Hollywood movies have taught us that you never want to make an old guy angry. Yes, we all know that Jason Statham will come into your home and beat you down with a pair of tap-shoes and a coat hanger, or that Wesley Snipes will karate chop you and cut you in half with a sword without losing his glasses. But, there is nothing more relentless, more dangerous than the old guy out for revenge with nothing left to lose. Denzel, Mel Gibson, Liam Neeson – you see, the old guys don’t care anymore about being polite, following rules or even themselves. All they’ve got left is their pride, and if you wound it or embarrass them they’re coming for you, and it doesn’t matter how many strip malls have to get blown up, or international laws need to be broken they’ll get their revenge on whoever wronged them.
In late November, Newt Gingrich was the frontrunner in Iowa, but fell from 1st to 4th after millions of dollars in attack ads from Mitt Romney and his secret group of Super PAC ninja assassins. Now they’ve blown up Newt’s house, kidnapped his family, and trashed his car. Gingrich is now crawling out of the smoldering ruins of a 4th place finish in a state he owned just a few weeks ago, and he’s on a mission: Get Romney.
On Tuesday night Gingrich made it a point to congratulate Rick Santorum and Ron Paul on their caucus success, but not Romney. The next day he directly called Romney a liar. This is not political gamesmanship. It is the rage of an old man who feels betrayed by Mitt Romney and some of the Republican Party establishment. Newt Gingrich is Denzel in Man on Fire angry, Mel Gibson in Ransom angry – he’s straight up Liam Neeson in TAKEN angry. And despite the former Speaker’s reputation for pettiness this is one instance where he has every right to be out for payback.
If you look back through this campaign year, Newt Gingrich had stood out as the Big Brother for all of the candidates, especially during the endless debates. Even though he was only averaging 3 to 5% in the polls Gingrich always performed well in the debates and took on the press repeatedly for trying to get the GOP candidates into a circular firing squad. He refused to answer questions that were aimed at criticizing his fellow candidates, he attacked moderators for trying to create petty rifts in the field and he kept going back to the same theme that President Obama was the real problem, not anyone on the stage. Eventually when Perry and Cain surged, Gingrich stepped into the light as the frontrunner in the GOP nomination race, pulling in larger leads in polls for much longer than anyone else in the race.
At that point, he still didn’t go on the attack because Gingrich had actually become frontrunner the old fashioned way; by sticking to his strengths (debating and big ideas) and staying on message (Obama is the problem, not the GOP). And how was he re-paid for his noble campaign style? With millions of dollars in attack ads all across Iowa from Mitt Romney and his henchman, all the while the former Massachusetts governor barely set foot in the state.
Essentially the Iowa Caucuses were the part in the movie where Newt / Liam is set on fire, stabbed in the back by his long term business partner, and thrown off a yacht in the middle of the ocean. But Romney forgot about Newt Neeson’s years as a political Green Beret / Ninja / Speaker of the House who went head-to-head with Bill Clinton. He’s pulled himself out of the water with a respectable 4th place finish. Newt knows he probably can’t win the nomination, but he doesn’t care. His pride has been wounded, and while he wouldn’t mind losing to Paul or Santorum, he’ll be damned if he loses to that slick haired big money establishment machine known as Mitt Romney. With a couple of debates to go before South Carolina Newt Neeson has just placed a very serious phone-call to the Romney campaign (46 second mark until the end).
Newt: I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you my campaign doesn’t have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you stop your attacks now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.
DR. JASON JOHNSON, Politic365 Chief Political Correspondent, is a professor of Political Science at Hiram College in Ohio and author of the book Political Consultants and Campaigns: One Day to Sell. You can read more at www.drjasonjohnson.com or follow him on Twitter @Drjasonjohnson