Keep digging, Newt

KEEP DIGGING, NEWT…. Disgraced former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) appeared on “The Daily Show” last night, and screwed up in a rather humiliating way. Today, he made it worse.

On the show, Jon Stewart asked why the Obama administration was wrong to make Abdulmutallab aware of his rights, but the Bush administration was right to make Richard Reid aware of his rights. “Richard Reid was an American citizen,” insisted Gingrich.

That, of course, isn’t true. Neither Reid nor Abdulmutallab are, or have ever been, Americans. Gingrich was so desperate to come up with a substantive difference where none exists, he had to rely on a bogus claim to defend an argument without a foundation in reality.

The good news is, Gingrich admitted today that he was wrong. The bad news is, his explanation made his error worse.

On Twitter, the former Speaker explained that when he mentioned Richard Reid, he meant to say Jose Padilla. Regardless, Newt added, “treating terrorists like criminals [is] wrong no matter who” is president.

The first part of the claim is bizarre. Jon Stewart specifically asked, “Didn’t they do the same with Richard Reid, who was the shoe bomber?” This made Gingrich think of an entirely different person, who was detained as an enemy combatant in a case unrelated to the shoe bomber? If Gingrich is a self-proclaimed expert, shouldn’t this undermine his credibility a bit?

What’s more, as Greg Sargent explained, Gingrich’s explanation “doesn’t make much sense on its face.”

Yesterday, he suggested it was okay to Mirandize a terror suspect provided he were an American citizen. Today, he seemed to transfer that opinion onto Padilla in his Tweet — but then in the very next sentence added that treating any and all terrorists like criminals is wrong in all cases, no matter who is president.

So either Gingrich is conceding it was wrong to try Padilla in civilian court — which would appear to be a concession that Bush did this too. Or he’s saying it was okay to do so because Padilla is an American citizen — even as he’s simultaneously claiming it’s always wrong to treat terrorists as criminals. Or maybe Gingrich doesn’t think Padilla is a terrorist?

Marc Ambinder notes the problem, too.

Padilla was captured and not Mirandized. He was subject to harsh interrogation techniques. That, ostensibly, was Gingrich’s point. But — and this is a very simple rejoinder — Padilla DID NOT talk when he was held incommunicado.

Mirandizing him either would not have made a difference — OR perhaps a more hospitable interrogation might have helped to loosen his lips early on.

So Gingrich’s reference — his proof that the Bush administration used a different practice and that it worked — is so far removed from the point that he is trying to make that it is, to quote Wolfgang Pauli, not even wrong.

Greg concluded, “Anyone have any idea what [Gingrich] means?” It beats me. Then again, after a couple of weeks of truly ridiculous political attacks surrounding the Abdulmutallab case, I have no idea what any of the Republican rhetoric on this means. Gingrich, by all appearances, is both clueless and dishonest — not a good combination — but he seems no different at this point than his GOP cohorts.