Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Rebel State Speaks Its Mind

Bombardment of Fort Sumter, Charleston harbor, April 12, 1861 (Currier and Ives print).

The state of South Carolina prides itself of having chosen every the Republican presidential candidate since 1980.  South Carolina is also of course where the Civil War began 150 years ago this April, when Confederate forces fired on Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor, igniting a bloody four-year-long Civil War.  Yesterday in South Carolina, Republicans chose former House Speaker Newt Gingrich from neighboring Georgia as the winner of the state's GOP primary. 

Was this a seismic event or just a blip in the inevitable route march of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney to the nomination?  Romney was beaten by a landslide, 40% to 27.9%, with Ron Paul and Rick Santorum lagging behind.  No doubt Gingrich's victory was made larger by the good debate performance he showed in the CNN debate in Charleston on Thursday night, right from the get-go with the opening question when he was able to blast CNN moderator John King for the inaptness of asking the candidate about the charge by his second wife that he had asked for an "open marriage" and Gingrich was able to take a sizeable hit at the media, which fired up the conservative audience.  The canny former House leader thanked King for a great debate at the end of the event.  "Thank you, CNN, you sleazy, slimy media you!"

Meanwhile, at the same debate, Romney fumbled an answer about when he will release his tax returns, giving the impression that he has something to hide, although on Fox this morning he did say he will release his 2010 tax return and a partial 2011 return... well, that's just only one full year and fails to include all the years that he ran Bain Capital that some observers think he should be releasing to satisfy his critics.

The "Republican establishment" (whatever might be) is said to be worried about the rise of Gingrich, feeling that he would be unelectable in the Fall. Commentators on the Sunday morning political talk shows puzzled over what exactly that establishment is.  It is true though that many of the Republicans who served in Congress with Gingrich in the 1990's have expressed doubts about him, saying that even though he engineered the Republican takeover of Congress during the Clinton administration, he proved to be a poor and unpredictable leader.  From my point of view, it looks to me as if Gingrich at least stands for something, although conservative values that I as a liberal Democratic voter do not hold, whereas it's hard to know what exactly Romney stands for.  Because Romney has chosen not to run on his record as governor of Massachusetts, he has left himself open to criticism that he is a hard-hearted capitalist and a man who does not hold the conservative values that Republican voters today say they admire.

See the following video, where Romney backer New Jersey governor Chris Christie pushes back hard about what he claims to be Gingrich's character flaws and lack of executive experience:

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