Between “The Way to Win” and “Game Change,” Mark Halperin is clearly trying to distinguish himself as the journalistic guru of presidential elections. However, between the utter disdain for any form of alternative and new media he expresses in “The Way to Win” and his fawning over Obama in “Game Change” he is proving primarily to be little more than the typical MSM, left-leaning dinosaur. “Game Change” is particularly egregious in its utter lack of self-examination. While he acknowledges the general perception of just about everyone that the MSM were in the tank for Obama, he fails to examine the claim at all! You would think that someone so firmly planted in the center of the MSM as an editor of Time would at least bother to get a little defensive in a book like that. And yet, despite his description of new media as a “freak show” in TWTW, he completely fails to discuss the incredibly freakish behavior of the MSM, even by MSM standards, other than quoting his sources inside the various campaigns.
Regardless, he is plowing ahead as if when it comes to presidential elections, he is “The Voice” – of what I have no idea, but he just writes that way. So, when he published in Time this week a look ahead at 2012, people listened. The piece in question is an obvious attempt to revitalize Obama’s rapidly fading political fortunes by painting the entire list of Republican possibles as somehow unelectable, and grossly disorganized. He focuses most of his attention on Romney and Pawlenty, as is fitting since they are the only two seriously at work right now. His analysis of Pawlenty is so brief as to be almost nonexistent. It is actually Romney that is the target of his “wisdom.” Before we get to religion, let’s address this comment:
But his liabilities are equally formidable. . . . and, perhaps as grave — no kidding — his striking nonchalance about transporting the family dog in a box tied to the roof of his car en route to a family vacation.
Look, I follow this stuff pretty closely and I have not heard anyone in serious political circles bring that story up since 2007. I am sure the loony left of the animal rights movement have not let go of it, but how many of those people are there? Ten . . . twelve? Come on, Halperin, if you want to dredge up old worn out stuff to help your candidate, you’re going to have to do better than that. And yet, the most left newspaper in all of Great Britain thought enough of it to not only pass it on, but embellish it a bit:
Meanwhile, this business with his dog in a box on the roof of the car as the family took a driving vacation/motoring holiday seems to be mushrooming into for Romney what the haircuts were for John Edwards. I would think Republicans would like it. He shows he’s pro-torture.
That’s echo chamber stuff if I ever heard it – and I hate to break it to these guys, most Americans do not live in the chamber.
I did that in part to set up the real discussion which is Halperin’s invocation of the Mormon issue:
Romney has the stronger hand but some real problems. He retains almost all the strengths he brought to the battle two years ago, when he was the runner-up to McCain: a record of accomplishment in business and government; a stately mien (and famously great hair); a solid and photogenic family; a New England base, anchored by a vacation home in primary-powered New Hampshire; and vast personal wealth and fundraiser prowess. But his liabilities are equally formidable. Some are the public’s long-standing bigotry against his Mormon faith. . . .
Romney has new challenges too. For one, he hasn’t demonstrated that he has learned some key lessons from 2008, and he still seems unable to talk openly and with passion about his faith or political convictions.
This too was echoed elsewhere, this time in an oddsmaker’s take on the field:
The ugly truth of the Southern Baptist-dominated Christian Right in the US is that while it shares so much political ideology with the faithful of the Church of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons), the bigotry against their religious cousins (See: The American Religion: The Emergence of The Post-Christian Nation, by Harold Bloom, 1993, Simon & Schuster) is far too steep a barrier for Romney to survive politically.
Were these efforts not so transparent they would be dangerous. What we can take away from this primarily is that with Obama clearly fading in the polls, the left is trying desperately to tilt him up by taking negative shots at the presumptive Republican nominee. But they have little ammunition to do so with, so they repeat, without a hint of variance, the line of argument that they think worked last time. Please note, both accounts take shots at the traditionally Christian right that are much harder than the shots they take at Romney. According to these guys, I wear a hood and burn crosses in my spare time.
What they fail to realize is the incredible animosity that such attacks generate and the ever building opposition that Obama is generating as he treats the American people as if they are too dumb to know what is good for them. Yes, Romney has a religion issue, but it is fading into the woodwork pretty rapidly as people just get angrier and angrier at the current occupant of the White House. If Obama keeps going like this “anybody-but-Obama” will trump “anybody-but-a-Mormon” going away.
Halperin’s piece is about matching up against Obama, not the primaries. He acts as if the religion issue will be as active in the general as it was in the ’08 primaries. Heck, it’s not going to play as hard in the primaries as it did last time unless Huckabee or some other foolish stand-in wants to shoot themselves in the foot very publicly. And even then it will be more sound and fury than political reality. Most Republicans, even those of us heavily motivated by our religious convictions, can do enough political math to understand that we divided ourselves last time and that’s why we lost. That mistake will be too fresh in everyone’s mind to be repeated this time. We are not THAT stupid.
Bottom line is this – Romney has some challenges ahead of him, any aspirant to office does. And they are right in the areas where some of them will be, including religion, but this stuff is so overstated and so fawning over Obama as to be almost parody. Obama will not be “easy pickin’s” in ’12, but the bar is lowering quite a bit from ’08, and if the MSM continues to sound like they did in ’08 they will ride the bar into bankruptcy – at least those that are not already there.
Lowell adds . . .
It seems that Mark Halperin wants to be the next Theodore White. We’ll see if he succeeds, but I am skeptical. (I mean, the dog on the car roof story? Really?)
And by the way, let’s keep in mind that the “oddsmaker” who wrote about Romney’s membership in “The Church of the Latter-day Saints” (always suspect a would-be pundit who can’t get right the name of the church he’s writing about) is a man named Al Giordano. Mr. Giordano is the publisher of The Narco News Bulletin, “Reporting on Democracy and The Drug War from All America.” (Hint: He’s not in favor of the drug war.) Now, I don’t know Mr. Giordano but when it comes to evaluating Republican candidates I think he has a credibility problem. This is a pundit who calls Sara Palin and Mike Huckabee “the crazies.” Now, there are many grounds on which to criticize Palin and Huck, but that they are crazy is not one of them.
The fact is, at this point Romney is the front-runner and no one has the money, the organization, and the rapidly-increasing pile of political chits that the Governor has. The political battlefields have been littered over the years with the bones of early front-runners, but Halperin has got to come up with some substance before anyone pays much attention to his rather vapid thoughts, recycled from 2007-08.
And with that, I am out of here!