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Michael Sigman Headshot

Newt's Victim Card Is a Joker

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The right loves to bark about the "culture of the victim" on the left. But have you seen bigger crybabies than middle-aged white guys who don't have the authority they feel they earned by virtue of being middle-aged white guys?

Consider poor Newt Gingrich.

The guy takes some electoral blows and within moments his "friends" blame everyone for killing him. It's the media. It's his second wife. It's the Super PACs. It's Romney's willingness to lie. It's the debate formats. It's the crowds -- both NBC's silent audience and CNN's more raucous attendees.

It's everything, in other words, but Gingrich taking responsibility for himself. Newt is a victim despite the fact that he's had the benefits of $10 million from a single donor; a rapt national media rooting for him to prolong the race; a slew of nationally-televised debates which have twice catapulted him into the GOP primary lead; and, in Mitt Romney, a spectacularly tone-deaf front-runner who shortly after his Florida Primary triumph added "I'm not concerned about the very poor" to his laundry list of rhetorical gaffes.

Of course, Romney himself is no piker when it comes to feigning victimhood. When his "poor people" comments went viral, he played the "out of context" canard, as he's done to distance himself from such earlier flubs as "I'm unemployed too," "self-deportation," "I like to fire people" and the evergreen "Corporations are people, my friend." But when you put them together, these comments are the context. (In this most recent case, Romney compounded his mistake by adding, "You can focus on the very poor -- that's not my focus. My focus is on middle-income Americans.")

The Newt as "victim of a coordinated attack" narrative was pushed by Rush Limbaugh and other Tea Party types who blamed the media for talking about Newt's inexcusable behavior toward his second wife. This put Gingrich in solidarity with ex-pizza magnate Herman Cain, who pretended to be similarly maligned after he was accused of serial sexual harassment. Cain had recently made "breaking news" with his "unconventional endorsement" of "the people." But just before voters went to the Florida polls, he pulled a 180 by switching his endorsement to Newt. No one cared.

Leave it to Sarah Palin, working from her logic-free Facebook comfort zone, to definitively link Newt's victim status to the lefty media. She blamed Romney's "tactics of the left" for Newt's decline, concluding that, "What we saw with this ridiculous opposition dump on Newt was nothing short of Stalin-esque rewriting of history." No rewriting of history for our Sarah!

The trouble for Newt and his ilk is that the victim strategy has no exit strategy. Having embarked on the trail of "You started it, Mitt"/"you're a big bully, Mitt," Newt has had to project his own massive flaws onto others ever more hyperbolically. It will be tough even for the verbally gifted Gingrich to match his ludicrous self-identification with Holocaust survivors, whom he claimed were victimized by Mitt's policy on kosher kitchens in Massachusetts.

Howls from conservatives notwithstanding, the truth is that neither the left nor the media lifted a finger to hand Newt his comeuppance. His fellow Republicans did that all by themselves. The irony that an attack dog like Gingrich would play the victim card was too rich even for right wing screamer Ann Coulter, who literally wrote the book on Liberal Victims and Their Assault on America; she explained to Bill O'Reilly that there was no liberal media fingerprint at work in the anti-Newt onslaught.

That's not likely to change Newt's tactics. Look to see the Pillsbury Doughboy candidate set himself on fire and then blame the oil companies for supplying the gas -- that is, the oil companies and their friends on the left.