Newt Gingrich's one-man assault on Nancy Pelosi's speakership is destined to fail, but it is worth noting how he is reviving the PR tactics that he helped to popularize.
When he was rising through the ranks of the House, Gingrich was known for his use of invective to demonize Democrats, which included comparing Speaker Jim Wright to Mussolini and distributing (via his GOPAC organization) a list of "[c]ontrasting words" to apply to "the opponent, their record, proposals and their party" such as "anti- (issue): flag, family, child, jobs," "betray," "corrupt," "endanger," "lie," "pathetic," "radical," "shame," "sick," "steal," "threaten," and "traitors."
As part of an effort to rebuild his image, Gingrich has largely stayed out of the partisan fray in recent years. He even called for more attention to issues during the presidential campaign.
But in the last couple of weeks, Gingrich has reverted to form, using code words and insinuation to viciously attack Democrats.
First, during an appearance on Fox News Sunday on May 10, the former speaker claimed that there was a "weird pattern" of Obama administration officials defending alleged terrorists in pro bono legal work (unlike the Bush administration) and suggested that the Obama administration was proposing "welfare" for terrorists. The point, of course, was to suggest that Democrats are somehow sympathetic to terrorists (via Sam Stein):
GINGRICH: [W]hen you look at the Obama administration, the number of attorneys they have appointed who were defending alleged terrorists -- I mean, there's this weird pattern where the Bush people wanted to defend Americans and were pretty tough on terrorists. These guys [Obama officials] are prepared to take huge risks with Americans in order to defend terrorists. And you look at who...
WALLACE: Who is defending terrorists?
GINGRICH: Oh, I think -- well, [Attorney General Eric] Holder's firm has 17 alleged terrorists that they're representing on a pro bono basis, for no fee. It's the largest single thing they were doing for free -- was defending Yemenis.
I think there are five different attorneys in the -- in the Justice Department appointed by Obama who had direct -- their firms were defending alleged terrorists.
...WALLACE: Question: If you're going to try to get other countries to accept these detainees, don't we have to do our share?
GINGRICH: This is nuts. I mean, this is just crazy. These are -- these are not American nationals. We have no obligation to keep them here. They ought to go home. Now, are their home countries saying, "I won't take my own citizen?"
The idea we're going to put alleged terrorists on welfare and have you pay for them and me pay for them, so they get to be integrated into American society -- remember, all these people were brought in on the grounds that they were trained in terrorist camps.
So we're now going to take a guy who we don't have conclusive proof and we're going to put him in American society paid by the American taxpayer because his home country won't accept him? Why is his home country not accepting him?
Then, in a statement right out of the GOPAC playbook, Gingrich deployed this adjective-laden assault on Pelosi after she accused the CIA of lying:
I think this is the most despicable, dishonest and vicious political effort I've seen in my lifetime. She is a trivial politician, viciously using partisanship for the narrowest of purposes, and she dishonors the Congress by her behavior.
Kevin Drum notes the GOPAC similarity but asks "why use "vicious" twice? It's like he's getting political Alzheimer's or something." The point, however, is to mechanically create an association between Pelosi and negative traits like "vicious." Repetition is a key part of manufacturing that association.