Political Animal


July 18, 2012 2:17 PM “Vetting” Genie Out of the Bottle

By Ed Kilgore

I don’t want to over-react to John Sunnunu’s bizarre outburst yesterday, or put too much weight on McKay Coppins’ report today that it represented a Romney campaign decision to “take the gloves off” and go nuclear on the president. Perhaps Coppins didn’t get the story right, or maybe Brother Benen’s cautious description of the sudden lurch into viciousness as a loss of composure is more accurate than my suggestion of a “meltdown.” Quite possibly Jon Chait is right in suggesting this could reflect a moment of personal pique from Romney and “cooler heads will prevail.” No question the odds are that Team Mitt will calm down, get to the safe haven of the Olympics (assuming the dressage issue doesn’t kick them), and then roll out a plain vanilla running mate, return to its effort to hypnotize the electorate into ignoring everything about Romney other than his availability to those wanting for register disappointment with the status quo, and in general convey the impression that voting Republican this year is a safe, stable proposition.

But one problem with Coppins’ piece and the realities it may reflect is that they are already inspiring joy in the wingnutosphere, in no small part because of a term used by an unnamed Romney advisor in a portion of the article I did not earlier quote:

“I think the governor himself believes this latest round of attacks that have impugned his integrity and accused him of being a felon go so far beyond that pale that he’s really disappointed. He believes it’s time to vet the president. He really hasn’t been vetted; McCain didn’t do it.”

Ah yes, The Vetting, that charter mission of Breitbart.com, reflecting the amazingly widespread right-wing belief that John McCain would be president today if only he had dug into and/or screamed about Barack Obama’s sinister background.

Michelle Malkin greeted the story by posting a video of a performance of Handel’s Halleluhah Chorus. The PJ Tatler commented: “It’s four years past time he was vetted.” Hot Air suggested (accurately, no doubt) that this will get a lot of positive attention from the restive “base.” No word yet from the Breitbart site itself, or from fellow vetting enthusiast Sarah Palin, but they may be waiting to see if the Romney campaign dials it all back.

If they don’t (and I do not view Sununu’s own half-apology for just a small portion of his rant as a dial-back), the genie will soon be out of the bottle, and the Romney campaign will find out it’s juggling dynamite. Anything less than a full-fledged, vein-popping, borderline-birther, full-scale commitment to “the vetting” will be greeted with howls of rage and accusations of betrayal from the noisiest elements of the Right.

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.


  • anthrosciguy on July 18, 2012 2:28 PM:

    The "safe haven of the Olympics" has been shown to be a minefield for Romney, consisting of sweetheart deals for his cronies, plus outsourcing uniforms to Burma (which his campaign surrogates have excused by saying it wasn't Burma, but Myanmar -- really, that's their defense).

  • June on July 18, 2012 2:33 PM:

    "The base" wants a sitting president who has been raked over the coals for years to be "vetted," but at the same time, they're frothing-at-the-mouth that anyone dare ask for Mitt's tax records. These folks are lunatics. And Romney is a disgrace to let the crazies lead him around by the nose.

  • Peter C on July 18, 2012 2:35 PM:

    Don't believe your lying eyes! Listen to FOX! Listen to Rush! Listen to Beck! ... and, BUY GOLD!


  • KeithOK on July 18, 2012 2:39 PM:

    No word yet from Breitbart himself either, but let's keep our eyes to the sky waiting for him to weigh in.

  • just bill on July 18, 2012 2:42 PM:

    if the right doesn't think that hillary "vetted" obama during the primaries, they are more stupid than i thought.

  • TulsaTime on July 18, 2012 2:47 PM:

    The one thing we can count on this year will be continual howling from the universe of voices on the rabid right. Between all the christian-crazy, and the tea partied, the militiaed, the birthers, we could all be deaf before September.

    I am just glad Oklahoma is not a swing state. I might go postal if I had to watch the ads coming at that frequency.

  • bleh on July 18, 2012 2:48 PM:

    Yeah, the Olympics thing is not gonna be a cakewalk for Romney, once it gets out that his "salvation" required a $1.5 billion bailout, which amounts to more than 7 times all previous Federal expenditures on the Olympics, AFTER adjusting for inflation!

  • sick-n-effn-tired. on July 18, 2012 2:48 PM:

    In other news "Joe" Arpaio has been hired as Romney's new campaign manager.
    Mud? Wacko fringe theories ? I got em all Mr. Arpaio is quoted as saying.
    I'll put some spine in that boy's campaign even if I have to put the rest of the campaign staff in pink underwear and make them sleep in tents .

  • R. Porrofatto on July 18, 2012 2:51 PM:

    It's a Vetting Party!

    Of course, vetting=making up shit that wasn't made up the first time around.

  • c u n d gulag on July 18, 2012 2:54 PM:

    The Romney campaign HAS to go negative, AND ATTACK!!!

    The real problem is:

    Desperation calls for malice.

    Mitt's plans are not anything that he can spell out to people who aren't part of the Conservative base - it'll scare the FECKIN' HELL out of them!

    "You want to lower taxes on the richest, raise them on us, drastically change, cut, or eliminate SS, Medicare, Medicaid, AND STILL LEAVE TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS IN DEBT! ARE YOU FECKIN' INSANE?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!"

    So, this will now become the dirtiest campaign the R's have ever run.
    The "N-word's" coming!
    (Happy everyone? :-)
    Maybe even AT their Convention!!!

    All Obama needs to do is stay above the fray, keep hitting Mitt on Bain, his wealth, and his hidden tax returns and off-shore accounts.

    I'd also include video of John McCain calming that lunatic woman at a Town Hall Meeting in ads around the country.
    The one where he said:
    "He's a decent family man that I happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues," McCain said, to scant approval.
    "There's a difference between rhetoric and record, but you can still be respectful," McCain said to one questioner. "I will point out his record and I will do it with respect."

    And at the end of the ad, I'd ask, "If John McCain can do that, why can't Mitt Romney?"

  • exlibra on July 18, 2012 2:56 PM:

    anthrosciguy and bleh,

    I don't think Kilgore was talking about the Salt Lake City Olympics, as Mitt's safe heaven. I think it's the London ones. Mitt is scheduled to go to a couple of fundraisers there, with a side dish of watching Ann's horse perform. While Mitt's abroad, he cannot be held responsible if his cohorts descend to the very bottom of the sewer here, can he? *That* is his "safe heaven".

  • CharlieM on July 18, 2012 2:58 PM:


    Just more silliness from wingnuts. They're wanting Mitt to be another Palin. But don't anyone point out to them that it didn't workin 4 years ago.

    I think the whole "vetting" meme (at least from Romney's perspective) is that it's all about that sense of entitlement he has. How dare Cutter point out that he may have broken the law! He's Mitt Romney! He *is* the law. Rules are only for the little people.

  • John Dillinger on July 18, 2012 3:00 PM:

    I think people are also expecting that with the Olympics, less attention will be paid to the presidential race. We'll see. I wonder what the people in Chicago are waiting until Mitt leaves the country to spring on him?

  • Equal Opportunity Cynic on July 18, 2012 3:06 PM:

    Charlie: Obviously Palin didn't work out because the RINO McCain campaign wouldn't give her free rein. Now that the Romney campaign is willing to go full throttle toward its mission of pointing out the Sharia-loving Commie Kenyan fascist athiest usurper who would make us all speak French, drive a Prius, and eat arugula, how can Obama win?


  • jjm on July 18, 2012 3:12 PM:

    Is this the Sununu (John H.) who was born in Havana to Lebanese/Palestinian parents and whose mother was herself born in El Salvador?

    Or is it his son, John E., who then, like Obama, had a foreign born father???

  • T2 on July 18, 2012 3:14 PM:

    as gulag says, Romney and the GOP don't have anything to offer except attack ads. Fortunately for them, they are very good at those kinds of ads (which require no factual back-up thanks to our Media) and they have uncounted (literally) millions with which to buy the ads.
    @Dillinger...what is Romney going to Europe for? Let's see....he used to live in France when he was doing his Mormon mission (which also kept him out of military service). If I were Barack Obama's campaign people, I'd have this ad ready the second Mitt touches France:
    "Romney visits France where he served as a MORMON MISSIONARY. Is he more French than American?
    Or is Mitt planning to visit some of his millions in Swiss Accounts?"

  • biggerbox on July 18, 2012 3:15 PM:

    Believers in "the vetting" seem to think that if the American people knew the things about Obama that they (think they) do, we'd reject him immediately, the way they do. Since we don't reject him, it must be that we don't know all that stuff.

    Which is just goofy. We know all that stuff, we just don't care about it the way the lunatic Right does. (Probably because they only really care about that stuff because Obama is a Democrat, and a black one at that.)

    If there was no vetting, why do I, who's never lived in Chicago, know the name Tony Rezko? Or Jerimiah Wright? Or that Obama published a biography where he admits to smoking dope?

    Seriously, wingers, do you think that if partying and cocaine were a bar to the White House, that we'd have had Shrubya? You do remember him, still, right?

  • TCinLA on July 18, 2012 3:18 PM:

    Wait till Romney gets really needled and the "N" word pops out of his mouth before he remembers to "engage brain before opening mouth."

    He could get all vicious on his wingnut opponents in the primary, but this is going to be waaaaaay different.

    I can just see it in the first debate:

    O: "Willard, I'm not really worried about your background of being a draft dodger while you supported the Vietnam war, or your bullying of a gay fellow-student into committing suicide, or your little jokes of impersonating a police officer. I'll let those youthful indiscretions pass. I'm talking about when you were an adult and supposedly knew better than to lie to the SEC, when you could consider the political cost of not using Swiss bank accounts, or how you profited from buying a company that disposed of aborted fetuses by burning them."

    Willard: "I don't have to take this from a damned Ni**er!" Dead silence as Willard realizes he just shot himself in the head instead of the foot.

    Watching the twentieth-wits of the Right today is just too funny for words.

  • Daniel Kim on July 18, 2012 3:25 PM:

    Oh, now you have me all tingly with anticipation! I can hardly wait.

  • RaflW on July 18, 2012 3:26 PM:

    Let's keep in mind that when Mitt's in London, he'll be at high-buck fundraisers with London bankers. Yes, they'll be legal donors - either US citizen expats or US greencard holders - but they'll be London bankers for gosh sake.

    I mean, how hard will it be for a Super PAC to make an ad showing Mitt raking in campaign cash from the epicenter of the LIBOR scandal?

    I know, most voters don't know LIBOR from a cholesterol drug, but ads tying Mitt's donors to those London crooks who jacked your home mortgage rate isn't hard to do.

  • SadOldVet on July 18, 2012 3:48 PM:

    re KeithOK...

    Wrong direction! I do believe that hell is supposed to be down.

  • Rugosa on July 18, 2012 3:56 PM:

    RaflW - here you go - http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2012-13/399. A labor MP has tabled a motion to ask the bankers to stop fundraising for Romney in order to pay attention to business. Just doesn't make Mittens look good.

  • tcinaz on July 18, 2012 4:03 PM:

    I wrote a post that didn't get posted probably because it had a link to Breitbart. So sad, but understandable here. But the gist was you only have to Google Obama and 2007 to see the Right has thoroughly vetted him already. They are going to be sadly underwhelmed by any new vetting because it will only uncover more Birtherism and Transcriptism.

  • Skip on July 18, 2012 4:39 PM:

    I worry.

    Look at Mitt's consistent lie record. This man seems fully capable of rigging some big disclosure that no other conservative right wing Republican hound could find, stage something, make it up, plant evidence, find the evidence, have it "disclosed" via proxy for some Great Reveal just before the election. He's mean enough (Bain) and he's rich enough and it's his turn in the White House. The man has campaigned for 5 freakin' years and I'll bet he's one of those who is not used to losing.

    As if the Bush depression wasn't enough to take this nation to task, it's going to be additional hell living around here for the next few months, just because it's an election year.

  • FedSec on July 18, 2012 4:41 PM:

    So Fox News and CNN and teabagger members of Congress will push this shit into the national noise again and drive more independents into the arms of the Democrats.

  • latts on July 18, 2012 5:02 PM:

    Honestly, we do need to stop waiting for someone prominent to drop an N-bomb on Obama, because it ain't gonna happen. There are plenty of racists who don't use that term, possibly not even in their own minds, because it's been taboo in all but a few circles for a long time now... they need the dog whistles for their own comfort as much as for cover, because if they don't use open slurs or burn crosses, they can't be racists.

    Heck, both my Southern grandfathers (born in 1909 & 1916, IIRC) used the term, but the differences in their class status made a difference even then-- my more affluent, educated (and older) gdad rarely used it because he knew it had become crass & uncouth, while the former sharecropper on the other side of the family was openly racist because he was much more invested in claiming higher status.

  • Thomas Miller on July 18, 2012 5:03 PM:

    Ah yes...vetting. I remember shortly after Andrew passed, his team was on Fox News discussing how they were going to finally Vet Obama, but not just Obama. They made it clear how they would vet any person running for President, and still to this day I have not seen one article that vets Romney from the Breitbart crew. Have they tried to dig in and see if Romney is in fact hiding something, no. Have they dug into his time at Bain, no. Will they ever, no. Obama however, they dig and dig and keep telling us how they are going to find or did find something on him, but yet 6 years after he came onto the scene, nothing has come to light worth talking about.

  • Whackamole on July 18, 2012 5:09 PM:

    Lee Atwater:

    "You start out in 1954 by saying, 'Nigger, nigger, nigger.' By 1968 you can't say 'nigger' -- that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states' rights and all that stuff. You're getting so abstract now [that] you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you're talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I'm not saying that. But I'm saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me -- because obviously sitting around saying, 'We want to cut this,' is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than 'Nigger, nigger.'"

  • Richard Fox on July 18, 2012 5:18 PM:

    I will always keep in mind the quietly ironical, gentle whiff of disdain in the President's voice as he eviscerated Donald Trump at the correspondent's dinner. The right wing fever dreaming --"vetting", "birthers" --each lunatic talking point in its turn smacked down in similar fashion. The President always has an exquisite sense of timing, pushing back when needed for maximum effect. So I have confidence none of this will be of any import. It will be loud braying on the right of course, sound and fury, signifying nothing, etc. etc.

  • SFAW on July 18, 2012 5:29 PM:

    Laugh while you can, Lie-berals, but it won't be for much longer.

    I have recently been contacted by a certain Chief Editor Korir, who has informed me that he is in possession of a video which will BLOW THE OBAMA CAMPAIGN OUT OF THE WATER.

    Once I get a copy of that vid, Teh Vetting begins! and it will herald the end of the Obamanation!

    Rumor has it that those two fine patriots, Donald Trump and Sheriff Joe Arpaio, already have their copies, and are waiting for the right time to unleash them. Perhaps I can beat them to the punch.

  • June on July 18, 2012 5:29 PM:

    @latts - I wouldn't be so sure. If you haven't seen it - take a look. Santorum only caught himself by the thinnest of hairs.


  • bcinaz on July 18, 2012 5:33 PM:

    This should be fun. The Romney campaign can re-re-ignite the Birther thing and the Harvard Law Review Affirmative Action thing, while attempting to remain the International Tax-Man of Mystery and the fully compensated do-nothing CEO/Pres/Managing Member/Sole Stockholder.

    No soon do they drop the 'smoked something' bomb, than we learn that for the one tax return he has turned over - it's missing documents relating to the Swiss Accounts.

    How badly do the white working class want to get rid of the guy who has their interest at heart for a heartless clown who has no interest other than the next deal.

  • lee Russell on July 18, 2012 8:09 PM:

    The Rabid right is trying to put some starch in R Moneys' Magic Mormon Underwear.

  • Rick B on July 19, 2012 3:22 AM:

    @c u n d gulag - You've got it.

    Not only does the Romney campt have nothing left but going negative, on top of that the base is champing at the bit to do it. They really believe that McCain lost four years ago because he would NOT go negative.

    Romney, if he had any good sense and a staff that could control the campaign, would stop the negative drift. He may have the good sense, but even if he does his staff cannot control a dog fight with angry dogs.

    This campaign is going downhill, and the American public is going to reject Romney throughly. If the campaign goes as negative as I think it will, this election will rival the 1964 Goldwater disaster. That will have massive down-ballot results for the Republican Party if it happens.

    Romney has a touchy streak along along with the inability to actually run the staff of a nationwide campaign, and the Republican Party base is extremely angry at having the Presidency in the hands of a Black Democrat. On top of that, as you say he has noting at all the offer the American people. Running on his resume will be a disaster. He's going to have a really hard time pulling out any result as good as a credible competitive loss.

  • rea on July 19, 2012 8:54 AM:

    like Obama, had a foreign born father???

    Mitt Romney's dad was born in Mexico . . .

  • Jilli on July 19, 2012 9:03 AM:

    Ah...yes...following the intents of the brietbart crowd...something tells me that throwing in with a group with the intellectual maturity of spoiled 7 year olds isn't going to end well, but it sure will make for a good show. Bring it on.

  • S. D. Jeffries on July 19, 2012 9:18 AM:

    Romney's campaign must go negative - he has nothing else to run on.

    He can't run on his tenure as MA governor - he's already disavowed his policy statements and his signature legislative accomplishment of that time; he can't run as "savior" of the 2004 Olympics, as he depended on over a billion dollars of federal money to make that happen at that; he can't run on his reputation as a successful businessman since voters are now getting a whiff of the kind of "business" he was involved in.

    What's left? Nothing - they got nothin' left but "Mitt's a Republican and he's not black." Not a winning hand.