Sunday, January 29, 2012

Could Gingrich Beat Obama in Debates?

If nothing else, Newt Gingrich has one of the most visibly overinflated egos of any of the occupants of the GOP presidential candidate clown car. And because his ego often out leads rational thought, some speculate that in Obama-Gingrich debates, Gingrich would prove to be the loser. Especially if the audience wasn't limited to delusional Christianists and Tea party followers whose cheering seems to encourage Gingrich's demagoguery. A op-ed in the Washington Post looks at a face off between Obama and Gingrich and predicts that contrary to Gingrich's dreams, he'd end up the loser. Here are highlights:

Newt Gingrich is basing his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, in large part, on one premise: He is the candidate best equipped to debate President Obama. . . .

Supporters of the former House speaker love to imagine these debates. . . . . Gingrich’s legions picture their guy landing blow after blow against Obama, leaving the president dazed and hopeless.

An honest look at Gingrich’s record suggests that the results could differ markedly from the fantasies of Team Newt. Obama would not collapse in a heap, Gingrich would not emerge triumphant — and the whole thing would go down as the biggest campaign blunder since Richard Nixon figured he could out-debate John F. Kennedy on television.

But as a student of military history, Gingrich should know better than to underestimate an opponent in this way. The president taught law at the University of Chicago and has as much experience lecturing as Gingrich. He has shown in White House events and town hall meetings that he is perfectly capable of talking in depth and in detail about complex policy issues.

In debates with Gingrich, Obama might botch a name here or a fact there. . . . Gingrich is prone to a more serious kind of mistake. His problem is not that he errs on the fine points but that he makes radioactive comments that alienate voters outside the Republican core. In a debate in October, CNN’s Anderson Cooper asked whether voters should pay attention to a candidate’s religion. “How can you have judgment if you have no faith?” Gingrich answered. “And how can I trust you with power if you don’t pray?”

The more time he [Gingrich] gets to talk, the more likely he is to say something outrageous. Throughout his career, his speeches and extended interviews have been spawning grounds for odd or even grotesque Gingrichisms.

When he’s under criticism, Gingrich’s standard operating procedure is to interject that people are taking his words out of context. In a Lincoln-Douglas format, he would just have to sit and seethe until his turn came. As we’ve witnessed several times during the current debates, Gingrich is very good when he’s pretending to be angry; he’s very bad when he is angry for real. . . . Knowing this history, Obama would try to play with his head.

[A]s conservative commentator John Ziegler has pointed out, the audiences for those debates would include independents and Democrats as well as Republicans. Any incendiary remarks by Gingrich would get more catcalls than cheers.

In the end, what most people would see of such debates would be brief clips on news programs. And those clips would naturally consist of the most dramatic and attention-getting material — including the moments when Gingrich drew jeers from the audience for making over-the-top attacks. And so he would be back to where he’s been many times, complaining of selective quotation by liberals and the media.

So just picture Obama giving Gingrich everything he wants: seven three-hour debates with demonstrative audiences. Gingrich would then be able to make knockout punches — against himself.

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