Lisa Miller, organizer for Tea Party Washington DC, tracks down Newt Gingrich at a bookstore while he promotes his latest novel, To Try Men’s Souls. Miller sets up the interview outside the bookstore by reviewing NY23 candidate Dede Scozzafava’s policy record, then goes inside and asks Newt (politely, it seems) what he was thinking when he endorsed Scozzafava. Chris at HAP captures the transcript of Newt’s response, but this encounter has more than one instructive moment:
Uh … isn’t Miller, as a Tea Party organizer, supposed to be a loose cannon, out of control, screaming epithets and acting irrationally? Isn’t that the impression that the media leaves when they cover these events? Yet here we have Miller calmly approaching Gingrich, politely asking her question, and thanking him for his cooperation after getting a full answer from Gingrich. Why, it’s almost like Tea Party organizers were normal, rational, thinking Americans. Imagine that!
For that matter, kudos to Newt as well. He actually responded substantively to Miller’s polite question, although I disagree with his answer, which I’ll get to in a moment. That’s a lot more responsiveness to a private citizen than we’ve seen from many elected officials — and it certainly beats the hysterical and slanderous response Scozzafava had when an actual reporter, Weekly Standard’s John McCormack, tried to ask her about those policy positions Newt reviews in the video.
But Newt’s still wrong. First, the NRCC and the RNC have the duty to elect endorsed Republican candidates, so one cannot blame them for following the lead of local party officials — but that’s not Newt’s role unless he chooses it for himself. He has held himself up as a leader of conservatives more than the Republican Party. Next, the idea that we should refrain from criticizing party bosses for their candidate selection reminds me somewhat of my experience at WCPAC, when I was told it was “the height of rudeness” to criticize its organizers while covering it. Scozzafava did not get the endorsement through a convention process, after all, but in a closed-room meeting of sorts with the party leaders of the eleven counties in that district. I’m also not sure Newt has all of those policy positions correct, and he fails to mention that Scozzafava backs Card Check, which dumps the secret ballot in organizing elections and leaves working people at the tender mercies of union bosses, as well as imposing federal control over compensation for all American industries through its mandatory arbitration clause. That’s hardly conservative.
Besides, this is a special election, and the same seat comes up again next year. If Scozzafava wins it, it will make it more difficult for a fiscal conservative to dislodge her in the 2010 primary. If the Democrat wins it, Pelosi wins one more vote for a year in a chamber which already gives her a 70-seat majority, and Hoffman can run as the truly Republican candidate in 2010.