January 7, 2008

Captain Head-Fake

Hatched by Dafydd

I have suddenly realized something sad about Michael Medved: He never was pro-Huckabee, as he appeared; I doubt he is now really pro-John McCain. What he has always been in reality... is an "Anybody But Romney" fanatic.

I now think he supported and defended Mike Huckabee only because Huckabee was Romney's chief rival in Iowa; and today, Medved has become John McCain's biggest fan only because McCain is Romney's chief rival in New Hampshire. What's sad is that there really is nothing in Romney's background, proposals, or current demeanor that would justify such desperate opposition, except for the one possibility that I prefer not to think (but am starting to be driven to wonder about): religion.

I certainly hope that's not what's driving Medved, but I have a hard time understanding his animosity otherwise. (It can't be Romney's so-called "flip flopping" for reasons discussed below. Of all people in the world, Michael Medved should be the last to object to a candidate making "right turns.")

What really convinced me was a caller to Medved's show today, and the host's non-response to the caller's challenge. Medved had gleefully noted that during one of the debates over the weekend (I think the Saturday debate on ABC), Romney said that his ads did not refer to the McCain's immigration bill as "amnesty." But during a talk-show appearance the next day, the host (Medved mentioned the name, but I've forgotten) played Romney's current ad -- which repeatedly referred to the bill as amnesty.

Medved has a point: Whether you think the bill was amnesty, as do most conservatives, or think it was actually more like a plea bargain (as I do), Mitt Romney was either lying, or he was irresponsibly endorsing commercials that he had not, in fact, seen.

But then Michael Medved took a call from a caller who offered a great "challenge": John McCain has repeatedly said that he does not now support, and never has supported, amnesty for illegal aliens. Yet a quotation surfaced last July, found and reported by Politico (hat tip to Patterico's Pontifications):

“Amnesty” now is a political dirty word – the favorite slur of the bill’s opponents. But it was not always thus. The Googling monkeys discovered that McCain himself embraced the term during a news conference a few years ago in his office in Tucson, Ariz. “McCain Pushes Amnesty, Guest-Worker Program,” reported the Tucson Citizen of May 29, 2003. The senator is quoted as saying: “Amnesty has to be an important part because there are people who have lived in this country for 20, 30 or 40 years, who have raised children here and pay taxes here and are not citizens. That has to be a component of it.” The newspaper also quoted McCain as saying: “I think we can set up a program where amnesty is extended to a certain number of people who are eligible and at the same time make sure that we have some control over people who come in and out of this country.”

From here on, what follows is an approximation of what the caller and Michael Medved said... a "squortation," my portmanteau neologism for "squirmy quotation," since I don't have a transcript. Therefore, I'm not putting anything I don't explicitly remember into "quotation marks;" I'll use 'single-quotes' instead:

'Well?' asked the caller; 'If you're going to call Romney a liar for saying he didn't call the McCain-Kennedy bill amnesty when he did -- shouldn't you also call McCain a liar for saying he never supported amnesty... when he did support it, explicitly, as recently as 2003?'

The caller even cited some talking head who read that quotation to McCain over the weekend during an interview. Yet later that same day, McCain repeated his claim that he had "never supported amnesty."

After some fumbling around, Medved finally responded thus: 'McCain's bill wasn't amnesty.'

The caller pointed out the irrelevancy of that response, which parrots what McCain says (today): 'It makes no difference whether you think the bill was or was not amnesty; what matters is that McCain explicitly supported amnesty in 2003, by name, and now says that he never supported amnesty. And said it after having been confronted with the very quotation. Isn't that just as big a lie as anything Romney has said?'

Medved: 'The immigration bill was not amnesty. I don't know why people keep saying it was!'

Medved then went on to say that this "lie" (note the actual quotation marks now), coupled with "Romney's repeated flip-flops," should probably sink the "plastic" Romney's candidacy.

Repeated flip-flops? Coming from a guy who, by his own admission (in writing!), used to be a leftist, anti-war radical and now calls himself a right-wing conservative, this is a bit thick.

If merely changing one's mind constitutes "flip-flopping," then does Medved consider himself a serial flip-flopper too? In my opinion, to be a "flip-flopper," you have to move from A to B and then back to A on some major issue of principle, shifting back and forth with every passing wind, like a weathercock.

Simply moving one time from A to B is not flip-flopping: It's evolving. It may be evolving in a conservative direction (like Mitt Romney) or a liberal one (like, say, David Brock); but it's not a John Kerry-esque flip-flop.

I've come to the reluctant conclusion that today, Medved simply will say anything to promote McCain over Romney in the New Hampshire primary. But wait; didn't he used to be willing to say anything to promote Huckabee over Romney in the Iowa caucuses?

What is the common theme here?

I find I haven't really been listening to Medved much lately; I'm put-off by his rudderless animosity and snideness towards any caller who supports Mitt Romney: Every pro-Romney argument is instantly dubbed a "Romney talking point," as if the caller must be receiving orders e-mailed from the former governor's campaign headquarters. I only tuned in today because I wasn't doing anything else at that moment. And lo! Within minutes, there he was, attacking Mitt Romney again... but this time not on behalf of Mike Huckabee, who has no chance in New Hampshire, but on behalf of John McCain, the only man with a good shot at stopping Romney.

I used to like Medved. I thought he had interesting things to say, a different perspective from the Christians who dominate talk-radio and even from his coreligionist, Dennis Prager. But recently, Michael Medved has become a crashing bore. I don't think I'll be listening to him in future.

Honestly, I think it a sad day when the Republican coalition turns on itself like a pack of cannibals... when a once-interesting conservative engages in a kind of self-immolation to stop Mitt Romney at any cost. It reminds me inescapably of the career sacrifice that comedian Mort Sahl committed in his efforts to destroy Richard Nixon; or more recently, what Al Franken and Garrison Keillor have done to their careers in order to stop Republicans generally.

It's the kind of thing I associate only with Democrats and sordid leftists; it troubles me that conservative Republicans (rather, neo-conservatives -- in the original sense -- like Michael Medved) are now aping the self-destructive strategies of their New Left counterparts.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 7, 2008, at the time of 5:08 PM

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The following hissed in response by: Watchman

I can't speak for Medved, but my concern with Romney is not that he has moved right, but that he hasn't moved anything but his rhetoric. If I were convinced that he means what he says now, I'd probably support him.

I'm a lifelong Baptist (who would vote for almost anybody over Huckabee) but my opposition to Romney isn't based on Mormonism. I'd vote for Orrin Hatch in a heartbeat, because he's a real conservative. I just don't see any reason based on actual record, as opposed to campaign speeches, to believe Romney is.

The above hissed in response by: Watchman [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 7, 2008 5:35 PM

The following hissed in response by: Towering Barbarian

Don't know amything about Mr. Medved beyond what you wrote, (Back in the 90s I pretty much dropped most TV and radio alike on the grounds of "not enough reading time!" and have seldom repented that decision), but I wonder how much of it may simply be that no matter how fervant the convert a bit of who they were still stays with them? If his conversion was a recent one then it might not be a surprise if he retains the instincts of his prior political culture. Certainly, the ad hominem "Romney Talking Points" cracks you seem to describe would seem to point in that direction since I saw enough of that from the Left on the Yahoo MBs with the minor difference that it was President Bush's name rather than Romney's being invoked.

That said, there's another slightly more disturbing line of thought that occurs to me as I type this; how much are we influenced by the people with whom we debate so that we subconsciously adopt their more "effective" tactics without knowing it? To put it another way, to what extent should all of us be on guard against the Darth Vader "To defeat me you must become me" Syndrome? :p

The above hissed in response by: Towering Barbarian [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 7, 2008 7:19 PM

The following hissed in response by: the count

Medved is a very conservative, religious Jew. He identifies with Huckabee. Romney stands in the way. So, Medved was very pro Huckabee in Iowa and is pro McCain in NH. Before Huckabee was 1st tier, Medved was somewhat pro Romney and anti McCain. So, it's about Huckabee, and not Romney.

The above hissed in response by: the count [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 7, 2008 7:32 PM

The following hissed in response by: Webloggin

I wholeheartedly agree. I had to turn Medved off this afternoon because of the reasons you mentioned above. (Thank goodness for ESPN radio)

Laura Ingraham on the other hand pointed out the z-visa provisions of McCain's amnesty bill this morning and was much more intellectually honest than Medved was being today. She even dug up a sound clip of McCain calling it amnesty himself.

Medved's stance on immigration has always been in contrast with the conservative party base, at least the grassroots touch on enforcement crowd. He does favor enforcing the border but he went out of his way to characterize those who were less moderate than himself on the issue as fanatical; pushing the argument that we can't deport 12 million illegals. Duh. As if that had ever really been the issue.

For the life of me though I can't understand his allegiance to McCain over Romney or Thompson other than the two are harder on immigration than Huckabee.

I don't think, hope, that religion is playing a part in Medved's stance here but he certainly seems to have some sort of bone to pick with Romney.

Medved also chastised Romney for going negative and looking backward instead of forward with a message of change. On this I partially agree but Romney has to defend himself against the underhanded Ed Rollins and Huckabee negativity. You know the kind, pretending not to go negative publicly which just coincidentally outs and emphasis on the negative message they "are not going to go with". What is Romney to do?

That is a strange argument for Medved to make anyway because McCain is the furthest thing from a candidate of change. Thus Medved's argument doesn't hold water on that count.

Too bad. I usually enjoy Medved's broad knowledge.

- trip

The above hissed in response by: Webloggin [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 7, 2008 9:45 PM

The following hissed in response by: Mutt

I will say one simple thing on why I don't like Romney. He was elected in a state that continues to elect Kennedy and on a sidenote Kerry. That alone makes me question any politician that can hold office in Massachusetts.

The above hissed in response by: Mutt [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 8, 2008 5:27 AM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


How are you on Rudy Giuliani? Mike Huckabee? Ronald Reagan?

I have looked fairly extensively at Romney's record in Massachusetts, reading both favorable and unfavorable accounts, and on the whole, I think he governed just about as conservatively as it was possible to do... in that state; it's not Oklahoma. In fact, Romney is considerably to the right of, say, John McCain on many issues, despite the fact that McCain hails from a state that is much more reliably conservative than Massachusetts.

To me, this sounds like the liberal "proof" that the media is biased towards the right:

  1. All of the major media are owned by (or are themselves) gigantic corporations;
  2. Gigantic corporations are all right wing;
  3. Therefore, the entire mainstream news media are all right wing;
  4. Ergo, all of the elite media news is slanted towards the right... QED!

The flaw in that argument is that they're trying to use a weird, untested proxy with many hidden assumptions -- instead of simply measuring the actual bias directly, which is clearly the "best evidence" approach.

I think you're doing the same here. Rather than directly measure Mitt Romney's conservatism, you are trying to use a strange proxy-metric instead... one you haven't proven reliably correlates to a candidate's actual position, and for which there are many counterexamples where it clearly doesn't.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 8, 2008 1:45 PM

The following hissed in response by: Geoman

I (for one) feel fortunate to have so many high quality candidates to chose from, every one of which enormously outshines Edwards/Clinton/Obama in both experience and accomplishment.

That said, I'd rather not have Giuliani. Or Huckabee. Thompson, McCain, or Romney work for me. Thompson doesn't have the cash or the fire to win. So it is McCain or Romney.

As to Romney, specifically, the problem is this. While it is an enormous accomplishment for a Republican to be elected Governor of Mass. (and govern successfully), and some people feel that the only way to achieve such a goal is to sell out to the liberals. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps. But I don't think so. Romney is a Republican technocrat. He is used to accomplishing things, rather than spouting rhetoric.

So that is the question - do we want something done, or do we want to stand on principal? You can make the case either way, I think. But I don't trust McCain or Giuliani or Huckabee on principal issues either, so the point is moot.

I actually know a few people who have worked with him in person. All have been very complimentary or him as both a manager and a human being.

We could do a lot worse.

The above hissed in response by: Geoman [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 8, 2008 3:10 PM

The following hissed in response by: Mutt

Reagan - Former actor, former Democrat and Governor of the country of California (joking), hard on communisim but soft of terrorists and yes I would question his politics with that resume. Saving graces was his belief in America, econimics that worked and his hardball approch to the former USSR. He address the the two major issues of the time is a postive mannor but let some of the smaller ones slip through the crack and festor.

Giuliani - Former Mayor of the state of New York City (It really should be its' own state), Lawyer, and Democrat in Republicain clothing on most issues except the current major issues in America. I question his politics but would still vote for him (barely) instead of against the Democrats.

Huckabee - Former Gov of the same state that produced Bill Clinton. Even though I am a conservative Christian, I have major doubts about him. The more I see of him, the more I question. Using religion as a selling point for poltical office doesn't sit right with me. Ones' journey with God shouldn't be used for earthly advancement.

Romney - As I said his association with Massachusetts is the intial flag and I have yet to see anything that lowers the flag enough to make me want to actually vote for him instead of against a Democrat.

one you haven't proven reliably correlates to a candidate's actual position, and for which there are many counterexamples where it clearly doesn't

His record (atleast to me) becomes murking and is directing associated with his term there. He may have been as conservating as possible but it doesn't look very consevative from my POV. Have I look as in deepth as possible into his record? Probbibly not but what I have seen doesn't inspire me to respond favorable. It is more of a neutral stance when I look at Romney. With what I do know about him, it doesn't overcome that strange proxy method. Since this was my first reaction to him, it is more than possible it has colored me against him.

and some people feel that the only way to achieve such a goal is to sell out to the liberals.

Sell out or possibly Clintonian, which can be so much worse than a sell out. I still think it is right to wonder how a conservative gets elected in liberal waters. They haven't changed. Atleast in California and Canada there was corruption and/or incompetance to spark a change.

(Written is spurts and too lazy to smooth out)

The above hissed in response by: Mutt [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 9, 2008 7:52 AM

The following hissed in response by: Mutt

One more thing. The difference (at least in my mind) between Romney and Giuliani, both were elected in liberal waters but Giuliani left NYC more conservative then when he took office. With Romney, Massachusetts is pretty much the same. Should Romney get credit from keeping an even tiller.

The above hissed in response by: Mutt [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 9, 2008 10:37 AM

The following hissed in response by: David H. Sundwall

I have been a long time listener of Medved. I even subscribe to his podcasts. But I am cancelling my subscription because he has become so intellectually dishonest about Romney.

It's fine that he's for McCain, althought I completely disagree with him. But I realized after listening to yesterday's (Wednesday's post-NH primary) show that he's even not so much pro-McCain as anti-Romney. He's hysterical.

As a Mormon, I have appreciated his knowledgable defenses of the LDS Church. I don't think he's anti-Mormon.

He really resents Romney's use of his money which he has needed to counter McCain's popularity or Huckabee's built-in Evangelical networks. It hasn't been effective and Medved takes a defintiive glee in that.

Medved isn't anti-Mormon but he's lost this Mormon.

The above hissed in response by: David H. Sundwall [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 10, 2008 8:02 AM

The following hissed in response by: Kent

I have to agree with David Sundwall. Medved has said enough sympathetic things about Mormons in the past that I don't think religion is the root of his animosity.

Nevertheless, I don't doubt there's animosity. It's just that the explanation probably lies elsewhere.

The above hissed in response by: Kent [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 10, 2008 9:43 AM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


Maybe Romney bears a striking resemblance to some bully that used to harass Medved back in junior high...


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 10, 2008 12:33 PM

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