I so, so, so wish that Buddy Roemer, the former Louisiana governor who has attempted to mount a reform campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, had been allowed to participate in Monday night’s GOP debate in Tampa.
Roemer’s been excluded from the debates by the political and media powers that be. But we really needed him Monday night because the GOP’s only ethics-and-clean politics candidate would have know exactly how to respond to wrangling between former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. He would have listened to the charges of corruption and abuse, of lobbying and vulture capitalism, and he would have agreed—with both Romney and Gingrich.
Barely ten minutes into the NBC/St. Petersburg Times/National Journal debate, the leading Republican contenders were screeching at one another—and completely ignoring the two other candidates who made it onto the stage, Texas Congressman Ron Paul and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum.
“I think [the election is] about leadership and the Speaker was given an opportunity to be the leader of our party in 1994. And by the end of four years, he had to resign in disgrace,” Romney roared. “In the fifteen years after he left the Speakership, the Speaker has been working as an influence peddler in Washington.”
“I’m not going to spend the evening trying to chase Governor Romney’s misinformation,” countered Gingrich, who seemed to be suggesting that he would not take the bait. “This is the worst kind of trivial politics.”
But, in no time, Gingrich was engaging in, um, the worst kind of trivial politics.
Accusing Romney of making “false charges,” the former Speaker then whined: “There’s a point in this process when it gets unnecessarily personal and nasty, and that’s sad.” He said he was not going to “waste the time” trying to counter Romney. It was a classic dismissive move. But Romney was not going to let him get away with it.
The former Massachusetts governor, until this debate an above-the-fray front-runner, was not about to abandon the go-for-the-jugular politics he is now employing to revive a campaign that—while certainly not finished—has stumbled badly.