This was not one of Newt's finer moments:
The Weekly Standard's Fred Barnes isn't impressed:
Newt Gingrich has adopted an anti-free market argument—a favorite of the political left—to criticize Mitt Romney. Gingrich accused his rival of making money by “bankrupting companies and laying off employees” in his years at Bain Capital. Under Romney’s leadership, Bain Capital emerged as a prominent private equity firm, investing initially in startups—Staples was one—then specializing in turnarounds. The company was highly profitable, but was criticized for reducing payrolls and shutting down firms it couldn’t revive. Romney left Bain Capital in 1999.
Whether its investments were successful or not, Bain Capital was engaged in the rough and tumble of free market capitalism. Thus Gingrich’s criticism, coming from a conservative, was surprising. His attack echoes the criticism of Romney by the late senator Ted Kennedy in 1994. Romney ran against Kennedy when the senator sought reelection in 1994. Kennedy won, aided by brutal, unfair TV ads criticizing Romney for killing jobs...With Romney at the helm, Bain Capital bought companies, restructured them on firmer financial footing, and later sold them at a profit. But not every buyout succeeded. The Kennedy campaign broadcast ads that focused on cases in which workers lost their jobs. Romney has insisted Bain Capital created far more jobs than it killed.
After Brit Hume lambasted Gingrich for his line of attack on Special Report last evening, Charles Krauthammer went nuclear on Newt, going so far as to invoke the 'S' word:
"What sort of conception of capitalism do you have if you're attacking your opponent for entering what is the risk-taking of capitalism? ... This kind of attack is what you'd expect from a socialist."
What's distressing to many conservatives is that Newt seems to have a habit of borrowing from Democrats' playbook to attack fellow Republicans from the left. Just ask Paul Ryan. The only defense I can offer of Gingrich here that he's at least forcing the Romney camp to game-plan for this vein of demagoguery, which the Obama/DNC machine will undoubtely unleash in a general election if Romney's the nominee. (They responded by deploying the CEO of Staples, one of Bain Capital's notable successes, to defend Mitt's record). In case you missed it, Carol also upbraided Gingrich for his entire approach to answering this question last night.
Of course, Romney is no angel on this front either; he infamously jabbed at Rick Perry from the left over entitlement reform. Perry, meanwhile, alienated many Republicans by adopting the Left's "heartless" rhetoric to characterize some conservatives' opposition to certain forms of immigration reform. Perry apologized for his mistake. Romney did not, although he's offered a solid entitlement reform plan of his own, which the Wall Street Journal editorial board concludes is substantially stronger than Gingrich's. In any case, let's see if Newt has the humility to walk back this dreadful anti-capitalism broadside.
UPDATE - Guess who appears to be a fan of Newt's critique of Romney's capitalistic career?
UPDATE II - Newt vows to "stay positive."
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography