The wrong spokesperson for ‘bipartisanship’

Newt Gingrich, believe it or not, is comfortable presenting himself as someone who could forge bipartisan solutions in Washington. “There are a thousand small things that create bipartisanship even if you disagree about big things,” Gingrich said over the weekend. “And it’s really important to remember that, all the little human things that a good leader can do to get the city of Washington to work again.”

Kevin Drum was gobsmacked, and highlighted some examples to bolster the fact that Gingrich is largely and personally responsible “for the poisonous state of partisan politics in America today.”

1978, speaking to a group of College Republicans: “I think that one of the great problems we have in the Republican Party is that we don’t encourage you to be nasty.”

1989, speaking about the Democratic leadership in Congress: “These people are sick….They are so consumed by their own power, by a Mussolini-like ego, that their willingness to run over normal human beings and to destroy honest institutions is unending.”

2011, speaking about the current Democratic president: “Obama is the most serious radical threat to traditional America ever to occupy the White House.”

Those are, to be sure, three gems, and we could probably put together a list of hundreds of related examples, each as jarring as the last. But the one example that stands out for me came in 1994.

Just a few days before the ’94 midterm elections — the cycle that would represent the “Republican Revolution” — a deranged woman named Susan Smith drowned her two young sons in South Carolina. It was a horrifying crime that captured significant national attention.

In his desperation to exploit literally any opportunity for partisan gain, Gingrich quickly made infanticide a campaign issue and publicly equated Smith’s murders with the values of the Democratic Party. Gingrich told the AP at the time, “The mother killing her two children in South Carolina vividly reminds every American how sick the society is getting and how much we have to have change. I think people want to change and the only way you get change is to vote Republican.”

That someone would think this is offensive. That someone would say it out loud, on the record, is just twisted.

Calling Gingrich “one of the nastiest, most malignant pieces of work ever to grace American politics,” Kevin concluded, “Newt Gingrich extolling the virtues of bipartisanship is like Hannibal Lecter promoting the value of good nutrition.”

That’s a terrific line that happens to be true.