Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich went back and forth over Gingrich’s comment that the Palestinians are an “invented people.” Toward the end of the exchange, Romney attempted to use the issue to paint Gingrich as someone who, as president, would shoot from the hip and whose lack of discipline would cause problems for the U.S. abroad and hurt the nation’s foreign diplomacy.
“If I’m president of the United States, I will exercise sobriety, care, stability, and make sure that in a setting like this, anything I say that can affect a place with rockets going in, with people dying, I don’t do anything that will harm that process,” Romney said of Israel.
“And therefore before I made a statement of that nature, I’d get on the phone to my friend Bibi Netanyahu and say, ‘Would it help if I said this? What would you like me to do? Let’s work together because we’re partners. I’m not a bomb-thrower, rhetorically or literally,” Romney said.
Gingrich, who could be seen winking to someone in the audience as Romney talked, turned the contrast around and used it to his own advantage, and in the process effectively called Romney “timid.”
“I think sometimes that it’s helpful to have a president of the United States who has the courage to tell the truth,” Gingrich said, arguing that then-President Ronald Reagan went around his national security advisers to call the Soviet Union an “evil empire” and “overruled” the State Department to utter his famous “Tear down this wall” line.
“Reagan believed the power of truth, restated to the world, reframed the world,” Gingrich said. “I’m a Reaganite. I’m proud to be a Reaganite. I will tell the truth, even if it’s at the risk of causing some confusion, sometimes with the timid.”
— Jon Ward
No names were mentioned when the candidates were asked whether voters should consider marital fidelity in making their choice for president. But it was no accident that Newt Gingrich looked a bit uncomfortable as each of his opponents took a turn at answering.
Rick Perry said he “made a vow to my wife and a vow to God” and that was “even stronger than a handshake in Texas.” When ABC’s George Stephanopolous asked if infidelity made a politician more likely to break faith with the voters, Perry responded, “If you will cheat on your wife, cheat on your spouse, why not cheat on your business partner?”
Rick Santorum said that marital infidelities are “not a disqualifier” but are “certainly a factor” and that in electing a leader, “trust is everything.”
Michele Bachmann, in a Newt-onian flourish, cited the Federalist Papers, saying that what is needed in a president is not wealth, education or position. “It is what is the measure of the man, or, in this case, woman. Will they keep their word? Will they be a man or woman of integrity? That’s what they cared about. … Who are you really? What’s your core?” she said.
Then it was Gingrich’s turn. “Well, first of all, it’s a real issue,” he conceded, noting that voters “have to have a feeling this is a person they can trust. … People have to render judgment.”
“I’ve said I made mistakes,” he added as the TV cameras showed his third wife, Callista. He then suggested that given that he is now a 68-year-old grandfather, it might be time to move on. “I’m delighted at the way people have been willing to look at who I am,” said Gingrich.
— Andrea Stone