The man who wants to bring people together, overcome partisan bickering, and reach across party lines, gets the endorsement of Moveon.org–a group that is more responsible than any other organization for the poisionous atmosphere in modern politics. This may give Obama a boost in the primary, but it will be a liability in the general election.
First, some background. The Politico‘s Jonathan Martin had reported that in Flordia, the Romney campaign launched robo-calls against John McCain, attacking him for voting against the “AARP-backed prescription drug program.” Martin cited confirmation by “an aide to the former governor.” I’ve criticized Romney heavily for this on the blog, so I wanted to give him an opportunity to respond. I asked him how he could say in debates that we need to tackle entitlement spending, and then run calls attacking McCain for opposing legislation that added trillions to our entitlement deficit.
Here was Romney’s full response:
Mitt Romney, holding a call with bloggers, just noted that the Democratic race is seen as wide open even though the contests so far went 4-2, and on Republican side they went 3-3 for him and McCain. Yesterday, Dave Weigel explained why the GOP race is more rigged to the frontrunner.
Romney acknowledged that McCain’s victory in Florida gives the Arizona Senator a “slight edge,” and said McCain’s “false charge” cost Romney votes in Florida.
He described this as a “two man race” for the “heart and soul of the Republican party.” He made the historical analogy to the 1976 race where Republicans went for the establishment Gerald Ford over the conservative Ronald Reagan and ended up stuck with Jimmy Carter.
Romney blasted McCain as the “quintessential Washington insider,” attacking him on campaign finance reform, immigration, drilling in ANWR, and his opposition to the Bush tax cuts.
He touted the endorsements of Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham, as well as the fact that Rush Limbaugh is “going after McCain.”
“The world of conservatism is considerably behind my effort,” Romney said.
He also criticized McCain’s comment in the debate the other day about punishing Wall Street. He “just doesn’t understand how the economy works.”
I asked Romney about the calls that his campaign made attacking McCain for voting against the prescription drug plan, he denied knowledge of them and said he’d “look into it.” He said he would have voted the same way as McCain on the legislation. I will transcribe his full response and post as soon as I can.
Here’s the case he makes:
Quin, this story came out back in March, we debated it then, and it’s only becoming a story again because Drudge–who’s known for his pro-Romney sympathies–decided to link to it. For people that are suspicious of McCain to begin with, it will reinforce their suspicions. Others will dismiss it as DC gossip. Since I have no insider information, there’s nothing really more for me to say.
On Iraq, as I said, I think McCain went overboard with his comments, but there is no doubt that Romney wanted to have wiggle room on Iraq last year. That’s why we were talking about how McCain was going to lose anti-war independents in New Hampshire. As for why McCain didn’t attack Brownback or Huckabee on the surge, clearly, he went after Romney because Romney was his chief rival. I mean, it’s like saying why didn’t Romney go after Duncan Hunter for being protectionist on trade.
Look, I feel like you’ve turned me into a full-time defender of McCain here just because I feel the need to add some sense of balance to the blog. There are plenty of legitimate gripes to have with McCain, but what frustrates me is the hatred for McCain is so intense that many conservatives are trying to argue that we should all rally around Romney, overlooking his many deviations from conservatism–not just in the past, but now.
Right now, Romney is defending government mandated health insurance as a conservative position. Right now, Romney is supporting a $20 billion bailout for the auto industry. Right now, Romney is touting the basic idea that government infastructure projects are a way to create jobs–only objecting on the basis of the fact that they don’t offer short-term stimulus. Right now, Romney is attacking McCain for voting against “the AARP-backed Medicare prescription drug program” –a multi-trillion dollar piece of legislation that conservatives have been complaining about for years.
That’s just in the last few weeks–not in a 1994 Senate race or 2002 race for governor. Had McCain taken any one of the positions mentioned above, conservatives would be frothing at the mouth in rage, citing it as further evidence of his liberal, RINO tendencies. Yet because of the animosity they have toward McCain, conservatives are being blinded as to Romney’s severe faults as a conservative.
On Obama, following last night’s debate, Sullivan writes:
Quin, I have no insider knowledge as to whether this happened, but I think there are a few reasons to view this story with a grain of salt. Whether or not conservatives agree, it’s no secret that Democrats generally view John McCain as their most formidable GOP opponent, and they see Mitt Romney as quite beatable. So clearly, there is an incentive for Tom Daschle and the other Democrats quoted to want to weaken McCain before Super Tuesday. And the fact that this story that happened seven years ago is coming out just days before the big day should give us pause. Furthermore, like with the Kerry VP talk, the proof is in the pudding. It never happened, McCain stayed a Republican.
Meanwhile, as for the other lie that you pin on McCain–with regard to his comments about Mitt Romney on Iraq–Charles Krauthammer had a take on FoxNews last night that I think is worth considering. It’s generally my view, although characteristically better stated by Krauthammer. The short version is that McCain was right to say that Romney favored a secret timetable, but McCain went overboard when he tried to put him in the same category as Hillary Clinton.
Anyway, here is his full take:
FOX NEWS’ BRIT HUME: “Which is one of the big arguments against a timetable.”
KRAUTHAMMER: “That’s the argument against, he says, against the public declaration of it. But he’s implying that you don’t want to say it publicly, but if you are saying that a public announcement will alert Al-Qaeda about your leaving, it means that the private discussion was about your leaving. So in fact, McCain is right. And look, this was in response to a question about withdrawal. It’s not to say that somehow Romney is a traitor or he’s calling for an immediate exit. He was hedging. He hedged in April, and it was not unreasonable. Nobody had any idea that the success — that the surge would be such a success. A policymaker would actually have to think, what do you do if it doesn’t succeed? And we’re now having discussions with Maliki about a long-term agreement in which we will have timetables of withdrawal ultimately. But in April of last year, and then in December of the year before, obviously Romney hedged on support of the surge and McCain is right, that he staked everything on the surge, because he believed that it’s better to lose an election than to lose a war.
After he left his job as mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani wrote the best-selling book Leadership and made millions of dollars giving lectures on effective management techniques. Too bad for him that he systematically ignored his own advice when he decided to run for president.
Prepare Relentlessly: In his book, Giuliani explains that as prosecutor and mayor, he studied every problem that came before him intensely, and prepared for every possibility he could imagine so that he would be ready if something unexpected happened.
During his run for the presidency, however, he gave off the impression that he was making things up as he went along. When Giuliani declared on Larry King Live last February, “Yes, I’m running,” without following it up with a formal announcement, it set the tone for a campaign that seemed to lack a clear plan.
The popular narrative is that Giuliani’s strategy was to skip the early states and wait it out until Florida, but it wasn’t that way all along. At various points, Giuliani did try to compete in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Michigan, but the problem was that he was always hemming and hawing and not making his intentions clear. Had he prepared relentlessly for the biggest challenge of his life, he may have settled on a strategy before he announced he was running.
On the campaign trail, Giuliani prided himself on being unscripted. There is a certain appeal to that, but the problem was that in stump speeches and town hall meetings, he often gave long, meandering talks without a clear focus.
His lack of preparation also showed on the policy front. It was well known that the greatest obstacle to his ability to win the Republican nomination was his pro-choice views, so one would think that he would have hit the trail running prepared for every permutation of questions on abortion law and policy.
Instead, he clumsily expressed support for public financing for abortions early on in the campaign, immediately compounding the suspicious of pro-lifers. While he eventually emphasized his support for increasing adoptions, it would have been much more effective had he articulated such views right out of the gate.
Everyone’s Accountable, All of the Time: One of the main tools Giuliani employed to reduce crime in New York City was Compstat, in which crime statistics were gathered and plotted on maps of the city to see where large concentrations of crimes were taking place, and then police commanders were challenged to reduce crimes in areas under their control.
During his presidential campaign, Giuliani pledged to build on the success of Compstat by initiating Borderstat to help end illegal immigration, Fedstat to make the government more efficient, and Terrorstat to track progress in the War on Terror. But he should have started with a Campaignstat program. During 2007, Giuliani spent nearly $50 million, according to a Federal Election Commission filing released yesterday. Given his late push in Florida in January, the full cost of his campaign is higher.
Giuliani burnt through a lot of money by trying to run a national organization looking toward February 5, but had he concentrated more resources on the early states instead of spreading himself so thin, he may have actually made it there.
Stand Up To Bullies: Throughout his career as mayor and as prosecutor, Giuliani stood up to mobsters, crooked union bosses, and UN diplomats who wouldn’t pay their parking tickets. To his critics, he was ruthless and nasty. But for much of the presidential campaign, he seemed to be running for Mr. Congeniality.
When Giuliani was the frontrunner, Mitt Romney attacked him on a regular basis, but other than a short period in the fall during which time Giuliani hit Romney on crime, taxes, and for running a “sanctuary mansion,” he refused to go on offense against Romney or any of his other rivals. Though he may have come off angry and abrasive at times as mayor, Giuliani’s sheer tenacity wore down political opponents.
Giuliani showed flashes of his old combativeness at times during the campaign, particularly when he put Ron Paul in his place for suggesting that U.S. foreign policy contributed to the September 11 attacks and when he goaded the New York Times into giving him the same discounted advertising rate the newspaper gave MoveOn.org for taking out the General Betray Us ad, so he could take out an ad defending General Petraeus. Perhaps it isn’t a coincidence that these were two of the best moments of his candidacy.
Be Your Own Man: Because he had to placate conservatives on issues such as guns, immigration, and abortion, Giuliani no doubt had to engage in some political jujitsu to have any chance of winning the nomination. But on many other issues, Giuliani engaged in unnecessary pandering that undermined his image as a no nonsense leader.
For instance, when asked about farm subsidies in one debate, it would have been the perfect opportunity for him to launch into a Rudy-style rant about what an utter boondoggle they are. Instead, he gave a mealy mouthed answer about the need to secure world food supply.
When he got desperate in Florida, Giuliani closed out his campaign with a series of shameless local panders — including a promise to invest more in the space program and support a National Catastrophic Fund to lower homeowners insurance rates for those who live in hurricane or natural disaster-prone areas.
Now that Giuliani is out of the race, he’ll have time to reflect on what went wrong with his campaign. He should start by picking up a copy of his own book.