On MSNBC's "The Ed Show" Tuesday, I got to ask GOP pundit Tony Blankley the question Glenn Greenwald posed Monday: Why is former N.Y. Gov. Eliot Spitzer routinely described as "disgraced," after admitting to patronizing prostitutes, while the word hasn't dogged Vitter, even though he confessed to the same thing? Gingrich has gotten off, too, Greenwald noted, though the former House speaker admitted to cheating on his first two wives (he had an affair with his third wife, a staffer, while married to his second wife, and also leading the charge for President Clinton's impeachment.) The video is below.
But first, Blankley and I got to talk about whether Gingrich is serious about running for president in 2012. Thankfully, just yesterday Justin Elliott joined Salon from TalkingPointsMemo.com, and he's already become invaluable, today helping me trip up former Gingrich press secretary Blankley on the question of how many times Gingrich has "seriously considered" running for president.
Elliott laid out the timeline early Tuesday: Although Gingrich says his current contemplation is "more serious" than before, the former House speaker has now said he was seriously considering a run for president multiple times in three different election cycles – and he hasn't yet run. He flirted with running in 2008, through much of 2007. He did the same in the second half of 1995, when Clinton looked vulnerable. That's where Elliott's reporting tripped Blankley up; Blankley insisted his boss thought about running briefly in June 1995 and quickly dropped the idea. But Elliott reported that in November, Gingrich was still telling the Boston Globe that he was thinking about a run, and that he'd sit down and discuss it with his wife Marianne. (They apparently decided against it.) Ironically, Gingrich has also said he'll make his decision in 2012 after talking to his third wife, Callista. Same story, different wives. (Blankley called me "sleazy" for mentioning Gingrich's three marriages; but I didn't even call him a "serial adulterer," as I have before.)
Then we moved to the subject of Louisiana Sen. David Vitter's disgusting embrace of Birther lawsuits and other efforts to "prove" Barack Obama isn't eligible to be president. That's when I got to raise Greenwald's question about why Vitter, and Gingrich, evade the "disgraced" label affixed permanently to Spitzer (Greenwald found it applied to Spitzer 394 times, but only four times to Vitter and five times to Gingrich, mainly by small blogs). I raised that question, but Blankley didn't even try to answer. On Vitter's Birtherism, Blankley (who deserves credit for shunning the movement) acknowledged Vitter's "pandering," but compared him to Democratic senators who he said endorsed similar shameful ideas about President Bush. When I asked him to name one senator who did that, he couldn't, so he shifted to claim "Democratic congressmen" had backed the idea Bush knew about 9/11 or even caused it. Again I asked him to name one Democratic congressman who backed that notion, and again, he couldn't.
To be fair, I learned later, Rep. Dennis Kucinich has maintained cordial relations with 911Truth.org, and has backed an investigation into what was known, by whom, in the run-up to the 2001 attacks. On Google, I couldn't find evidence that Kucinich suspected it was a Bush-Cheney inside job, but he is an example of someone who treated the 9/11 Truthers' claims with respect, not derision. You don't have to thank me, Tony.
But there are no mainstream Democratic congress members who've backed the Truther movement, while there are several GOP leaders backing the Birthers. Along with Vitter, Sen. James Imhofe and Reps. Paul Broun and Steve King are on record expressing Birther doubts about Obama's legitimacy, and 11 Republicans backed Rep. Bill Posey's bill requiring future presidential candidates to show their birth certificates, widely seen as endorsing the notion that Obama never adequately proved his own citizenship. When blogger Mike Stark tried to get Republican leaders on record saying they believed Obama was legitimately president, many ran away, hid or otherwise tried to avoid the question.
Meanwhile, when it comes to Gingrich, I don't believe he could be elected, and I doubt he'd even get the GOP nomination. He's a divisive, polarizing figure who left the House after an ethics scandal, paying a $300,000 fine. But he's best remembered for the election mess of 1998, during impeachment, when the GOP actually lost House seats -- the first time the out of power party lost seats in the midterm in 64 years.
Gingrich has done little since then besides savage Democrats on television news shows, the better to earn a lot of money giving speeches. The presidential buzz helps that goal, too. Sounds a lot like his friend Sarah Palin, doesn't it? I don't think either will be the GOP nominee, but I can agree with Blankley on one point: It would be fun to watch a Palin-Gingrich debate.
Here's the debate video:
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