Thursday, July 24, 2008

Toe-Sucker Morris: “Powell, Rice, Lieberman, Huckabee — but not Romney!”

After reading this Dick Morris op-ed more closely, I think it deserves more than just a flip “toe-sucker” ad hominem comment.

First, let's establish a few undeniable facts. Morris is not a conservative. He's not particularly “principled” in a political way which is proven by his ‘bipartisan’ clientele over the years (Bill “Slick Willie” Clinton and Trent “Go Dixicrats in '48” Lott). And Morris is by no means a socialist. He's as rapacious a capitalist as you'll find.

I truly believe Dick Morris was privately pulling for a Hillary Clinton nomination victory and then a Clinton Restoration despite protestations to the contrary. Why? How many more quasi-insider books would a Hillary win have been worth? Morris has been milking the Clinton cow for decades now, he doesn’t want to stop now!

Regardless of his preferences on the Democratic side, Morris was an early and oft critic of Mitt Romney's campaign for president. I remember numerous columns throughout the first nine months of 2007 and before where Morris would discuss the GOP presidential field either without mentioning Romney or simply dismissing him.

Morris' case against Romney as made in the recent column is so stale that the best a major league spin-meister like Morris could do to dress it up is to label it “vintage” or “old school.”

Romney's change of position on gay rights and abortion were so well vetted during his presidential campaign, I dare not try to expand on it here. What I will say though is that Romney did flip but he didn't flop on these issues.

He made “liberal” policy statements as a candidate (in 1994 and 2002) before achieving election that he later 'betrayed' as a public official. That's a flip. A flop would be a return to the old position.

The folks that deserve to be angry at these flips in my opinion are the one's betrayed – the pro-choicers and gay marrriage advocates. I've never understood the conventional wisdom that moving to the conservative position on these and other issues ought to be greeted with suspicion by conservatives, pro-lifers and advocates of the sanctity of marriage. These constituencies ought to be emboldened by such 'evolution' and not be bullied by the mainstream media and non-conservatives like Morris into being aloof from such people. Don’t we want to persuade people on the other side of these issues to move in our direction? If not, why bother engaging in the debate?

Moreover, when it counted, when he was in power and able to do something about conservative social policy, Romney did the right, and Right, thing at the most important time. Judge him by his pro-life and pro-marriage deeds as Governor rather than prior statements as a candidate. Those campaign positions have been specifically repudiated and Romney has clearly stated he was wrong in taking them. Conservatives must welcome converts, not shun them.

So, I contend social liberals rather than social conservatives should be Romney's greatest detractors on the “flip-flop” issue. And morally-challenged Dick Morris' thinly veiled hate-Romney attitude proves this out.

Conservatives decided to support Romney too late in the 2008 cycle to allow him to capitalize on his fundraising and personal wealth advantages over his better known rivals. The John Connally in 1980 swipe makes no sense and is ahistorical especially in light of the 2008 campaign itself.

Rudy Giuliani's 2008 campaign easily bested Romney's in ineffectiveness and profligate spending vis-à-vis delegate totals. Phil Gramm's 1996 bid too was much worse in regard. John Connally? Jeez, what's next? Dusting off some arcane nugget about Bob Taft against Ike in 1952? Let's stay in the here and now.

Is Morris right in essentially calling Romney a loser?

Consider, Romney was (perhaps is) largely unknown to voters outside the Bay State. He was running as a conservative in a conservative Republican presidential contest against no fewer than three rivals with near universal name recognition (John McCain, Giuliani and Fred Thompson). He had to counter their long (decades in many cases of) exposure to voters by spending lots and lots of money to jump start his campaign and introduce himself.

He ended up beating two of these three. Not bad when you consider he was the target of all of the other campaigns because they feared him the most as a rival.

I contend that Romney's failed presidential campaign can be viewed as a qualified success in the sense that he clearly defined himself as an articulate, tough and hardworking leader for conservatives for years to come. After all, Reagan lost his first (1968) and second (1976) runs for the Republican presidential nomination. That's my kind of loser.

As I mentioned, conservatives finally did unite (somewhat) when other candidates withdrew and embrace Romney as their candidate. But it was too late to reverse the outcome of a GOP nominating process rigged with mostly winner-take-all contests.

Also, Mike Huckabee's stalking-horse campaign to split the social conservative vote from the economic and national security conservative blocks doomed Romney's ability to get a one-on-one contest with McCain.

Back to Morris.

His points against Romney on policy (not an authentic conservative) and politics (the money/delegates thing) are lame. Besides, those arguments are designed to sour conservatives and Republicans on Romney. What do they mean to the general election voter? Not much.

Who does the conservatives' best friend (Morris) suggest John McCain pick for a vice presidential running mate? He first offers (pro-choice) Colin Powell then (blank slate on social and economic issues) Condi Rice then (pro-choice and Democrat) Joe Lieberman as veeps. Finally, he pushes former client and the Republican's modern day imitation of three-time loser William Jennings Bryan – Mike Huckabee.

Puh-lez! A McCain/Huckabee ticket could lose 40 states.

What do we take from this column by Morris?

First, he has an unnatural antipathy for Mitt Romney that defies rational explanation. It's got an oddly emotional, personal and deep-seeded quality that begs closer examination. Did Mitt run over Morris' cat or lose him a bunch of money in the market when Morris was short on a company Romney resurrected? Or does he have a problem with a man that doesn't drink alcohol and cheat on his wife?

Could it be that Romney represents the kind of man that Morris and the cynical Beltway political class just don't “get”? Aren't all politicians personal reprobates like Morris? Would the success of the milk-drinking Romney undermine their vision of a corrupt America? Or is he just an anti-Mormon bigot? I don't necessarily see evidence of that but remain open to convincing.

I do think Mitt Romney frustrates and complicates the worldview of the cool kids from the 1960's. And what's so bad about that? I welcome it.

In conclusion, Mitt Romney is not the second coming of Ronald Reagan let alone Jesus Christ (Barack Obama has that shtick working right now.). But he's objectively a rising conservative star who has a bright future in a McCain Administration whether as vice president, secretary of the treasury, chairman of the RNC or whatever.

If McCain fails in November, Mitt Romney will be a strong voice in conservative opposition to the Obama/Pelosi/Hillary regime. He will be a leading candidate for the 2012 Republican nomination and Dick Morris will be free to write more hysterical columns dismissing him.

Keep it up Mitt, if Morris is vexed, you must be doing something right (and Right.)

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