Obama’s strange bedfellow

    As the old saying goes, politics makes strange bedfellows. And right now, there are none stranger than Barack Obama and Newt Gingrich.Despite being separated by an ideological chasm, these two guys have something in common: antipathy toward Mitt Romney. And how sweet it was yesterday, for Obama, to have Newt out on the trail painting Romney as a heartless plutocrat who turned profits in the private sector by laying people off.Yo, Newt! That’s supposed to be the Democratic argument against Romney, the same argument that worked so well for Ted Kennedy when he squashed Romney’s 1994 Senate bid. But Newt, if you want to lean leftward and hammer Romney for his stint as a corporate buccaneer for Bain Capital, go for it. The president is surely happy to have you carrying his water.On the trail late yesterday, Newt vowed to be nice to his rivals, because “it is critical the Republican nominee emerge from this primary campaign unbloodied, so that he or she can make the case against President Obama from a position of strength.” Yet, on the same day, he bloodied his chief rival by playing the Bain card: “If Gov. Romney would give back all the money he’s earned from bankrupting companies and laying off employees over the years at Bain, then I would be glad to listen to him.”And thus Newt became the first Republican to assail Romney for his lucrative stint as a corporate takeover titan. One might normally assume that a Democratic candidate would be the first to wax populist and point out that Romney became a millionaire 200 times over while helming a private equity firm that often laid people off. But nope, it was Newt who took the lead – teeing up the same talking points that Team Obama has been readying for months, in the event that Romney becomes the nominee.Obama to Newt: Thanks for the ammo, dude. And thanks for telling your own voters that Romney made a pile of dough as a Wall Street exploiter of Main Street.Yesterday’s episode demonstrates why so many Republicans view Newt as a loose cannon. As Fred Barnes of The Weekly Standard lamented yesterday, Newt’s attack on Romney gave aid and comfort to liberals, but, even worse, the attack was essentially a blasphemous hit job on…gasp…the intrinsic wisdom of the free market itself.Here’s Barnes, who is widely considered a barometer of center-right Republican sentiment:”Newt Gingrich has adopted an anti-free market argument – a favorite of the political left – to criticize Mitt Romney…(Bain Capital) was highly profitable, but was criticized for reducing payrolls and shutting down firms it couldn’t revive…Whether its investments were successful or not, Bain Capital was engaged in the rough and tumble of free market capitalism. Thus Gingrich’s criticism, coming from a conservative, was surprising…”President Obama’s reelection campaign is reportedly prepared to use the left-wing line of attack against Romney, should he win the Republican presidential nomination next year. Now Gingrich has jumped in first.”

    And this morning, here’s the conservative American Spectator, which rebuked Newt for having “stolen” the Democratic party line:”If Newt is actually attacking the work of Romney and other financiers in streamlining and re-structuring businesses, he’s not carrying any Conservative position; rather, he’s setting up a tent on Occupy Wall Street territory: an extreme, anti-capitalist, class-warfare posture that’s inherently un-Republican, un-Conservative, and unserious.”Team Obama believes that Romney is out of sync with the average American, and that his track record at Bain could hurt him in swing states. (For instance, consider Florida, where Bain worked a ’94 deal with Goldman Sachs to buy a medical diagnostics company. Roughly 850 people got pink slips, while Bain and Goldman Sachs reportedly profited to the tune of $280 million.) The assumption all along was that the president would leave the Bain issue to his various political surrogates.And yet there was Newt yesterday, morphing into Ted Kennedy in order to bloody Romney, and doing de facto surrogate duty for the Democrats. Care to place a fat wager on whether the president is pleased?Mitt, don’t answer that. ——-Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1

    • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

    WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal