Us usual, the arrangement with the syndicators means this column appears here a week after its newspaper release)
^THE NEWT AND MITT EVOLUTIONS@<
^(For use by New York Times News Service clients)
^By BOB FRANKEN
^C.2011 Hearst Newspapers
WASHINGTON _ They have a lot in common. It's a safe bet that when Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich pondered a presidential race they had no idea that they'd be racing backward.
Gingrich, when he's not hatefully base playing, occasionally wants to peddle some food for thought. So, on ``Meet the Press,just two days after his candidacy announcement, he decided to show he wasn't just a party hack, by hacking away at Republican gospel in the form of House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan's call to radically transform Medicare.
The Ryan plan _ which would provide eligible beneficiaries with vouchers to pay for their own private health insurance _ was ``right wing social engineering",Gingrich said.
Big mistake. Instantly, the clobbering began. His fellow Republicans began calling him every name but Newt. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley was typical. ``Here you have Rep. Ryan trying to bring common sense to this world of insanity and Newt absolutely cut him off from the knees",she complained.
It's more like Gingrich cut himself off at the knees. So he called Ryan to apologize for what he called ``inelegant" language.
Of course, he's reflexively blaming ``media minions" for all this controversy. That was a quote from Rick Tyler, his spokesman. Faulting the press, or what Gingrich himself has called the ``gotcha press", is the default conservative excuse for anything.
Gingrich preemptively also took on paid media, meaning the inevitable future commercials from his political opponents: After Gingrich retracted his words he announced: ``Any ad which quotes what I said on Sunday is a falsehood."
He had blurted the words, he explained, after an ambush question on ``Meet the Press". It was all a big surprise, he insisted. ``It didn't occur to me going in that you'd have a series of setups". Gingrich has been a guest on the program 35 times.
Disagreeing with himself is nothing new for Newt Gingrich. It was just a few weeks ago that he was dumping on President Obama for doing nothing about Libya and then when the U.S. joined in the NATO military action there, Gingrich did a 180-degree switch and complained about that, too. He's even come up with a spin on all his spinning, saying his ``ideas keep evolving"
His evolutions are revolting to some of the party faithful. In Iowa, on camera, a member of his audience called on Gingrich to pack it in ``before you make a bigger fool of yourself"and called him an ``embarrassment to our party". Now that's brutal. The only worse insult would be ``RINO".
For those who haven't read the Tea Party scrolls, RINO means ``Republican In Name Only"and, these days, it is the most contemptuous term imaginable, heaped upon anyone in the party who demonstrates a willingness to compromise with the other side.
To be fair, hard-core liberals also scorn their ``Democrats in Name Only", but the DINO brand doesn't compare to RINO's scarlet letters. They are a constant danger to comparative realists like Tim Pawlenty, Mitch Daniels and Jon Huntsman.
And certainly to Mitt Romney. He spends much of his time dodging his past policies. Gun control? Don't let his past support fool you. He's against it. Ditto abortion.
The biggie, though, is the GOP's hated ``Obamacare" Romney keeps telling us he is absolutely against it, even though it was largely modeled on the Massachusetts plan; you know, the one that Romney championed when he was that state's governor. Today's right-handed Mitt contends that this is no inconsistency since he has always believed the matter should be handled on the state level, not by the intrusive feds.
Furthermore, his thinking has ``evolved."
They are an interesting evolving pair, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, both frantically moon walking. Instead of running for president, maybe they should take up swimming, since it would be tempting to conclude they are both in over their heads.
(Email: bob(at)hearstdc.com. On the Web: www.bobfranken.tv)