The ABC News New Hampshire GOP debate on Saturday was a dud. The fireworks didn’t go off as promised and Mitt Romney’s phoniness and sanctimony were not spread all over the night sky.
Gingrich was unusually timid, even given a chance to bash Romney’s tenure with Bain Capital, which has caused Democrats to start labeling Romney, cleverly, the “job cremator.”
Jon Huntsman, who is depending on a good showing in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary to keep his campaign going, didn’t have much fire in his belly on Saturday. In fact, he couldn’t have warmed a gnat’s gonads. Regarding the unbelievably important Bain Capital issue, he punted.
But Sunday morning’s NBC debate was a real fireworks display. And the let’s-blow-up-Romney-for-a-change show was kind of refreshing, and certainly a lot of fun for Democrats to observe. Watching Romney’s “pious baloney” (Gingrich’s phrase) loaded into a canister and blasted so high in the sky it could be seen in South Carolina, was, well, genuine schadenfreude.
For all the other fireworks in the debate, the one that will keep pleasing Democrats is the Bain Capital controversy. Late in the debate, Gingrich finally got real:
Well, I think you have to look at the film, which I haven’t seen. But if you look at the New York Times article, and I think it was on Thursday– you would certainly have to say that Bain, at times, engaged in behavior where they looted a company, leaving behind 1,700 unemployed people.
First of all, it was not a New York Times article that Newt wanted us to look at, but a Reuter’s article about a Kansas City steel mill, “Special Report: Romney’s steel skelton in the Bain closet.” And Newt is right, the article is a good read, which includes this:
“Romney cost me lots and lots of sleepless nights and lots and lots of money,” said Ed Stanger, who worked at the plant for nearly 30 years.
Second, the “film” Gingrich alludes to is the soon-to-be-released documentary (“When Mitt Romney Came to Town“), produced by a so-called “super PAC” that happens to support Newt Gingrich, which, according to The Washington Post,
paints the GOP presidential frontrunner as a corporate “raider” more unscrupulous even than Wall Street executives, preying on the misfortune of people who lost their jobs when his company, Bain Capital, turned around their companies.
Here is a trailer of the documentary, and I remind you: this is a Republican-produced film:
The Post goes on to describe more of the content:
The video, which is being disseminated by the Winning Our Future super PAC, also features clips of Romney speaking French, getting his shoes shined on the tarmac next to a large airplane, and even Fix boss Chris Cillizza describing an expansion of Romney’s massive beach house in California.
Indeed, it is a concerted effort to paint the former Massachusetts governor as an elite who lined his pockets by gaming the system and destroying unsuspecting American businesses.
From Saturday’s debate, which featured an extensive discussion of Bain Capital, Romney defended himself this way:
ROMNEY: Well, I — I’m not surprised to have “The New York Times” try and put free enterprise on trial. I’m not surprised to have the Obama administration do that, either. It’s a little surprising from my colleagues on this stage…
You see, to folks like Romney, “free enterprise” means doing things like lining your own pockets and “gaming the system and destroying unsuspecting American businesses” and the jobs that go with them. His real argument, when you strip away all the decorations, is that such outcomes are just part of the price of enjoying unfettered, dog-eat-dog capitalism.
We shall see how that plays in November, and we can be sure that by the time the election is here, every American with a TV or radio or who reads a newspaper, will know exactly what Bain Capital is and Romney’s role in it. (For another problem for Romney related to Bain Capital, read here.)
Finally, one of my favorite moments, other than the Bain Capital business, was watching the normally undisturbed Jon Huntsman finally get disturbed about Romney’s pious baloney (thanks, Newt, for that wonderful characterization!) expressed in Saturday’s debate. This time the discussion was about Huntsman’s work on behalf of the Obama Administration as Ambassador to China:
ROMNEY: I’m sorry, Governor, you were, the last two years, implementing the policies of this administration in China. The rest of us on this stage were doing our best to get Republicans elected across the country and stop the policies of this president from being put forward.
By Sunday morning, Huntsman had finally come up with an effective way of countering the pious baloney (other than speaking in Mandarin):
Let me say– let me say, first of all, with respect to Governor Romney, you know, there are a lot of people who are tuning in this morning. And I’m sure they’re terribly confused after watching all of this political spin up here. I was criticized last night by Governor Romney for putting my country first.
And I just wanna remind the people here in New Hampshire and throughout the United States that I think– he criticized me while he was out raising money for serving my country in China. Yes, under a Democrat. Like my two sons are doing in the United States Navy. They’re not asking who– what political affiliation the president is. I wanna be very clear with the people here in New Hampshire and this country. I will always put my country first. And I think that’s important to them.
You see, while Mitt was only pretending to put his country first by making the “sacrifice” of sharing his awesome skills with the people of Massachusetts (he could always go back to his job-cremating day job, remember), and while Mitt was only pretending to put his country first by making the “sacrifice” of running for president since 2007 (2007, for God’s sake!), Jon Huntsman was actually doing it. He actually put party politics aside, at least temporarily, and served his country—even if he served it at the pleasure of someone so hated in the Republican Party.
When Romney tried to justify his criticism, Huntsman answered back:
This nation is divided because of attitudes like that.
For all of Jon Huntsman’s ideological flaws—and there are many—one cannot question his service to his country, as Romney certainly did on Saturday night. Not only was Huntsman elected as Governor of Utah for two terms (he won with 78% of the vote the second time), he also served the sainted Ronald Reagan and Bush I and Bush II.
But his unforgivable sin, of course, is serving that scary black man in the White’s House, and for a moment on Sunday morning, it seemed that Huntsman was telling his judges in the GOP to judge not lest they be judged.
And, for Huntsman, it is about time.