Political Animal


October 03, 2012 2:53 PM Fred Barnes, Mine Canary

By Ed Kilgore

Today I read about the eightieth column (and maybe the twentieth just in the Wall Street Journal) from a conservative telling Mitt Romney he has to “go large” and get more radical and make the election a clear choice between the status quo and a “reform” agenda aimed at getting rid of the New Deal and Great Society and generally turning things upside down. That was hardly remarkable. What was interesting was that its author was Fred Barnes.

Unless he’s changed very lately, ol’ Fred is the ultimate loyal GOP foot soldier. I’m old enough to remember when he hadn’t taken the plunge into Republicanism, but was a confirmed conservative-evangelical anti-choicer, whose ultimate loyalities eventually drove him to a very predictable partisanship. Once Fred turned, he stayed turned, and he’s been the best friend any GOP pol could desire.

Back in 2000, when his Weekly Standard colleagues Bill Kristol and David Brooks were off on their “national greatness conservatism” bender with John McCain, it was Barnes who stuck with the conventional candidate Bush. I recall being at one of those bipartisan think-tank gab-fests in early 2004, and in mid-talk, Barnes’ cell-phone kept going off. “Karl Rove really wants to talk to you,” jibed one of the participants, and even Fred laughed.

So he’s just not the kind of guy who is likely to lob grenades into his “own” camp. And as recently as September 24, he was penning a column blaming Obama’s lead mostly on media bias and the power of incumbency.

His latest essay is a pretty clear sign that if Romney plays small-ball tonight, and it doesn’t work, the entire conservative media universe is going to start preparing itself to blame Mitt for an eventual loss due to his stubborn refusal to run as an updated version of Barry Goldwater. When you are a Republican presidential candidate and you lose Fred Barnes, you better hope you know something he doesn’t know.

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 October 03, 2012 3:00 PM:

    On the other hand, if Barnes is calling for a "go large" campaign, it's probably because he has his next column written, and Romney hit it out of the ball park.

  • Bort on October 03, 2012 3:08 PM:

    If Mitt loses, they will say it is 100% his fault. Remember, "center right nation", conservativism cannot fail, it can only be failed etc. He will disappear and will be left to dry his tears with all the money he has.

    Seriously, I wouldn't expect a lot of wingnut soul searching if he loses. Self reflection is for losers as far as they are concerned.

  • c u n d gulag on October 03, 2012 3:08 PM:

    Gee, Freddie, what's Mitt supposda do?
    -Turn on the charm offensive? Boy ain't got none.

    -Go into details? What? An' scare the womens, chillin's, and Grandmaw and Paw-Paw?

    -Let loose a couple of "zingers?" The man's got all the comedic ability of head cheese, and the timing of brick.

    So, what does, "Go big!" mean?
    Scream the N-word?
    Punch Obama in the face?
    Offer to pay everyone X number of bucks per vote?
    Pull his pants down, and moon the country?

  • Ronald on October 03, 2012 3:19 PM:

    "Mr. Romney appeared to be changing his strategy when he picked Mr. Ryan. The election would be a choice, but between two agendas, not two individuals. Mr. Ryan, as the Republican Party's foremost policy thinker..."

    Well, there's your problem.

    If Mr. Ryan passes as the foremost in policy thinking for the Republican Party then they really are in trouble.

  • stormskies on October 03, 2012 3:33 PM:

    I thought Fred Barnes was nothing more than one of those cheap rubber blow dolls with the mouth permanently open for all to fuck at will.

    What then comes our of his mouth is understood in the proper perspective.

    Just like David Gregory's mouth, and for the same reasons.

  • Steve LaBonne on October 03, 2012 3:45 PM:

    If there's anything at all between your ears, you know many things that Fred Barnes doesn't know.

  • max on October 03, 2012 4:35 PM:

    the entire conservative media universe is going to start preparing itself to blame Mitt for an eventual loss due to his stubborn refusal to run as an updated version of Barry Goldwater.

    They'll try and do that anyways, regardless. But I must say, I was pleased with the Ryan pick back in August because I figured Mitt couldn't avoid the suicide charge then. Ha ha ha. Mitt doesn't have the personality for that. Which means we're in a strong defensive position on the hill, with the advantage of numbers, and Mitt leads his troops around in circles in the dead ground at the bottom of the hill. And getting chewed to pieces by all the artillery fire.

    So for the third or fourth time in the campaign, if he doesn't go over to the attack, his troops threaten to desert him.

    It might be strategically advantageous if he decides to run out the clock here, since that means the R's will try the suicide charge in 2016. In that situation, if we have Hill, they're going to be screwed again.

    I think I'd prefer the suicide charge (on their part) now though. Less risky long-term.

    ['Mitt is no Edmund Ironsides, much less Alfred the Great. He'd be hard-pressed against Æthelred the Unready. These Wall Street goons, I swear.']

  • Doug on October 03, 2012 4:43 PM:

    I can only hope Romney DOES "go large"! It won't destroy the current incarnation of the GOP, but it WILL mortally wound it.
    And as that bunch doesn't believe in science...