My esteemed AJC colleague Daniel Malloy ventured out of D.C. today to witness the following:
ARLINGTON, Va. – Newt Gingrich played surrogate Monday afternoon for Michele Bachmann, Tony Blair, his own accomplishments from the 1990s, and – oh, yes — Mitt Romney.
Though it might have been hard to tell, Romney’s campaign organized the news conference at Belmont TV, an electronics retailer a few miles from Gingrich’s home, as one of 18 events by major Republican names across the nation intended to drive President Barack Obama’s “You didn’t build that” remark into the skull of every swing voter.
After owner Ken Sickmen, who took over the business from his father, lamented that the shaky economy means fewer people want to buy big-screen televisions, Gingrich took the podium for the kind of delightful, self-referential skewering of the president that was the basis of his primary stump speech. The former Georgia congressman also picked up on the news of the day, that his former White House foil Bill Clinton will keynote the Democratic National Convention.
“I think that will be a terrific opportunity for those of us who served with President Clinton to point out Barack Obama’s no Bill Clinton,” Gingrich said. “You look at the Clinton economy, you look at the balanced budgets that I helped write and Clinton signed. You look at welfare reform which Obama recently tore apart and reversed.
You look at all the things that were done to make the economy better for the American people, there’s a huge gap between Bill Clinton’s efforts to take the Democratic Party to the center and Barack Obama’s effort to take it to the left.”
Gingrich even had an Olympic-themed riff on Obama’s gaffe: “I can imagine an Obama speech saying ‘You didn’t win that gold medal, everybody won the gold medal.’ Well, that ain’t how it works.”
(As pointed out by Jon Stewart, Romney actually did say something similar at the 2002 Salt Lake City games: “You Olympians, however, know that you didn’t get here solely on your own power. For most of you, loving parents, sisters or bothers encouraged your hopes, coaches guided, communities built venues and held competitions. All Olympians stand on the shoulders of those who lifted them.”)
But the reporters in attendance mostly wanted to hear about Gingrich’s op-ed backing Minnesota congresswoman Bachmann – and Coweta County Republican Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, among others – in their pursuit of an investigation into whether Muslim Brotherhood elements have infiltrated the U.S. government.
Despite objections from Republicans John Boehner and John McCain – the latter said singling out State Department aide Huma Abedin had “no logic, no basis and no merit” – Gingrich said the threat is real and praised the group he dubbed “The National Security Five.” As he often does on the stump, Gingrich said the “elites” are ignoring extremist threats in the name of political correctness. Former British Prime Minister Blair agrees, Gingrich added.
Asked directly about Abedin, he replied: “I think all they asked for was an investigation, and I can’t imagine given our track record over the last 70 years that we want to start with the principle that anybody is automatically exempt. Therefore I think it’s not illegitimate to raise the question.”
Gingrich didn’t mention Romney until asked about his former primary foe. After pursuing Romney’s tax returns in the primary, did he want more disclosure now?
“Well I tried to raise the issue, I frankly think the results of the primary also indicated the American voters are pretty comfortable that this is a guy who’s had good accountants, good lawyers, he’s obeyed the law, and that he will have released two solid years of information.”
And what about a big speech at the Republican National Convention in Tampa? Gingrich said he will be there but he doesn’t know what his role will be. His follow-up reply, though, gave a hint that you won’t be seeing him addressing the delegate throng.
“I personally am very comfortable not giving a speech, because I think, frankly, there is a whole new generation of candidates out there and people who represent the future,” he said.
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider