Entry from March 20, 2012

Here’s something that Newt Gingrich said the other day. Apologies to those who have already read it, since it has been widely reported. “The thing I find most disheartening about this campaign is the difficulty of talking about positive ideas on a large scale, because the news media can’t cover it and, candidly, my opponents can’t comprehend it.” This is a disturbing statement in several ways, one of which is that it reminds us yet again of what a tin-eared egomaniac Newt is and another of which is that it’s probably true. That is to say, its truth is not as a statement about the relative intelligence of the four remaining Republican candidates (or the others who have dropped out), though it may have that kind of truth as well, but a truth about the skills needed for a modern day political campaign, which have ever less and less to do with the skills needed for governing — or, indeed, any other worthwhile activity.

And that links up with the bit about the media, which also has no interest in any qualities a candidate may have apart from bland plausibility — preferably the kind that disguises discreditable secrets of some kind — and low cunning. Whatever may or may not be the case concerning the comprehension of Newt Gingrich’s opponents, it can hardly be open to doubt that the media can’t cover positive ideas on a large scale. Or on any scale. They’re just not set up that way now. Not that that will stop them from ridiculing Newt or anybody else who might be foolish enough to say so. That’s the way they are set up now.

David Carr of The New York Times is just one of those who have had some fun with Mr Gingrich about this.

So there you have it: We in the media are too dumb to adequately report his message, and even if we were able to, his opponents would fail to get it. Pity the poor voters, then, who have to assess Mr. Gingrich based on a distorted version of his ideas, one that dilutes his brilliance. How else to explain a pretty convincing string of non-victories? It’s the kind of arrogance that comes from huffing on one’s own gas a bit too much, which, come to think of it, is going around.

What cutting irony! Boy, I’ll bet Newt feels silly. That bit at the end, about Newt’s arrogance “going around” refers to an article in Politico titled “How Much Do Voters Know?” which includes this charming quotation by one Tom Jensen, a Democratic pollster: “The first lesson you learn as a pollster is that people are stupid.” The article’s author, Alexander Burns, goes on to agree with Mr Jensen, saying that voters in 2012 are “wandering confused and Forrest Gump-like through the experience of a presidential campaign.”

Mr Carr treats these two, Mr Gingrich and Mr Jensen, as twin examples of arrogant snobbery, even though it will be apparent even to a Gump-like intelligence that a disparagement of voters is not quite the same thing as a disparagement of the media. And if the former may justly be called arrogant, it does not necessarily follow that the latter must be as well. On the contrary, the arrogance seems to me to be all on the side of the media, which in Politico reports Mr Jensen’s comment uncritically and which, in Mr Carr’s own column, treats Mr Gingrich’s criticism of themselves as self-evidently absurd. He cites two examples of what he sees as unjustified criticisms by Mr Gingrich, though they appear very far from obviously so to me, but none of any that were justified. He appears to believe that there are none. I know which of the two sounds the more arrogant to me.

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