Anderson Cooper found yet another way to scrutinize Republicans, as on Tuesday he spotlighted GOP candidates attacking each other's record after each promised to run positive campaigns – even though verbal spars happen during every single election.
The segment's title of "Keeping Them Honest" insinuated that the subject is being deceitful or dishonest, and Cooper decided to call the candidates out for backtracking on their promises of positive campaigns – even though an overall positive campaign doesn't necessarily rule out attacks on opponents' records. [Video below the break. Click here for audio.]
Gingrich also promised he wouldn't run negative campaign ads and Romney said he would refrain from "outrageous" accusations, but this doesn't entail refraining from hitting an opponent's past record.
However, Cooper thought it important enough to hold bickering Republicans accountable for their words even though unemployment is at 8.6 percent and the economy is not guaranteed to rebound from its slump anytime soon.
"'Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican.' Not even Ronald Reagan always lived up to it all the time. Neither does Newt Gingrich, who considers Mr. Reagan a personal and political hero, as do many Republicans," Cooper began, before reporting a statement by Gingrich "I intend to run a positive solutions-based campaign."
Cooper then pointed out "examples" of the candidates reneging on their promises: Gingrich telling Romney he would have become a professional politician if he won his 1994 Senate race against Ted Kennedy, Romney shooting back that Gingrich profited as a Freddie Mac spokesperson as the enterprise later failed, and Gingrich responding that Romney profited from "bankrupting companies and laying off employees" at Bain.
"There you have it, Gingrich calling Romney a job-killer, Romney calling Gingrich basically a political hack," Cooper explained the candidates' verbal jabs. Gingrich had defended his spat with Romney from this past weekend, calling it a "frank exchange."
A transcript of the segment, which aired on December 13 at 8:14 p.m. EST, is as follows:
COOPER: "Keeping Them Honest" tonight on the campaign trail. It seems like every four years presidential candidates promise not to go negative, not to attack their opponents. And a few weeks or months later they go negative and attack their opponents. Four years ago it was Senators Clinton and Obama launching rockets at each other. This time it's the Republican frontrunners on the attack despite promises not to in a commandment almost from on high.
RONALD REAGAN, U.S. PRESIDENT: When the chips are down and the decisions are made as to who the candidates will be, then the 11th commandment prevails and everybody goes to work. And that is thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican.
(End Video Clip)
COOPER: "Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican." Not even Ronald Reagan always lived up to it all the time. Neither does Newt Gingrich, who considers Mr. Reagan a personal and political hero, as do many Republicans. He is promising to try.
Take a look at this message to supporters from Gingrich. Quote, "Since I announced my candidacy for President of the United States I've made it clear that I intend to run a positive solutions-based campaign." It goes on to say, "The American people deserve a respectful and constructive campaign that focuses on a vision for rebuilding the country we love."
All right. Well, the question is, has he been living up to that pledge? Take a look and decide for yourself.
NEWT GINGRICH, Republican presidential candidate: (to Mitt Romney) Let's be candid. The only reason you didn't become a career politician is you lost to Teddy Kennedy in 1994.
(End Video Clip)
COOPER: Newt Gingrich this weekend. Mitt Romney says it's important not to weaken anyone who might defeat President Obama next November. So how does he explain this attack on Speaker Gingrich and how does Gingrich explain the counterattack?
MITT ROMNEY, Republican presidential candidate: If he was working as a spokesman for Fannie Mae – excuse me for Freddie Mac – if he was there because of his political connections, and then if Freddie Mac fails, I think a fair question is asked, why did he profit as Freddie Mac failed?
GINGRICH: I would just say that if Governor Romney would like to give back all the money he's earned from bankrupting companies and laying off employees over his years at Bain, that I would be glad to then listen to him.
(End Video Clip)
COOPER: There you have it, Gingrich calling Romney a job-killer, Romney calling Gingrich basically a political hack.
How did they explain it? Well, remember that message from Mr. Gingrich to his supporters. He left himself an out. Quote, "I have refrained from launching attacks on my Republican opponents, though I have reserved the right to respond when my record has been distorted."