It looks like Republican strategist Cheri Jacobus was batting two for two this Wednesday, first appearing on MSNBC and being apparently clueless that anchor Thomas Roberts is an openly gay man and probably unintentionally insulting him and then later appearing on Erin Burnett's Out Front on CNN, and dismissing Newt Gingrich's lobbying efforts that we dare not call lobbying.
I've heard some sorry defenses of people who basically are willing to sell their souls to do anything for a buck over the years, but Jacobus and her defense of Gingrich here was one of the more pitiful I've heard in a long time. All I know is that as any of us who have been following Newt Gringrich for some time now have known, the man has more baggage both personally and politically than most people who don't follow politics can possibly imagine, and all the happy talk from this panel here on how his doublespeak now doesn't matter much is really ridiculous. Even those supposed "tea partiers" that he's been courting aren't going to be happy about the lobbying for Freddie Mac. And that doesn't even begin to touch on the hypocrisy of him calling for Barney Frank among others to be jailed along with other equally outrageous statements he's made when it comes to Frannie and Freddie.
The rest of them on the panel weren't much better and naturally host Erin Burnett didn't question a one of them on whether Newt is actually a viable candidate, even if he is the new GOP's flavor of the week since they all hate Romney from the bottom of their hearts.
I'm not sure how much more out of touch a group might have to be to consider the type of fees Gringrich charged just business as usual and nothing the peons should get upset about when it comes to income disparity in the United States and something that any of them should be concerned about. That's about what I'd expect from a bunch of overpaid CNN contributors who are in the one percent as well. I'm not sure what else Gingrich or a lot of the rest of them have to do to finally make themselves disqualified from being a serious presidential candidate as this GOP primary race goes on, but sadly I think we're about to find out just how low that standard goes.
Full transcript below the fold.
BURNETT: Now to politics, Newt Gingrich is the latest Republican to surge in the polls. And you know what happens when that happens. Well, the snipers come out. And they are out in full force. He's under intense scrutiny for his dealings in particular with the government-backed mortgage giant Freddie Mac.
Gingrich was paid at least $1.6 million according to a report today by Bloomberg News. That's way more than had previously reported which was about 300,000. So what did he do for that 1.6 million? That's what the scrutiny is all about.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, Bloomberg is reporting today that you earned $1.6 million from Freddie Mac. What did you do actually?
NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Offered strategic advice over a long period of time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How much did you spend like on a monthly basis for doing that kind of work? It seems like a lot of money.
GINGRICH: We'd have to go back and look (ph). First of all, it wasn't paid to me. Gingrich Group was a consulting firm that had lots of people doing things and we offered strategic advice.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you didn't --
GINGRICH: Sure, but I don't know the amounts.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is the 1.6 million figure correct?
GINGRICH: I don't know. We're going back to check.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: It's a big number to not remember. It's a good number for strategic advice, isn't it? Well it's a sensitive subject is the bottom line for conservatives who blame much of the financial crisis on poor lending by Freddie and its little friend Fannie. And Gingrich has harshly criticized it.
Stephen McMahon is a Democratic strategist. He's joining us from our New Orleans bureau. Cheri Jacobus is a Republican strategist in D.C. And of course we have our own David Gergen with us as well. All right, Steve, so let's be clear.
No one is saying that anything about this is illegal. But is it routine to get that kind of money, $1.6 million for consulting, strategic advice, sort of a little bit of that and a little bit of this?
STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well it's actually more routine than most Americans know. Members of Congress all the time go through the revolving door and on the other side they're greeted by contracts like this for strategic advice which really means using your access and your power to try to get somebody a better deal than a regular American can get. And I think that's the -- that's the challenge here for the former speaker, is to explain why it is he took all this money, what it is he did for it and then how it is that it fits with his notion of radical transformational change because frankly it looks just like business as usual.
BURNETT: Cheri how big of a problem are the Freddie Mac payments do you think?
CHERI JACOBUS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think it's a bit of a paper tiger to be honest. He's not accused of anything and when you stretch those payments over the course of all of the years that he has -- that he was on retainer with them, it is actually less than what a lot of firms here in town make quite frankly, even boutique firms, and it didn't go to him, as he said. And the reason he's unfamiliar with some of the details of it, Erin, is that he does have employees, and I know this.
And so this was just one of many of their clients. He's also said that the advice he gave them they didn't listen to. He said he warned them about the bubble and he warned them -- he basically said you have bad lending practices. Now we know a lot of people were warning them. Maybe they thought perhaps if they were paying him that he would give a different response, but he didn't. I don't see this as a problem at all. I see this as making something out of nothing.
BURNETT: All right. What do you think, David Gergen?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well a couple of things. First of all, what we're seeing is that when you're a candidate who is down fifth, sixth or seventh, people don't pay a lot of attention to you. But if you come up and you're suddenly a challenger as he is now, then you get this kind of scrutiny. And I think this is only the beginning, not the end, of the kind of scrutiny we're going to see of Newt Gingrich. There is going to be a lot about his personal life before it's over. But on the facts as we know them about this situation, I happen to agree that it does not seem to me that he's done anything that is improper, much less illegal.
GERGEN: He was hired -- I think it's objectionable that these -- these semi government entities for so long were paying people so much. He was only one of many people and I think finally the Congress is going to try to put a stop to that. (INAUDIBLE) I think his only danger is if he mischaracterizes what he did or if he misleads people and then he's found out. As to taking that much money over a long period of time, you know it doesn't rise to the level of something that usually causes a bunch of political trouble.
BURNETT: It is amazing how we're the only country with a Fannie and a Freddie and our homeownership isn't even as high as other countries that don't have all these generous mortgage deductions and we can't seem to get rid of them. Maybe one day, but let me throw this poll up and get each of you to respond to it. Take a look at Newt Gingrich in a runoff against Barack Obama. This may surprise some viewers. McClatchy Marist poll came out today, dead heat statistically, Obama at 47 percent, Newt Gingrich at 45 -- Steve?
MCMAHON: Well listen I think it demonstrates what we all know that 2012 is going to be a lot different than 2008. You know in New Hampshire, President Obama won -- he won New Hampshire in 2008 by nine points over Senator McCain. John Kerry carried it by one point. George Bush carried it by one point four years before that. It's a classic swing state. And what you're seeing really in this poll is two things.
Number one, Mitt Romney has been campaigning in New Hampshire for quite a long time now, six years probably. And second, you know this is the Barack Obama versus another candidate and whether the other candidate is Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich even, it's going to be a very, very close race because it's a very, very close state and I think that's really all we're seeing here right now.
BURNETT: David Gergen, any chance for someone else to rise as we have seen? Some pointed out the other day it's not just been Rick Perry and Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann and now Newt Gingrich. But earlier before when she wasn't even running there was Sarah Palin and there was also Donald Trump. So is there anybody else to come to the top?
GERGEN: I don't -- you know I don't think so because I think we've run out of alternatives. Isn't this sort of the last one standing in terms of the alternatives? Maybe I missed somebody like Santorum, maybe Huntsman can suddenly catch fire in New Hampshire. We don't see that yet. But I have to tell you something.
I think Newt Gingrich overall has acquitted himself in these debates as well as anybody else and probably second only to Mitt Romney. He's been very strong in the debates.
GERGEN: He's been very steady. But he's going to come under this additional scrutiny and then we'll have to see what happens. I don't know. I can tell you there are a lot of reporters out there who are laying for him. And you know I think he's going to face some tough stories. We'll see where it goes.
BURNETT: All right thanks so much to all.