Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich Thursday denounced a third-party ad from supporters of President Barack Obama tying Mitt Romney to the death of a woman as an example of how “tragic” and dishonest the 2012 presidential campaign has become.
“If Barack Obama had to stand behind this ad, they would have never run it. It wouldn’t have been possible,” the Georgia Republican said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Thursday.
The ad, which features a steelworker who lost his job and healthcare coverage after Romney’s investment firm Bain Capital shut down the plant where he worked, essentially blames the death of his wife from cancer on the layoff.
Gingrich, who challenged Romney during the GOP presidential primaries, acknowledged the ad put up by Priorities USA — a super PAC supportive of the president — was similar to the kind of negative ad attack he endured from Romney supporters during his campaign for the presidency.
But Gingrich said the ad created by Priorities USA marks a new low in presidential campaigning.
“This new ad is so personal and so human that it’s truly tragic to have that kind of dishonesty thrust into a presidential campaign,” he said.
He called the ad “totally irresponsible,” adding, “I would say to President Obama: If you don’t want these attack ads, tell your friends not to give the money. If you don’t want these attack ads, tell the guy who’s doing them you’re going to repudiate him publicly unless he obeys certain limits.”
“It’s not healthy for America to have politics degenerate into who has the most money to run the worst ads,” Gingrich said.
He suggested, as he did when super PACs blasted him in the primaries with negative ads, that the campaign finance system has to be changed to eliminate third-party attacks funded by unlimited and unreported contributions.
“What makes them particularly bad is that they tend to be totally irresponsible,” Gingrich said. “They have no accountability.
“We’d be much better off . . . with a very simple law that says you can give unlimited personal income to any candidate you want to as long as it's reported every night over the Internet,” he added. “And then the candidates would have to stand behind the ads.”
Gingrich noted how the White House “has taken a pretty big step back to distance itself” from the ad. But he said, “I don’t think you should underestimate how consistently the Obama team uses dishonesty” in its efforts to promote the president’s agenda and to ensure his re-election.
Gingrich, who plans to attend the Republican National Convention later this month but has no speaking role, also defended an ad from the Romney campaign claiming Obama gutted the 1996 welfare reform law Gingrich negotiated with then President Bill Clinton by allowing states to seek waivers from certain work requirements in the law.
Gingrich told CNN’s Anderson Cooper Wednesday when pressed to acknowledge if the ad was true that there was “no proof today” of the Romney claim. But he added that he believes Obama would be comfortable with sending people welfare checks “for doing nothing.”
Clinton has issued a statement calling the ad untrue, but Gingrich said on Morning Joe the former president had been misled by the Obama White House about what the waivers would actually do.
Gingrich, noting Clinton’s work on welfare reform and support for a balanced budget during his presidency, called Obama “the anti-Clinton,” saying he wants to grow government where Clinton sought to rein in spending.
“Everything Clinton has tried to do” to move the Democratic Party to the center, Gingrich said, “Obama has undone” since his election in 2008.
Describing Obama as “the last hope of the left-wingers in America,” Gingrich said, “What you’re seeing is a level of desperation you haven’t seen [in politics] since 1980” when Democrat Jimmy Carter lost the presidency to Republican Ronald Reagan.
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