Especially the political kind, she tells us:
But this week a few handpicked and selectively edited comments which Newt made during his 40-year career were used to claim that Newt was somehow anti-Reagan and isn’t conservative enough to go against the accepted moderate in the primary race…To add insult to injury, this “anti-Reagan” claim was made by a candidate who admitted to not even supporting or voting for Reagan.
It’s interesting how quickly the citation of Gingrich’s own words by someone not associated with any presidential candidate can be turned into a pro-Romney smear campaign. Gingrich has repeatedly invoked Reagan and associated himself with Reagan’s accomplishments while campaigning, which significantly obscured the extent to which he was a hawkish critic of Reagan’s policies. When Abrams pointed out that Gingrich had repeatedly criticized Reagan’s policies in very unflattering terms, this was treated as an awful smear, but it was more of a correction of Gingrich’s misrepresentation of his relationship to Reagan in the 1980s. Now that the intra-party disputes about Reagan’s policies are in the past, Gingrich wants to benefit himself politically by linking himself to Reagan’s record. He wants people to think that it is a smear when someone points out his vocal disagreements with significant parts of that record, but all that this shows is that Gingrich wants to avoid accountability for his past misjudgments and errors. No one has demonstrated that Gingrich didn’t say the things attributed to him, and no one so far has argued that Gingrich’s assessment of Reagan’s policies later proved to be correct (which I assume no one will try, because it wasn’t correct).
Palin tries to get around the substance of what Gingrich said by saying that the comments were “selectively edited,” which implies dishonesty on the part of the person citing the comments, but there is no proof that the editing in this case created a misleading impression about what Gingrich believed. When Gingrich said that Reagan’s “weak” policies regarding the USSR and communism “are inadequate and will ultimately fail,” that is exactly what he meant. Even Gingrich’s would-be defender doesn’t dispute the substance of the statement. It doesn’t help his case that other people at the time were equally wrong about those policies. Correcting Gingrich’s misrepresentation of his record in this instance doesn’t imply that Gingrich “isn’t conservative enough” (there is more than enough in the rest of Gingrich’s record to support that charge anyway), but it’s telling that Palin assumes that this must be what is going on. Gingrich has been caught embellishing his record from the 1980s, and instead of simply acknowledging this his misguided would-be defenders feel compelled to treat the revelation as an outrageous lie. It is Gingrich and his apologists who end up looking ridiculous.
Palin goes beyond that to try to make this into an elite-populist divide:
But this whole thing isn’t really about Newt Gingrich vs. Mitt Romney. It is about the GOP establishment vs. the Tea Party grassroots and independent Americans who are sick of the politics of personal destruction used now by both parties’ operatives with a complicit media egging it on.
This really isn’t a case of engaging in “the politics of personal destruction” (a favorite Clinton phrase, in case anyone has forgotten). This episode has been a simple matter of holding Gingrich accountable for misrepresenting his record. That he and his defenders insist on treating it as a vicious personal attack tells us a great about their selective interest in accountability for public figures.