Well, at least it happened on a week when no one was paying attention. I initially encountered it in the Dallas Morning News, but then it absolutely went viral and I quit saving the links. It was interesting to watch the story evolve. Initial reports were simply that George H.W. Bush (41) had essentially endorsed Romney in a Larry King Interview. But then…
More than the “endorsement,” it was noted that The Bushes had something to say about Sarah Palin:
KING: What’s your read about Sarah Palin?
BARBARA BUSH: Well, I sat next to her once, thought she was beautiful, and I think she’s very happy in Alaska. And I hope she’ll stay there.
At which point it all hit the fan. Palin shot back on the Laura Ingraham show.
Appearing on Laura Ingraham’s radio show today, Sarah Palin said that while she “love[s] the Bushes,” she sees George H.W. and Barbara Bush as “blue bloods” who are trying to “pick and chose” the 2012 Republican presidential nominee for president.
And all this showed up while people with nothing better to do were trying to read the Palin tea leaves, that are not even really tea leaves. So the net result was a flurry of analysis. Palin supporters accused “Republican elites” of not “getting it.” There was even some extraordinarily silly analysis. And again the pile of stuff got so big and repetitive that it was not worth saving or linking. The best analysis was Allahpundit:
Too bad it wasn’t Huckabee who tossed this rhetorical grenade, as we could have spent a fun afternoon ripping on him in the comments for such a heavy-handed populist pander. (Huck would have thrown in a reference to Beltway cocktail parties too for good measure, but then he’s a longstanding master of class resentment politics on the right.) Since it’s Sarah, though, it’ll be lauded as a case of grassroots truth being spoken to RINO establishment power.
I found that a fascinating and important insight. More in a minute. WaPo’s “The Fix” blog noted the natural Huckabee/Palin connection and therefore political battle – which also incited a bunch of commentary. And Palin just kept being Palin.
Allahpundit’s point that were this the Huckster nobody would have taken the comments seriously is very worthy of note. The “silly” analysis I linked to early is all about how Palin is “sexy.” That is to say, an amazing media presence. If you really pay attention to what she is saying – she sounds like a talk show host – not a candidate – she, not unlike Mike Huckabee, sounds like she is competing for Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh’s space, not Mitt Romney’s or Tim Pawlenty’s.
What concerns me deeply is that the American people increasingly cannot tell the difference. That inability to tell the difference between sexy and serious is, in large part, what brought us Barack Obama. That said, Sarah Palin, or even Mike Huckabee, could do the job better than Obama, a whole lot better – but that is not the point – the point is they are more flash than substance, even though there is reasonable substance there.
There are a lot of distinctions between the political right and left. One of the biggest is that the right understands the presidency is a job – not a ministry – not a pulpit – just a job. Some people do that job well and some do not. People who do the job well will be people who stay firmly grounded in reality, responding to circumstances as they find them, not what they wish they were. If there is a single largest failing in the Obama administration, it is a failure to see reality around them – from the limitations of power in the constitution to the reality of the terrorist threats to our nation, they live in the bubble of their perceptions.
Even the most ideological of reasonable Republican candidates, and Palin and Huckabee are both in that category, would upon achieving the presidency find that the realities of the job and circumstances would force them to behave very differently than their ideological rhetoric. The president cannot change Roe v Wade, for example. If we were to bring someone forward that lived in a conservative bubble as much as Obama lives in a liberal one, that candidate would be as unpopular and ineffective as this one.
Which brings me back to the “rebranding” of the Religious Right that we have be discussing is a large part of the Tea Party. This populous petulance is a large part of what has brought the Religious Right to the point of disfavor it now finds itself in and much of the reason it needs to rebrand itself to begin with. The Gerson/Wehner book is excellent at pointing out this problem. The Tea Party will not be long lived as a political force if it continues to be this petulant – not because they are wrong, but because people find the attitude unpleasant and do not want to work with it.
Then there is another problem. This petulance creates a crevice in the coalition that the left can drive a wedge into and, as they did with the Huckabee campaign in ’08, deliver us a weaker candidate and save the White House for the Democrats. Palin may make them nuts, but they are not above using her to achieve their greater goals.
What is most fascinating about this incident is that Palin has been making nice with Romney and in some of her better moments has been saying that comments like those of the elder Bushes would be useful in discouraging her from running. Regarding Palin personally I think she shot back at what was a bit of a snotty comment, understandably – especially from a media figure. But on a political level I think better heads will prevail when it comes to serious decision making.
This incident is far more instructive about the larger political landscape. It is time for the Religious Right-come-Tea Party to figure out that opposition does not carry the day. The American people want a government that is committed to building something good, not just opposing whatever. It is time for them to become a constructive not a destructive force for political action. It is time for them to stop being petulant and start being helpful. The nation will be better for it.
So, About The Race In General…
The media continues to jockey for position. The BBC has their list of names to watch – interestingly it does not include Palin?! The sports books are making odds. “The Fix” looks at the possibles’ potential weaknesses. Chris Cilizza wonders who the “dark horse” will be? And CNN reports what everybody already knows – there is no rush. So what are the possibles up to?
Well, Tim Pawlenty has not made up his mind and no one knows who he is. Mike Pence is positioning. Mike Huckabee is “wooing Iowa Evangelicals – gee, there’s a surprise. He also thinks Obama is going to be hard to beat – which sounds amazingly like making excuses before he has to.
Finally, Mitt Romney is polling well and has an interesting strategy. Not to mention some people have yet to figure out the difference between 2008 and 2012:
Shields, a syndicated columnist, says Romney will need to explain his Mormon faith because so much Republican strength is in the South. There is strong resistance toward Mormonism by some evangelical Christians in the South, he said.
You have to wonder if he looked at where Republicans won in the election just concluded. You have to wonder if he looked at the 2008 returns at all. What we have here is a case of wishful thinking on the part of a left-leaning pundit – someone trying to make a narrative stick when it is not really there.
So, what’s missing? All that talk about Romney’s religion from anyone that matters, that’s what. You know, it was the hope of many that all the early discussion of Romney’s faith in ’08 would inoculate him – something that obviously did not materialize. Is it possible; however that ’08 will inoculate the issue for ’12. It looks that way at the moment, but only time will tell.
But that does not mean there is nothing to talk about in the world of…
Religion and Politics
Things I am wondering about…
If the FRC is a “hate group,” – how come religious hate crime statistics are only reported for Jews and Muslims – what about Christians in general and especially Mormons ho have experienced numerous minor crimes against them since Prop 8?
How come non-religious people ask the dumbest questions about religion? Religion defines our categories – it does not fit into them. But then you would have to believe in something beyond yourself to get that wouldn’t you.
OK, we have been talking about the Tea Party being a rebranding of the religious right, but when I see things like this - I wonder if the Religious Right generally in all its many expressions is just trying to hop on a moving train?
You know this is going to come up soon here. In a related question, there are numerous practicing Islamic polygamists in the Canada as well – why are they not on trial?
Lowell adds . . .
Once again I find myself trying to say more than “me too” to John’s fine analysis. I think the Tea Party is a historic force and that the good it has done outweighs the missteps it has forced (the Delaware and Nevada U.S. Senate seats, for example). Somehow that very motivated group of voters has to move from anger and petulance to helping conservative public servants actually govern.
About class warfare: It is not conservative. Period. It is unfortunate that Barbara Bush chose to say what she did. It is more unfortunate that the Palinites turned that statement into a class issue. How much more classy – and Reaganesque – it would have been for Palin and her people had refused to respond and simply cited the 11th Commandment and moved on? Mrs. Bush’s statement would have faded from view, and Palin would have looked like a leader.
I thought this Chris Cillizza analysis was most interesting:
…if [Huckabee] doesn’t take the plunge, where is his 26 percent share of evangelicals going to go? Where is his 18 percent share of women going? Who gets his 17 percent share of those without college degrees?
The obvious answer to all three of those questions is Palin. Gingrich has been married three times and has some baggage to show for it. Romney’s ability to connect with rural, Christian voters, meanwhile, remains suspect because of his Mormonism.
Fair enough, but is it really Mormonism that accounts for any inability by Romney to “connect” with rural Christian voters? Romney’s from Massachusetts, is a wealthy member of the corporate class, and is not a hard-core conservative. I wonder if those factors don’t have something to do with voter appeal among rural Christians. And isn’t there some voter stereotyping going on here?
It’s going to get more interesting with each passing week. Soon it will be so with each passing day. Buckle up!
John responds . . .
There is little doubt in my mind that the hard core rural Christian vote behind Huckabee carries an anti-Mormon bias, though I doubt seriously they would cop to it at this stage of the game. There are two reasons. One they know it is a political loser. Two, they have rationalized it to the point it is balled up with other things like “RINO,” or “flip-flop” – The Vanderbilt study from last cycle must be kept in mind.
They also are not Tea Party types. Huckabee is very left of Romney on fiscal matters (or at least he was last cycle) and there is no love for such amongst the Tea Party. Which is why if Huckabee does not elect to run, I think a good bit of his constituency stays home.
But the basic point that both Lowell and I are making is it is unlikely we will hear much “Mormon talk” from Republicans in the primary – it will play differently. I do; however, think it will remain in play in voter psychology and Romney will have to message with that in mind. I KNOW the left will saw that string precisely to keep it front and center in voter psychology.
I agree with Lowell – Buckle Up!