Gingrich Calls for End of Negative Campaigning

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich called the “Hillary 1984” YouTube attack ad “very interesting” but “utterly, totally, destructive of the process of thought. There is not a single thing in that ad that commercial that enables America to solve a problem.” He thinks it is part of a “very dangerous” trend.

He challenges candidates to agree that, if they are the nominee of their party, to agree to a 90 minute, unmoderated, Lincoln-Douglas style debate every week between Labor Day and the election.

It’s interesting but, obviously, not going to happen. And, like most ideas put forward by intellectuals, one that would benefit people like him greatly if adopted (and he were, somehow, to get the nomination).

UPDATE: Kevin Drum contends that “Newt Gingrich practically invented the modern attack-dog style of American politics.” There’s something to that, to be sure. On the other hand, he has always been an idea guy who has put forth a vision (often, a pie-in-the-sky, ridiculously unachievable one, to be sure) for solving the country’s problems. More than most politicians, too, he’s willing to at least acknowledge that key agenda items of the other party are based on legitimate public policy problems that deserve solutions.

Gingrich has a ton of problems, including hypocrisy, but the failure to craft white papers proposing policy solutions is not among them.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Tlaloc says:

    As much as I’d like to see politics drag itself out of the mud having candidate refuse to do negative commercials won’t do much when so much of the really vile stuff is put out by astroturf organizations.

    As for the debates, that’d be interesting but I think they’d have to be moderated. You could have a single topic for each one 9advertised ahead of time) allowing people to tune in for their pet issues and also making it a bit easier on those candidates who aren’t brainiacs since they can get prepped for a single topic. (While I personally would rather our president be able to debate like mad I have to admit that it isn’t really a skill the job calls for, being able to find and listen to experts is a much more important ability)

  2. James Joyner says:

    Tlaloc,

    Good points. Indeed, the ad in question appears not to be connected with any campaign.

    Still, there is something to real debates, where candidates actually have to engage in conversation rather than spew pre-rehearsed sound bytes, that might be illuminating.

    Then again, Bush would likely suck at that and I’d still have voted for him over Gore or Kerry. So, aside from the three people who actually vote but have no ideological or party preference, I’m not sure it’d change anything.

  3. Tlaloc says:

    Still, there is something to real debates, where candidates actually have to engage in conversation rather than spew pre-rehearsed sound bytes, that might be illuminating.

    I think you could still have that with moderation, just not the style of moderation most debates used. That is if you had a moderator who was there basically just to keep time and prevent the conversation running to far afield…

    I shouls of course have mentioned the irony of Newt calling against negative campaigning but Kevin drum does a much better job of it so look here:

    http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2007_03/010983.php

  4. Adam says:

    Bla,Bla. There has and always will be negative campaigning. What would be refreshing is for someone to focus on something that actually matters. I lump Gingrich in with the rest of the “conservatives” that don’t energize me.

  5. Bandit says:

    He challenges candidates to agree that, if they are the nominee of their party, to agree to a 90 minute, unmoderated, Lincoln-Douglas style debate every week between Labor Day and the election.

    Thank God above there are 200 other channels to watch.

  6. Michael says:

    He challenges candidates to agree that, if they are the nominee of their party, to agree to a 90 minute, unmoderated, Lincoln-Douglas style debate every week between Labor Day and the election.

    I have an even better idea. Lets make all the candidates live in the same house (or island?) followed at all times by video crews. We’ll assemble a panel of judges using a tried and true formula: 1 topic expert, 1 pretty celebrity, and a rude Briton (Blair?). Then every week between Labor Day and the first Tuesday in November they will have to perform (a stunt?) on a 90 minute program which will be critiqued by the judges, and then America will vote one of them out of the house/island (country?).

    Yes I’m joking, but this would increase voter turnout, do away with the electoral college, take soft money out of the equation, and maybe make us not hate our television during the election period.

  7. Michael says:

    To follow up on my own post, we already have the perfect cast:

    A new Yorker
    A war vet
    A rich white chick
    A guy everyone thinks is gay
    and the token black dude!

    Ok, now I’m going to Hell, aren’t I?

  8. It is a pipe dream to imagine that negative campaigning can ever be curtailed, much less eliminated.

    As for Mr. Drum’s comment, so what? Even granting that it is true, which it isn’t, wouldn’t the “inventor” be in an excellent position to now say this is a bad idea? Or has Mr. Drum yet again decided that it is the messenger and not the message that is important?

    As for adding the debates, yes please. The ability to develop a firm grasp of the facts and respond thoughtfully, and coherently in near real time is important at all levels of management. Having the ability to enlist experts is of marginal use if you cannot adequately assimilate the information elicited from them and reuse it to formulate and enunciate your thoughts. Debates are a be all and all to giving us better canddiates, but it would be a good start. On the other hand, perhpas more sophistry isn’t really what we need at this point.

  9. Tlaloc says:

    As for Mr. Drum’s comment, so what? Even granting that it is true, which it isn’t, wouldn’t the “inventor” be in an excellent position to now say this is a bad idea? Or has Mr. Drum yet again decided that it is the messenger and not the message that is important?

    It’s not true
    and if it is true, it is a good thing
    and if it is true, and isn’t a good thing, then he’s the right guy to stop it.

    Why? Cause he started it.

    Makes perfect sense. I usually look to convicted murderers to speak out about the horrors of random violence. Or Ken Lay to proselytize on corporate misconduct. Or ask Cheney to give lectures about the dangers of government secrecy and the corrupt nepotism it spawns.

  10. Well, don’t we expect convicted murderers to be contrite and show remorse? I can swear I’ve read an awful lot about that over the years.

    But seriously Tlaloc, your Reader’s Digest version of what I wrote is a gross misrepresentation, especially when my comment about Mr. Drum conflating and confusing the message and the messenger somehow get translated to saying the Mr. Gingrich is “the right man to stop it.”

    Maybe I should start playing this game too though and start dropping ad hoc irrelevant tangents about corrupt nepotism involving the Kennedy’s, the still unexplained misconduct surrounding the FBI files suddenly found in Mrs. Clinton’s possession a few years ago, or the secrecy required by Mrs. Clinton when she was trying to nationalize health care, much less the nepotism of being appointed by her husband. Heaven knows she wouldn’t have got that job any other way.

    Nah.

  11. jpe says:

    Drum is basically right: Newt is a power politics practitioner. Now that the GOP is in a weak position and the politics of power won’t work, he retreats to a “hey, let’s all be reasonable” stance.

    In and of itself, the idea is noble, the man….mmm….not so much.

  12. jpe says:

    A new Yorker
    A war vet
    A rich white chick
    A guy everyone thinks is gay
    and the token black dude!

    Ok, now I’m going to Hell, aren’t I?

    Effing genius.

    That’s gettin’ forwarded around.