This time, Gingrich’s media critique falls flat

GOP Debate
CNN’s Wolf Blitzer is seen at right as Republican presidential candidates, from left, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas participate in the debate in Jacksonville, Fla.
(Matt Rourke / Associated Press)

Was Newt finally neutered?

Newt Gingrich’s attacks on debate moderators have been a staple of his run for the Republican nomination, and may very well have won him the South Carolina primary.

But one week after the former House speaker savaged correspondent John King for an opening question about the allegations of his ex-wife, his attempt to deflect another about attacks on Mitt Romney was turned against him by a different CNN anchor.

Wolf Blitzer asked Gingrich whether he was satisfied with the level of disclosure Romney had provided about his personal finances. Gingrich called it a “nonsense question,” and the crowd roared in approval.

“How about if the four of us agree for the rest of the evening we’ll actually talk about issues that relate to governing America?” Gingrich said.

Blitzer wasn’t about to let Gingrich off the hook, quoting Gingrich’s own rhetoric about Romney’s “Swiss bank and Cayman Island bank accounts.”

“I didn’t say that, you did,” Blitzer said.

“I did. And I’m perfectly happy to say that in an interview on some TV show. But this is a national debate where you have a chance to get the four of us to talk about a whole range of issues,” Gingrich responded.

“If you make a serious accusation against Gov. Romney like that, you need to explain that,” Blitzer fired back.

The audience booed Blitzer, much as they did King a week before.

But this time, Romney piled on his GOP rival.

“Wouldn’t it be nice if people didn’t make accusations somewhere else that they weren’t willing to defend here?” he asked.

Gingrich finally obliged, and repeated his view that it was “unusual” for a would-be president to have a Swiss bank account.

“I have a trustee that manages my investments in a blind trust,” Romney explained. And that trustee did invest in a Swiss account, one that was reported and on which full taxes were paid, he added.

“There’s nothing wrong with that. And I know that there may be some who try and make a deal of that, as you have publicly. But I think it’s improtant for people to make sure that we don’t castigate individuals who’ve been successful,” he said.

“Let’s put behind this idea of attacking me because of my investments or my money, and let’s get Republicans to say, ‘You know what, what you’ve accomplished in your life should not be seen as a detriment. It should be seen as an asset to help America.’”

Now, the crowd cheered on Romney.

“Mr. Speaker, I’m ready to move on if you are,” Blitzer then said to Gingrich, to which Gingrich responded by asking for “a two-way truce” with Romney about personal attacks.

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