Gingrich hit by "Serial Hypocrisy" video

Youtube campaign ad released by GOP hopeful Ron Paul calls out his rival on inconsistencies.

An ever-more confident Newt Gingrich has seen his campaign for Republican Presidential candidate spring into the lead this week. Gingrich has a 11.3 per cent lead over current second place nominee Mitt Romney, and is 12 points ahead of Hermain Cain in the latest Iowa Caucus, according to Real Clear Politics. "It's very hard not to look at the recent polls and think that the odds are very high I'm going to be the nominee," Gingrich told ABC News on Thursday.

But his confidence might have been deflated after a new black-and-white web video from the Ron Paul campaign -- featuring Glenn Beck and several other conservative icons -- accuses him of being two-faced. The two minute YouTube video, entitled Newt Gingrich: Serial hypocrisy, has had almost half a million hits since being uploaded on Wednesday.

The Paul campaign has accused Gingrich of not being a "consistent conservative," and the video reminds viewers of allegations that Gingrich received millions of dollars from Freddie Mac and health care companies, as well as showing him alongside House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, saying that "our country must take action to address climate change" in a TV commercial.

Gingrich said his appearance in the video alongside Pelosi was the "dumbest mistake I ever made," and denies ever working as a lobbyist.

The Youtube ad will not air on television, but the Paul campaign plans to send it to its "far-reaching e-mail list of conservative voters". Jesse Benton, Paul's campaign chairman, said in a statement released Wednesday that his campaign "is making a bold move to debunk the myth that the Newt we are seeing on the 2012 campaign trail is the conservative he has been touted to be all along."

Gingrich's press secretary R.C. Hammond denied any notion that the former speaker isn't conservative enough to be to be president.

"No candidate in the race has achieved more conservative reform of government or spent more time and energy championing the cause of the conservative movement than Newt Gingrich, which is why voters across the country are choosing Newt over Mitt Romney," he said.

With such sharp accusations abound, Republican voters may be worried that whoever emerges from the fight for GOP candidacy might be too beaten and bloodied to compete next November in the ultimate race against President Obama.


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Did Titantic do more for climate change than Leonardo DiCaprio’s new documentary?

Sex, icebergs and individual plight: the actor’s earlier outing teaches us more about vast disasters than his new docufilm about global warming’s impact, Before the Flood.

“Now you know there was a man named Jack Dawson and that he saved me . . . in every way that a person can be saved.” Or did he? For Titanic actor Leonardo DiCaprio, there is one way in which Jack never did rescue Rose: from the threat of climate catastrophe. 

Over the last 15 years, DiCaprio has made the issue a personal mission. Yet even in his role as UN climate ambassador, he stills feels far from heroic:

“If the UN really knew how I feel, how pessimistic I am about our future . . . I mean to be honest, they may have picked the wrong guy.”

So begins his new documentary, Before the Flood. A quest for answers on climate change, the film sees Leo racing around the world, marvelling at the sound of endangered whales, despairing at the destruction caused by tar-sands – “it looks like Mordor” – and interviewing a series of concerned experts, from professors to Barack Obama to the Pope.

There are plenty of naysayers to stand in his way and put him down. “Who better to educate world leaders on made-up climate change and a crisis that doesn't exist, than an actor with zero years of scientific training?” mocks one commentator from Fox News.

But if DiCaprio can gather enough evidence to believe in himself – AND believe that there are viable solutions out there – then so can we. Or so the story arc promises. His journey thus stands as a guide for our own; a self-education that will lead to salvation for all. 

It's all a little messianic. The film is even named after a biblical painting. And will those who don't already know who DiCaprio is even care? 

The sad fact is that, while DiCaprio’s lasting popularity still owes so much Titanic, the 1997 box-office smash that made his name, his new documentary fails to recapture the dramatic wisdom that put him there. It doesn’t even quip about the icebergs.

This is an oversight. Titanic didn’t win 11 academy awards for nothing. As well as a must-see rite of passage (pun intended) and soundtrack for infinite school discos, it taught me something invaluable about storytelling. Though I was not initially a DiCaprio fan, over the years I’ve come to accept that my lasting love of the film is inseparable from my emotional investment in Leo, or at least in his character, Jack. What Titanic showed so brilliantly was that the fastest way to empathise with suffering on a vast scale – be it a sinking ship or a sinking planet – is to learn to care for the fate of one or two individuals involved.

Every part of Jack and Rose's story is thus intimately linked with the story of the ship. Even that famed sex scene gains its erotic force not from the characters alone, but from their race through the blazing engine room (situated as it is between the foreplay of the naked portrait and the famous post-coital ending in the back of the cab).

And such carefully crafted storytelling isn't only essential to great entertainment but to great activism too. It can literally inspire action – as evidenced by fans’ desperate attempts to prove that both Jack and Rose could have climbed to safety aboard the floating piece of wood.

So would Before the Flood have been better if it had been a little bit more like Titanic and less like An Inconvenient Truth? Yes. And does that mean we should make climate films about epic polar bear love stories instead? Not exactly. 

There are many powerful documentaries out there that make you emotionally invested in the lives of those experiencing the consequences of our indirect (fossil fuel-burning) actions. Take Virunga, a heart-wrenching insight into the struggle of those protecting eastern Congo’s national park.

Sadly, Before the Flood is not one of them. Its examples of climate change – from Beijing air pollution to coral reef destruction – are over-familiar and under-explored. Instead of interviewing a Chinese official with a graph on his iPad, I would have preferred visiting a solar-panel factory worker and meeting their family, who are perhaps suffering from the effects of the smog in a way I can't yet imagine.

If you want a whistlestop tour of all things climate change then this necessary and urgent film is the movie for you. But those hoping it will give new depth to climate activism will be disappointed.

DiCaprio's distant relationship with the effects of climate change leave him stranded at the level of a narrator. He makes for a great elderly Rose, but we need a Jack.

Before The Flood is in limited theatres from 21 October and will be shown on National Geographic on Sunday 30 October.

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.