GINGRICH’S BAD DAY…. By all indications, disgraced former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) wasn’t having any fun yesterday. ThinkProgress documented the fact that Gingrich blatantly, shamelessly flip-flopped on U.S. policy in Libya, and for a change, reporters noticed and cared.
By late yesterday, Gingrich tried to mount a defense via Facebook, but it wasn’t even close to being coherent.
ThinkProgress piled on today, noting that Gingrich also has a habit of saying things like, “You can’t flip-flop and be commander-in-chief.” Oops.
But as long as we’re on the subject, Kevin Drum had a terrific item yesterday, pondering what possesses someone like Gingrich to be so brazen. If the question comes down to whether they assume they won’t get caught, or just don’t care either way, Kevin made a persuasive case for the latter.
Back in the day, I remember a lot of people saying that it was getting harder for politicians to shade their positions — either over time or for different audiences — because everything was now on video and the internet made it so easy to catch inconsistencies. But that’s turned out not to really be true. Unless you’re in the middle of a high-profile political campaign, it turns out you just need to be really brazen about your flip-flops. Sure, sites like ThinkProgress or Politifact with catch you, and the first few times that happens maybe you’re a little worried about what’s going to happen. But then it dawns on you: nothing is going to happen. Your base doesn’t read ThinkProgress. The media doesn’t really care and is happy to accept whatever obvious nonsense you offer up in explanation. The morning chat shows will continue to book you. It just doesn’t matter.
And that’s got to be pretty damn liberating. You can literally say anything you want! And no one cares! That’s quite a discovery.
The part about the media seems especially important. Officials and candidates know how this game works, and they know that there are no costs for going on national television and just making up nonsense as they go along. It won’t affect future invitations, and in almost every instance, they won’t get called on it.
These folks need the media to create an incentive to be honest. Right now, that incentive doesn’t exist.