Political Animal


May 18, 2012 10:59 AM Ricketts Fallout

By Ed Kilgore

Dave Weigel offers an insight on the Ricketts/Wright affair from the perspective I’m most interested in: Romney’s relationship with the toxic elements of the Right:

It’s all a little awkward. Up to now the Romney campaign — aided by a thick-as-thieves relationship with the Drudge Report — has been quick to jump on scandals and stories that the base wanted it to use. It built then rode an outrage rollercoaster out of Hilary Rosen’s CNN riff on motherhood; afterwards, the campaign used the Rosen story to prove to conservative bloggers that it “got it.” The subtext: McCain didn’t get it. Guys, we know. We’re not going to let Obama off easy, like McCain did.
And then came the Ricketts Plan and the idea of Jeremiah Wright campaign ads. It’s the first general election instance of the Romney campaign ducking a story that the base wanted it to use. Last night, on his Fox News show, Sean Hannity was barely consolable.
“I think for Governor Romney to take it off the table — he doesn’t have to talk about it,” Hannity whimpered. “But to repudiate people that do…”

Weigel goes on to note that Hannity is just plain psychotic on the Wright “issue,” and in fact, it was on Hannity’s show that Romney made his most recent remarks on the Rev (you know, the ones he had trouble remembering yesterday).

If Dave’s right, however, the Romney campaign will soon find some way to let “the base” know it still gets it, even if it chose not to go over the brink into the racial precincts of The Crazy over Jeremiah Wright.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Danp on May 18, 2012 10:16 AM:

    Romney is all about different messages to different audiences. No quote is complete without reporting who he says it to, since the message itself is always irrelevant.

  • DRF on May 18, 2012 10:18 AM:

    The Hilarygate matter and the Reverend Wright matter are completely different. Whatever one thinks of Hillary Rosen's inartful comment, turning it against Obama was normal politics as usual and wasn't a response to the wingnut base of the Republican Party. In addition, Rosen waa out there speaking as a surrogate, so attacking Obama because of her comments was fair game; both sides do this.

    On the other hand, Wright has never been a surrogate or spokesperson for Obama and has no relationship to the campaign. Attacking Obama based on what Wright has spoken or written is problematic for Republicans for a couple of reasons: (1) It is extremely hard to attack on this point without risking appearing to be racist; (2) it had little impact in 2008 and is unlikely to have any more impact now; (3) it appeals only to those already opposed to Obama; and (4) it's guilt by association in the most obvious and unpersuasive way.

    I don't see any real pressure being brought on Romney to change his approach here. ONly die-hard, unthinking partisans like Sarah Palin want to keep harping on Obama's association with Wright.

  • internet tough guy on May 18, 2012 10:20 AM:

    The last line in Weigel's article makes me wonder whether Hannity's going to go full incitement:

    "You are going to hear from the president," he said. "The media won't do it. Tomorrow we will play him in his own words.""

  • majun on May 18, 2012 10:39 AM:

    Given the history the Church of Latter Day Saints has with race issues, and the fact that Romney isn't about to repudiate that, it would be difficult for him to do anything less than repudiate those who would play the Jeremiah Wright card. His vulnerability on issues of obeisance to religious authority in his past is such that he would be a fool to allow anything to develop on that front.

  • boatboy_srq on May 18, 2012 10:40 AM:

    Two thoughts:

    1) The subtext: McCain didn’t get it. Guys, we know. We’re not going to let Obama off easy, like McCain did. Translation: attack dogs are no longer enough - what we need are rabid werewolves (with, at last, no sense of decency after all).

    2) the toxic elements of the Right. This is 2012; are there any non-toxic elements of the Right?

    Captcha: recommend ldquag. Is ldquag a new antipsychotic tailored to Teahattery?

  • T2 on May 18, 2012 10:52 AM:

    many other commenters have said this, but there are two things in play. One- Citizens United has created a monster for politicians, i.e. super rich people can go over the candidate's head with stuff that seasoned political campaign people would not do. And the results can be very unwelcome.
    Secondly, the 900 pound gorilla here is Romney's Mormonism. He has kept it off the radar and he needs to. Anything that shines a light on LDS and his very high rank inside the Church will not help him. That's the main reason his campaign ran like a scared rabbit from the Ricketts blunder. If anyone wishes to freak MItt out - just say the word Mormon and watch him jump.

  • j on May 18, 2012 11:20 AM:

    Remember when Bachmann said she wanted an in depth investigation of everyone in Congress to see if they are anti american?
    Well, let's have an in depth conversation about mormonism and the polygomy of Romney's forbears, also that since they don't like the fact that ObaMA'a dad was born in Kenya (the dad that he did not know) Romney's was born in Mexico where the family was hiding out to escape the police, or talk about Romney's time in Paris - avoiding going to Vietnam.

  • RT on May 18, 2012 11:26 AM:

    It's fun to ask people, "Are you gonna vote for the Kenyan or the Mexican?"

  • Peter C on May 18, 2012 11:35 AM:

    “But to repudiate people that do…”

    ... would mean denouncing everything that comes out of Hannity's mouth or airs on FOX. Frankly it would be a good start if Romney wants the Republican party to ever be respectable again.

  • JamesM on May 18, 2012 11:39 AM:

    @T2 on May 18, 2012 10:52 AM:

    "...many other commenters have said this, but there are two things in play. One- Citizens United has created a monster for politicians,..."

    Man is that true. Citizens United may be the may damaging Supreme Court Ruling for American Democracy in history. I might be over the top here, but the current GOP/Fox News/Big Corporation/Billionaire consortium increasingly reminds me of the movie Rollerball.

    Has there ever been a time in U.S. history when major corporations and rich people had more political power than they no now? Of course there have always been right-leaning newspapers, but apparently the impact of a 24/7 conservative propaganda news channel is much greater.

    I have a acquaintance from California who is a friendly enough guy and into heavy metal and alternative rock. We started talking about the Presidential race and his eyes grew wide as he started rattling off every major item in the conservative information list. What surprised me most about him were the following 2 things:

    1. The degree of misinformation he had. He started wheeling out and impressive list of facts and assertions about President Obama's general performance and handling of the Presidency. Problem was they were all wrong! Not a single thing he said was factually correct. (He told me that of course he read the Drudge Report.)

    2. His rage. I always assumed that he was a laid back West coast type, so I was shocked by the sheer intensity of his dislike for President Obama and his policies. I can get pretty worked up myself in political conversations, but I knew instantly I was out-matched.

    The conversation saddened me but I also felt sorry for the guy. His mind is now filled with lies and distortions that he will no doubt carry to the grave. The GOP and the right wing noise machine may lose the coming election, but they have succeeded in creating a growing number of people like my friend, which doesn't say much for the future of U.S. politics.

  • jpeckjr on May 18, 2012 11:50 AM:

    I absolutely agree his primary reason for taking this strategy off the table is to avoid scrutiny of his own religion.

    Such scruitny would not need to call attention to his polygamous ancestors. The LDS church has not approved of polygamy nor promoted it for over a century, and expels members who practice it. Mr. Romney is not promoting polygamy as public policy.

    In addition, there are plenty of public policy issues on which Mr. Romney is making no sense and that should be the focus.

  • Peter C on May 18, 2012 11:52 AM:

    DRF @10:18,

    I think it is a stretch to call Hillary Rosen a 'surrogate'. She's a pundit and a lobbyist, but she isn't affiliated with the campaign that I've heard. Nothing I've heard suggests that her remarks were prompted (or even welcomed) by the Obama campaign.

    The right-wing media pounced on her as if she were a campaign official and denounced Obama for what she said, but that was no more valid than any of their other dirty tricks.

    It didn't help that her first name rang so many bells. I think if her name had been 'Mitsy Rosen' then FOX might have ignored her comments.

  • Diane Rodriguez on May 18, 2012 12:13 PM:

    I think religion is secondary to the real thrust of a Jeremy Wright fueled attack on Obama. The primary significance is racial. Wright is described as practicing "Black liberation theology". That phrase is racially not religiously charged and feeds the not-so-subtle core values of the current Republican party. Isn’t it ironic that so much energy is spent on minimizing the overwhelming extremist views of the Republican party . There is no legitimacy in those views for a huge majority of the country. Contemplate the widely embraced current "Christianity" of the right and what if it was called "White supremacy theology"? Crickets...then waves of white hot (excuse the pun) faux outrage.

    Race trumps religion in the Presidential contest. If it was 2 white candidates, Romney's Mormonism would be much more meaningful.

  • Objective Dem on May 18, 2012 12:19 PM:

    I think there are a lot of legitimate issues related to Romney's Mormon connection.

    1. My understanding is the Mormons tithe to the LDS church and these funds are then used for "welfare" of church members. This is similar to the republican view of scaling back government programs and letting charity take over. So I wonder if Romney favors this approach and if he does, should recipients of charity be limited to members of ones own faith.

    2. My understanding is Romney is/was a lay bishop in the Mormon church. How does that impact his decision making? How much influence will the head of the Mormon church have on policy? This isn't a case of JFK being Catholic, this is closer to a candidate being a Catholic bishop.

    3. My understanding is Romney avoided the draft during Vietnam because he was a missionary in Paris. If we have a draft, should there be exclusions for missionaries and students?

  • digitusmedius on May 18, 2012 12:26 PM:

    R-Money's got to know, or if he doesn't, his people do that the last thing they want to do is make religion a major topic of discussion. R-Money's done everything he can to make people not think about his religion but once that dog gets unleashed it will certainly come back to bite it's owner.

  • jjm on May 18, 2012 12:34 PM:

    The Mormon faith believes, and Romney is no deviant from its doctrine, that if it can just get a Mormon elected president he will convert the whole population to Mormonism. Romney is their choice.

    Want that, folks?

  • T2 on May 18, 2012 12:37 PM:

    I agree with Peter C - calling Rosen a 'surrogate" is a big stretch. SImply put, she is not on the WH staff or affiliated with Obama's campaign.

    JamesM - I've met several people just like your heavy metal friend. Friends, relatives....all getting their info from FOX or, you might be interested to know, from the pulpit of their church. You simply cannot have a factual conversation with these people. Yet "these people" are the current Majority in the US House of Reps and the US Supreme Court, as well as running state governments across the country. And I will tell you that having a black president was the LAST STRAW for them all.

  • T2 on May 18, 2012 12:41 PM:

    I hit Send too soon......Evangelicals consider Mormons non-Christians - a cult. Never would they vote for a Mormon for president. UNLESS the alternative is a Black guy - which both churches choke on. Therefore Evangelicals will vote for a Mormon, on racial reasons alone.

  • DianaW on May 18, 2012 1:00 PM:

    What I can't believe about Ricketts is his alleged motivation. He's claiming all this is motivated by his conviction that Obama can't or won't balance the budget and cut spending. At the same time he has his handout for a public subsidy for his baseball team. The hypocrisy is breathtaking.

  • Rugosa on May 18, 2012 1:33 PM:

    DianaW - the hypocrisy would be breathtaking if it weren't just the same ol', same ol' we always get from the right. Curt Schilling, another right-wing loudmouth from the sports world, is trying to hit up Rhode Island for more money for his failing company, after squandering millions of taxpayer dollars.

  • EnnisB on May 18, 2012 4:20 PM:

    T2. - Will Evangelicals vote for a Mormon whose mission in like is to convert them to Mormonism?

  • TCinLA on May 18, 2012 5:14 PM:

    Hannity is just plain psychopathic

    Fixed it.