On the PBS NewsHour weekly Political Wrap on Friday night, liberal analyst Mark Shields cheered President Obama's speech in (Texas, oops) Kansas on soak-the-rich populism: "At long last. I think the president has danced around a number of theories of governance, that we could all reason together, the Rodney King approach, which came a cropper." He's not a natural populist, Shields said, but "I think it is an acknowledgement that the Republican Party has moved incredibly far to the right."
As expected, pseudo-conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks agreed on the far-right GOP thing, but wanted Obama to be more centrist: "I agree with Mark the Republican Party has gone very far right, but if they singing the hymnal of FOX News, why do you sing to the hymnal of MSNBC? Why don't you do something more centrist?"
Brooks said "I think he should have acknowledged that not only do we have an inequality problem. We have got a growth problem and we have got a debt problem, which is the thing he entirely dropped."
There was no laugh track when Shields suggested maybe voters shouldn't judge Obama based on economic reality, but on which class he favors: "There are going to be two questions that voters ask in 2012. Is it working -- that is, is the Obama economy, economic plan -- and is it fair? And I think he obviously wants to emphasize the second as well, because the statistics on the first are not that positive."
As usual, Brooks trashed Newt Gingrich as a "disaster" waiting to happen, according to all the knowledgeable Republicans:
BROOKS: And some people say who really know what they're talking about, well, it's 70-30 he will probably win [the nomination]...Other people say, oh, it's only 10 percent. So there's a wide variety of how seriously to take this thing. And it's interesting to watch Republicans here in Washington react, because I think I know two people who worked with Newt in the glory days in the '90s who think he could be a credible nominee. Almost everybody else...
JUDY WOODRUFF: Out of how many?
DAVID BROOKS: Out of all the people who are in that House Republican group. And so there are two. Bob Walker and Bob Livingston are sort of on the team. But everybody else I know, some of them quite publicly, but most privately, they will not go out and say anything, but I think most of them think he would be a disaster for the party, because they were -- when they were back there, they would organize a policy. They'd spend weeks planning it. On the way from the office to the press conference, Newt would do a 180 and do the exact opposite. I'm very interested to see what Dick Armey says, when Dick Armey comes out and says yes or no. He hasn't -- he has been laying low, but those sorts of people will be interesting.
JUDY WOODRUFF: With friends like these...
MARK SHIELDS: The weight of the evidence is just overwhelming. And the consensus is this, that Newt Gingrich doesn't have the emotional stability to be a presidential nominee, let alone to be president of the United States.
They also indulged Brooks in the Newt-mocking on the NPR week-in-politics segment on Friday night's All Things Considered:
ROBERT SIEGEL, anchor: Well, the other political man of the week is clearly Newt Gingrich. The former speaker of the House has emerged as the latest challenger to Mitt Romney. And he's reminded us that he is still capable of tossing red meat to his critics. For example, opining here on poor elementary school students and proposing a kind of work-study program for 10-year-olds.
NEWT GINGRICH: What if you paid them part-time in the afternoon to sit at the clerical office and greet people when they came in? What if you paid them to work as the assistant librarian? What - and I'd pay them as early as is reasonable and practical.
SIEGEL: David Brooks, you devoted a column to Newt Gingrich today, very critical of his candidacy, despite your feeling some real philosophical kinship with him. What Newt's problem?
BROOKS: Character. You know, he is the real Teddy Roosevelt candidate, or is in his best moments - wanting to use government to enhance growth and competition. His problem is he can't believe the same thing for five seconds in a row. Every moment in his life has no bearing on the next moment, and any word he says has no bearing on the moment after that. As I was listening to that clip, I was reminded when he was speaker, he would have a press person on his staff in front of him nodding his head when Newt was being good, and shaking his head when Newt was straying off on some strange idea. (Laughter)
And so, you need that. And it's very interesting - Peggy Noonan made a very good point in her column in the Wall Street Journal today that the people around Mitt Romney generally want him to be president. The people who worked Newt Gingrich generally are desperately afraid that he might become president, because he is inconsistent and erratic.
SIEGEL: You had a great line about the 1950s and '60s that I want you to...
BROOKS: That's where we're facing a candidacy on the Republican side between Mitt Romney, who looks like he walked straight out of the 1950s with his gee-willikers vocabulary, and Newt Gingrich who walked straight out of the 1960s wanting to turn everything into a revolution.
SIEGEL: E.J. [so much for a question.]
E.J. DIONNE: I think an awful lot of conservatives in Washington are petrified at the prospect of a Gingrich candidacy. I've been surprised at how many of them I've run into in the last week - of a Gingrich presidency. You know, Ed Schultz on MSNBC said he's like a blender with the top off. And another prominent Republican I know said there was a big file drawer in Newt's office. Four of the drawers were marked Newt's Ideas, one of them was marked Newt's Good Ideas. (Laughter) And I think there is a sense that this man can be very creative, but a lot of people just can't see him as president.