Who First Asked “Is Mitt Romney the Republican John Kerry?”


... at birth?

When I was in high school, one of my favorite gag lines was, “I’m a reformed Druid — we worship bushes.”  I thought this was hilarious.  More than that, after saying it enough times, I went through the next quarter century honestly believing I had made it up. (According to the spoilsport Internet, it dates at least back to a M*A*S*H episode in 1973 — a year I remember as “10th grade” — and probably to the whimsical founding of the Reformed Druids of North America in 1963.)

Some time ago I started talking about my concern that Mitt Romney might be the Republican equivalent of John Kerry.  Here’s how I described it in my December 12 endorsement of Romney:

The saying is, “you can’t beat somebody with nobody” — and any sitting president is a somebody.  Romney’s not exactly charismatic or inspirational, and the risk is that he becomes the Republican analog to John Kerry.  Lots of people voted against George Bush in 2004, but hardly anybody voted for Kerry.

I don’t remember hearing that analogy offered previously by anyone else, but I’m wary of claiming authorship.  A search for “Is Mitt Romney the Republican John Kerry?” — including the quotation marks in the search — yields more than 7,500 results.  But the vast majority of them turn out to be other sites referring to a post by that name on Daily Kos.  And the Kos reference is more than a full month later than mine.

The Kos post is by someone who hides behind the screen name Zackpunk, and as you would expect, it is highly tendentious:

Both Romney and Kerry have a political issue that makes them unpopular with their own base. For Kerry it was his vote for the war in Iraq (or the authorization for Bush to wage said war). Hardcore progressives were loathe to forgive him on that. Romney’s scarlet letter is the healthcare mandate he enacted as governor for Massachusetts. Trying to help the sick is an unforgivable offense for today’s GOP.

Really, Zackpunk? Do you really think Republican opposition to Obamacare is driven by animosity toward sick people?

But whatev, let’s turn our attention back to me.  Those 7,500 Google hits collapse down to a mere two screens of results, followed by “we have omitted some entries very similar to the 18 already displayed.” Of those 18, only one appears to predate the Kos reference.  It also predates mine: It’s from a group blog I had not previously encountered called Exchange Coffee House.  In a post titled “Is Mitt Romney the Republican’s John Kerry?“, Roland Hulme offered a much more balanced post than Zackpunk, adhering to the blogosphere’s typical inverse relationship between thoughtfulness and web traffic.

[P]oor old Mitt makes the worst possible candidate precisely because of the reason he’s been chosen – his mediocrity.

The GOP are planning to run a middle-of-the-road Republican based on nothing more substantial than the slogan: “He’s not Barack.” The problem is, Romney has a track record of so-called “statism” that rivals Obama’s own! …

For example, he invented the “Obamacare” health care reform that the Republicans now expect him to criticize and discredit. Romney’s political advisers even met with Obama to help draft the bill!

If Romney ultimately takes the candidacy for 2012, Obama will get his second term in office

The post is dated October 18, 2011, which trumps me by two months.  I think I first started talking about the analogy earlier than that, but I can’t prove it.  (Note to self: get off your fetish about research, just start posting stuff as it pops into your head.)

Hulme certainly has correctly identified Romney’s heaviest baggage.  “Romneycare” (a misnomer) makes it much more complicated to take advantage of the wildly unpopular Obamacare.  Complicated, but not impossible.  While Romney signed legislation with a constitutionally questionable individual mandate, the Massachusetts version was a bipartisan effort — not a single-party cramdown advanced in 1 a.m. votes and “deem and pass” maneuvers in a desperate race to get the bill signed before enough people realized just how bad it was.

The healthcare bill Romney signed is more of a liability in the GOP primary than it will be in the general election. And while Romney may be more of a “big-government Republican” than many conservatives would prefer, most of those conservatives will vote for him anyway, correctly reasoning that he’s well to the right of Obama.

I think Hulme is on shakier ground in saying Mitt’s “mediocrity” is the reason he’s been chosen.  (I’m posting this half an hour before the polls open in Florida, where I expect Romney’s inevitability to re-emerge.)  Romney, who can point to his background as a governor and a successful businessman, is bland, not mediocre.  That distinguishes him from Kerry, who was both.

Mitt & Mitch: Governor Daniels for Vice President!

OK, the Pres has some political skills, and I loved the closing tribute to Seal Team 6.  Obama deserves his share of the credit for approving a risky mission, and he earned the right to a stirring build-up to “God bless the United States of America.”

Onward!  We learned four years ago that one of the greatest perils of running for president is the urge to try to hit a five-run homer when picking a running mate.  Whoever wins the election will have earned the right to finish in the top two, by winning the endorsement of one of our two major political parties.  But could there be a worse way to pick a vice president?  One person makes the decision in secrecy, and it’s virtually irreversible.

I was disappointed when Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana declined to run for president last year.  He might not have ended up being my favorite, but I thought he had potential.  The governor’s response to the the State of the Union address tonight has me ready right now to endorse him for VP.  I’m a sucker for a full-throated celebration of capitalism, and Daniels pitched a gem:

“Contrary to the President’s constant disparagement of people in business, it’s one of the noblest of human pursuits. The late Steve Jobs – what a fitting name he had – created more of them than all those stimulus dollars the President borrowed and blew. Out here in Indiana, when a businessperson asks me what he can do for our state, I say ‘First, make money. Be successful. If you make a profit, you’ll have something left to hire someone else, and some to donate to the good causes we love.’

“The extremism that stifles the development of homegrown energy, or cancels a perfectly safe pipeline that would employ tens of thousands, or jacks up consumer utility bills for no improvement in either human health or world temperature, is a pro-poverty policy. It must be replaced by a passionate pro-growth approach that breaks all ties and calls all close ones in favor of private sector jobs that restore opportunity for all and generate the public revenues to pay our bills.

And here’s a tiger-whistle to fellow Princeton grads: Mitch Daniels ’71!

Taking Another Look at Newt Gingrich

Much to my annoyance, Newt Gingrich has reshuffled the deck by trouncing Mitt Romney in the South Carolina primary.  Coming on top of the announcement from Iowa that they think maybe Rick Santorum actually won the caucuses there (I am so glad we entrust Iowa with such a pivotal role in presidential politics), we have three contests won by three different candidates, for the first time since 1980.

I’ve already got the Romney bumper sticker on my car.  Can we just move on already?

From a conversation yesterday in the global headquarters of All That Is Necessary:

Me: “I guess I’d better stop bad-mouthing Newt Gingrich, I might have to vote for him.”

Web Goddess: “Please tell me that you won’t vote for Gingrich.  You said it yourself, he’s temperamentally unsuited to the presidency.”

Me: [one-Mississippi, two-Mississippi] “I’m planning to vote for Romney.”

It seems very clear that Marianne Gingrich’s 11th-hour attack actually helped her ex-husband. Apparently conservative qualms about infidelity are outweighed by loathing of the mainstream media.  That’s Gingrich’s theory in the interview below, where he also acknowledged that he fully expected to be put on the spot in that debate.

As Gingrich concedes in the video, if it were a popularity contest, Obama would win in a walk, “he’s a very likeable person, but the presidency is not about likeability.”  In the clip, Erin Burnett talks about a conservative voter who switched from Romney to Gingrich because the latter is “a complete person.”  Apparently one American out of 20 has been married more than twice — that’s a bit higher than I would have guessed.

A President Gingrich would not be the first serial philanderer elected to the nation’s highest office. On November 6 there’s going to be a choice between two flawed candidates. I’m still hoping one of them will be named Mitt.

Sullivan’s Corporate Masters Stab Him in the Back on Newsweek’s Cover

Why does Newsweek suck?Newsweek, a once-important news magazine now owned by a liberal blogging site, has a cover this week offering me the opportunity to let Andrew Sullivan, a once-independent blogger, explain to me why I am “dumb.”  Grateful though I am for Newsweek‘s efforts to improve the tenor of our national discourse, I’m going to pass.

I am, however, enough of a blogosphere junkie to be interested in how Sullivan’s six-person “personal” blog responds to the firestorm of criticism the cover has rightly received.  I also know from my own long-ago journalism days that authors almost never write their own headlines, and Sullivan confirms that’s true in this case.  Sullivan professes to be perplexed by the criticism:

None of these critics shows any sign of having read the actual article. Is it too much to ask that they rip me apart after thinking rather than before? It’s not a book, for Pete’s sake. It’s less than 3,000 words, and has strong criticism of the left in it. Maybe the headline, which I didn’t write, set them off.

Gee, ya think?

Sullivan, a former conservative, has a talent for outraging people with whom he once made common cause.  Nevertheless, he’s an extremely talented writer, and certainly is capable of thoughtful and nuanced argumentation.  He has to understand how offensive the cover headline is.  The headline of his own blog post announcing the cover — a headline that he did write, or at least controlled — is “Why Obama Should Be Reelected.”  The article itself, once you get past the disgraceful cover, is headlined “How Obama’s Long Game Will Outsmart His Critics.” I’m inclined to disagree with the premise, but if the article were positioned that way, I might actually want to read it.

Even though this is a case of an author being wronged by a headline writer, I’m not inclined to let Sullivan off the hook entirely.  Sullivan, a true pioneer of blogging as an independent medium, now appears so beholden to Tina Brown & Co. that he can’t even manage the mildest of complaints about the utterly inappropriate headline.

How do I know this?  His minions publish a “Daily Wrap” post each day cataloging the three dozen blog posts Sullivan writes or signs off on in an average day.  Here’s the overview of Sully’s posts about what the blog carefully calls “his Obama defense”:

Today on the Dish, Andrew called out Fox News for making him persona non grata – which potentially produced an on-air debate over the blockbuster Newsweek piece with Megyn Kelly – and defended his Obama defense here, here, and here.

Feel free to follow the links if you wish — Sullivan gave my humble blog an exciting traffic spike once back in the day, so I won’t begrudge him the traffic from my vast audience (hi Mom!) But I can tell you that I read all of the posts, and while he carefully avoids echoing the incendiary headline, there’s no hint of any criticism of it.

After years of snotty elite references to stupid right-wingers versus “the reality based community,” can’t Sullivan understand why conservatives might boycott an article that calls them “dumb” as an opening gambit?

But but but… the dumb people are not just conservatives!

Just browsing at a few of the right-wing blogs, I see that they have attacked it without actually, you know, reading it… Half the article is devoted to liberals and Democrats!

In a previous incarnation at the Atlantic magazine, Sullivan’s blog proudly proclaimed that it was “of no party or clique.”  But he has become so indoctrinated into the cult of Obama that he defends The One against all comers, from the right or the left.

Yes, Mr. Sullivan, I’m criticizing your article without reading it.  I’m pretty comfortable with that decision. If some ink-stained clown put a gratuitous racial slur in a headline over my criticism of presidential policies, I wouldn’t expect to win many converts with that post.

Why Do People Still Pretend to Think Some Republican Can Beat Romney?

(Disclosure: I support Mitt Romney.)

I’m watching the GOP campaign through a rotating filter of boredom and frustration. I mean, c’mon — I declared Romney the winner just hours after the Iowa caucuses.  At the risk of making a distasteful reference, could we all just move on?

It’s hard to believe we’re still reading about So-and-So challenging What’s-His-Name for second place in Such-and-Such a state.  Unless somebody challenges Romney for first place, it’s over.  In the Wall Street Journal, Karl Rove breaks it down:

In an open race for the GOP nomination, no Republican has won both Iowa and New Hampshire, as Mitt Romney has. No one has come in fourth or fifth in New Hampshire, as Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum did, and become the nominee. No one has entirely skipped Iowa, as Jon Huntsman did, and won elsewhere. No one has recovered after grabbing the 1% that Rick Perry received in the Granite State. And no one became the nominee after failing to win one of the first two contests, a position in which Ron Paul finds himself.

Rove apparently wanted to refer to each of the non-Romneys by name, so Ron Paul got his turn in the final sentence.  However, note that all of the non-Romneys have failed to win one of the first two contests.  Yes, yes, Santorum didn’t lose by much in Iowa.  But a close victory is still a victory.

The non-Romney flavor-of-the-week contest has become almost comical.  The chart above from the tracking poll at Real Clear Politics shows first Perry, then Cain, then Gingrich popping briefly into the lead, only to wither quickly in the harsh spotlight of front-runnership.  Perry kept chewing on his toes, Cain was exposed as a foreign-policy lightweight well before the sexual allegations, and Gingrich quickly reminded us that he’s temperamentally unsuited to high government office.  Santorum’s boomlet has already peaked after his near-tie in Iowa — and if you go all the way back to August, Michelle Bachmann won the Iowa Straw Poll.  Ask President Huckabee about the predictive value of an Iowa victory.

Through it all, Romney’s support trended upward while fluctuating in a narrow band.  A recent Washington Post article points to the benefit of having run before:

In five of the last six presidential elections, Republicans have chosen candidates they had rejected before — Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole and McCain. The exception was George W. Bush in 2000, the son of the former president well- known to party insiders.

This is not precisely correct — it should refer to the last six presidential elections without a Republican incumbent.  But more substantively, the author ruminates at length about the historical trend while missing the most obvious point.  A previous credible run for president is a huge advantage because whatever skeletons there may be get plucked from the closet in the first campaign.  Romney has essentially been running for president for half a decade now, and there’s no dirt left to uncover.


Reporter Has Front-Row Seat as Navy Rescues Iranian Ship from Pirates

A U.S. Navy sailor greets an Iranian crew member after the rescue. (Public domain photo from U.S. Navy)

If you read only one news article today, you must read the dramatic NY Times account of the U.S. Navy’s rescue of Iranians from Somali pirates.  As luck would have it, a Pulitzer-prize winning reporter and photographer were embedded on one of the naval vessels.

It’s hard to pick the best aspect of this story.  There’s the irony of the U.S. rescuing Iranians. There’s the mental image of the pirates throwing grappling hooks over the rail of the target vessel.  There’s the clever tactic of setting the first set of pirates free, only to follow them to their mother ship.

In another bizarre coincidence, the U.S.S. Kidd, part of an international anti-piracy task force, happened to have on board a chief petty officer who speaks Urdu.  Urdu is the national language of Pakistan, not of Iran… but the Iranian captain was from near the Pakistani border. Even as the pirates listened, the captain was able to ask for help in Urdu.

Of course, whenever a news development reflects well on the U.S. military, some people quickly look for ways to diminish it. On CNN’s “Security Clearance” blog, someone named Larry Shaughnessy snarked:

The Pentagon’s public affairs apparatus put on a full-court press Friday after the U.S. Navy rescued 13 Iranian fishermen from a group of suspect pirates. But for all the back-patting of U.S. efforts to save sailors even from an “axis of evil” country, it turns out the true hero in the whole incident was the quick-thinking Iranian captain.

Arrgh.  Props to the Iranian captain, but why go out of your way to try to tarnish what the Navy did?  I prefer to stay focused on the positive story line. Of course, I’m a sucker for any Navy-versus-pirates narrative, since I’ve got a son in the biz.

Iowa Results: The Cliff Notes Version

Up with a touch of insomnia, I offer these observations:

1.  It’s over — Romney will be the nominee.  I like to think my endorsement played a key role in… aw, nevermind.

2.  I’m bored — can we start the general campaign now?

3. Rick Santorum’s fling as the non-Romney flavor-of-the-day has about six days left, until he gets flattened in New Hampshire.

4. Rick Perry — who never really seemed to have his heart in the race — will drop out in the next 48 hours.  That’s the decoded version of “going back to Texas to reassess his campaign.”  If Obama wins this year, Perry will be back as a stronger, better-prepared candidate in 2016.  (Update: Did I say Perry?  I meant Bachmann.  Except for the 2016 part.)

5.  Holy cow — I just made a prediction for twenty-friggin-sixteen!

6. Just five months ago, it looked like someone named Michele Bachmann would win in Iowa. Whoever she is, “Michele Bachmann has finished sixth with only Jon Huntsman (who didn’t compete in the state) behind her.”

7. As I’m writing this, CNN has just transitioned from “Romney, Santorum Neck and Neck” to “In what is the closest presidential GOP contest in U.S. history, Mitt Romney has won the Iowa caucuses by just 8 votes.”  Romney will win by more votes than that in Dixville Notch, NH.

8. Recount! Butterfly ballots!  Hanging Chads! (Ulp… I just threw up in my mouth a little.)