Much has been made of Mitt Romney's awkward attempts to countrify himself by proclaiming his love of grits and repeatedly saying, "Ya'll."
"Strange things are happening to me," Mitt observed to an audience in Pascagoula, MS. Reportedly, the entire town felt embarrassed for him.
But what's happening with Gingrich is hardly strange. Newt has always possessed a near-sociopathic adeptness at convincingly saying things he couldn't possibly believe. But the very real threat that his limping campaign could lay down and die in Dixie has pushed his mean-spirited disingenuous-ness into overdrive.
A poll cited here on Monday indicated that the former House Speaker holds the lead among those Republican voters who believe President Obama to be a Muslim, as well as those who don't believe in evolution. In other words, it appears that Newt's Southern strategy involves going after voters at the bottom of the pickle barrel.
Howso? Well, even though Gingrich is a far cry from being a true believer like Rick Santorum (BTW, are we the only ones who imagine Santorum as a character out of the '60s Christian animated kiddies' show "Davey and Goliath?"), he plays one on the campaign trail. Most recently, he railed against the new ABC sitcom "GCB," which stands for "Good Christian Bitches." From Slate:
“To show you how sick the system is,” says Gingrich, “try to put the word Muslim in, instead of Christian. It is inconceivable that anybody in our elites would tolerate a program that was that defiling of Islam. But it’s fine to defile Christianity? That’s how sick the system is.”
System? What system? Now, this quote doesn't give full context to his statement, but it can hardly matter. Newt isn't trying to win a forensic speaking competition on the strength of his logic. He's trying to stir up the inchoate fears of rural white Southerners by invoking the "M" word.
Then he cannily follows with an Obama reference:
“We have a president who apologizes to religious fanatics in Afghanistan, while he’s attacking the Catholic Church and every pro-life group in America,” he says. “He says we’re going to respect the sacred objects of every religion? Fine. Put up all the crosses the courts have torn down!”
Granted, Newt has been saying ridiculously over-the-top and self-consciously untrue stuff for weeks now. Back in Arizona, he said during a debate that "Barack Obama voted in favor of legalizing infanticide" when he was an Illinois state senator because he opposed a bill that, in part, could have been interpreted as conferring "personhood" to fetuses.
The difference between then and now is that Newt's pandering to the most ignorant, intolerant and zenophobic portion of the GOP base seems to be working.
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