad is a terrible signal to be sending about both the goals of the Republican Party in the midst of the nation’s troubled economic times and about whether we have actually learned anything from the defeats of 2006 and 2008.
The RNC should pull the ad down immediately.
Indeed, unless something surfaces that is not just a smoking gun but a blazing canon (like a tape with Rahm Emanuel saying:“PSST! Blago. This &^@% seat is worth big &^# dollars and the big guy who can’t bowl needs some money to buy his kids a dog so don’t forget to give him his cut!!”), the honeymoon Obama is now enjoying, the mind-boggling depth of America’s problems, the fact Obama has pieced together a team that includes Clintonistas and some Republicans — all suggest that the country will be less than impressed by politicos or organizations that sound like they’re reading transcriptions of the Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity daily attack-the-Democrats shows. (Here’s a good roundup on the Obama Blago issue.)
There are many (including many thoughtful Republicans) who HAD hoped that a 2008 defeat would force the GOP to draw on new leaders, marginalize those whose only ideology and service mission seemed to be to gain and cling to power, and would force the party to to chart a new course where it once again became a party of ideas and leadership, rather than the party of tactics and political demonization and base-mobilization. It might even be a party that allowed RINOs to roam with the elephants…
McCain and Gingrich can see the writing on a wall now decaying because of a lack of money due to budget cuts: if it turns out that the opinion-poll-supported Obama cannot be solidly linked to the Illinois Governor’s attempt to sell the Senate seat, it will turn out that the RNC campaign will have done nothing more than to throw yet more red meat to its base.
To win, Republicans need to move beyond the party base and people who dream of Sarah Palin one day occupying the White House. It will need the independents, centrists, moderates, and Democrats who look at the GOP and see it offering some good ideas and solutions.
Unless the RNC proves right on this one, the Americans that it will need to survive, rebuild and regain power in strong majorities will look at this controversy as indicative of a party that went right back into attack-for-the-sake-of-attacking mode.
When the hyperpartisan Newt Gingrich says you’ve gone too far, you’ve really gone too far.
…..I’ve covered Gingrich long enough to know that he is not a statesman, although he does occasionally try to play one on TV. He can, however, be a very astute political analyst, particularly when his own interests are not directly involved. Unlike the tone-deaf RNC, he understands that a campaign-style attack ad, based on flimsy or no evidence, launched against a president-elect with a 76 percent approval rating at a time when the country badly wants and needs that president-elect to succeed … well, it’s political suicide.
Most likely, the attack ad represents an effort by RNC Chairman Mike Duncan to curry favor with the party’s base and thus win re-election to his post. And if by appealing to the base he happens to alienate everybody else in America, well, that’s well within the GOP tradition.
The GOP’s choice: does it want to work for a holding pattern from 2008?
Or does it want to move itself beyond the 2008 results and win over some of the voters who clamored for solutions and voted for Obama?
McCain and Gingrich have issued their warning.
But is anyone at the RNC listening — or are Rush’s and Sean’s programs blaring too loudly for them to hear?
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.