Today We Are All Anonymous Numbskulls

Mark Helperin at Time:

Sarah Palin’s recent Web video making a pitch to conservative women may have again shifted the political spotlight to the former governor of Alaska, but more than a half-dozen other GOP hopefuls are toying seriously this summer with a presidential run.

Unlike four years ago, when presidential hopefuls from both parties were already halfway out of the gate, with conspicuous trips to New Hampshire and Iowa, competitive staffing and heavy courting of donors and party chiefs, Republicans are mostly staying true to their public pledges to focus on the midterms. Given the unusually late start, therefore, Palin isn’t falling meaningfully behind the organizational efforts of her potential rivals. And after Election Day, when the male candidates begin to seriously consider their options and announce their intentions, they will once again be reminded of Palin’s capacity to dominate the stage with her Internet communiqués, book-promotional efforts and TV appearances. (See photos of Sarah Palin’s life since the 2008 election.)

Some of the other would-be candidates and their senior advisers have known Palin over the years, primarily from her days as governor, but most have never met her or had a substantive talk with her. That is a strange situation, to say the least; it forces them to evaluate her without any direct insight into her strengths and weaknesses. But from afar, they increasingly believe she will either become a candidate for President or play a major role in the nominating process. (See photos of the fashion looks of Sarah Palin.)

Still, few express much regard for Palin’s ultimate chances. An adviser to Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and, by traditional standards, the putative 2012 front runner, says of Palin, “She’s not a serious human being.” Another Romney intimate warns, “If she’s standing up there in a debate and the answers are more than 15 seconds long, she’s in trouble.”

One of the most experienced Republican national political operatives in the country suggests that while Palin might be envied and sleek, she lacks the endurance required for a protracted nomination fight. “She’s like a cheetah. She can run really fast but not really long.” In the end, according to this school of thought about Palin, she is too polarizing to be seen as likely to beat Barack Obama, and Republicans will be too hungry in 2012 to risk nominating someone who could cost the party the White House — maybe even losing in a landslide.

Andy Barr at Politico:

In possibly the first inter-staff dust-up of the 2012 presidential race, an aide of Sarah Palin is hitting back at Mitt Romney’s camp for saying the former Alaska governor is “not a serious human being.”

A “Romney intimate” was quoted by “Time” magazine’s Mark Halperin in a Thursday column as saying that Palin could not withstand the rigors of a presidential campaign.

“If she’s standing up there in a debate and the answers are more than 15 seconds long, she’s in trouble,” the Romney intimate said.

An additional Romney adviser was quoted as saying the former Massachusetts governor’s team is not intimidated by a possible Palin run. “She’s not a serious human being,” the adviser said.

Asked about the comments by POLITICO, a longtime Palin aide unloaded on Romney’s staff.

“It shocks me that anyone would try to do that,” the aide said. “You’d think we’d all be working together toward a common goal — that being 2010 — and that should be the focus right now. Those who try to claim the mantle of Reagan would be good to follow one of his most sacred tenets.”

“For Washington consultants to sit around and personally disparage the governor anonymously to reporters is unfortunate and counterproductive and frankly immature,” said the aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Well, all I can say in response to that is welcome to big time politics, buddy.

It’s fairly obvious that anyone who runs against Sarah Palin, assuming she ever runs for anything ever again, is going to hit her on her relative lack of experience and her disengagement with issues beyond repeating platitudes — something that can be seen fairly evidently in this recent appearance on The O’Reilly Factor. And if the Palin camp thinks that this little comment from an anonymous Romney aide is “disparaging,” just wait for what the media and the Democrats are going to put her through.

If Palin runs, she sure isn’t going to get a coronation.

Philip Klein at The American Spectator:

Last month, Romney had flattering things to say about Rudy Giuliani in a USA Today op-ed and I noted at the time that it appeared the former Massachusetts governor was trying to avoid a problem he had in 2008, which is that he was the most disliked candidate among his rivals, leading to an “everybody vs. Romney” dynamic by the time primaries rolled around. This is one of the factors that helped John McCain get nominated. Clearly he’s trying to win over — or at least diffuse tensions with — prominent Republicans.

Ed Morrissey:

I don’t think Romney really wants the debate to go there at this moment.  Right now, he should get his team focused on the midterms and let 2012 wait until at least 2011.

Update: Right on time, Gallup polls Republicans and Americans in general on favorability among the perceived 2012 contenders.  Among Republicans, Palin gets a 76/20, while Romney gets a 54/19.  In general, Palin’s slightly underwater at 44/47 (and has the highest levels of both favorability and unfavorability), while Romney gets a 36/28.  At least as a candidate and an activist, Palin should be taken seriously by Romney.

Update II: Mitt Romney tried to call a truce in the sniping war with this message on Twitter at around 11:30 am ET: “TIME says unnamed advisors disparaged @SarahPalinUSA. Anonymous numbskulls. She’s proven her smarts; they’ve disproven theirs.”  Hopefully, that will settle things down.

David Weigel at Andrew Sullivan’s place:

The heart-achingly moronic “spat” between Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney tells us how. The rundown, if you can stand it:

THURSDAY: Anonymous aides to Mitt Romney tell Mark Halperin that Palin is “not a serious human being” and will be in trouble in a debate where the “answers are more than 15 seconds long.”

FRIDAY, 6:47 a.m.: Politico’s Andy Barr publishes comments from “a longtime Palin aide,” who gets eight paragraphs to unload on Romney and pump up his/her boss: “She’s not a finger-in-the-wind kind of leader.”

FRIDAY, 10-something a.m.: Romney’s Twitter account (written by him? written by someone else?) friendly-fires on the first aides as “anonymous numbskulls.”

How many people were directly quoted in this spat? None, unless you count the Romney Twitter account. Andy Bar hustled in getting those quotes from Mysterious Palin Aide of the Deep, but his talent is wasted when he plays kid who whispers the gossip about the popular kids to the less popular kids. It’s stuff like this that informs my dark, dark suspicion that 2012 will be more about nonsense than policy, and that people who think Palin needs to bone up on policy don’t get this.

John Dickerson at Slate:

On Friday, Mark Halperin published a column in Time that quoted an anonymous Romney adviser knocking Palin as not unserious. The story was burning through the political Twitter world until @MittRomney tweeted: “TIME says unnamed advisors disparaged @SarahPalinUSA. Anonymous numbskulls.She’s proven her smarts; they’ve disproven theirs.”

Smart move, Governor. It’s too early to get into an anonymous battle with Palin. As an adviser to another 2012 Republican hopeful put it when presented with an opportunity to bash another member of the party, “We’re in the business of making friends.” There’s no upside in knocking Palin, who may not run for president but will certainly be in a position to influence a lot of voters. Romney also wins stylistic points for use of the word “numbskull,” an awfully voicey choice for a candidate who can seem wooden.

In the end, all of this jockeying may have the same marginal affect on the race that road sign jockeying does. But it’s clear that the candidates are taking it seriously as a way to get around the traditional media or present themselves in ways that the traditional media pick up quickly.

The downside to all of this lightning quick, context-free communication seems easier to see. Gingrich proved it when he fired off a blast about Sonja Sotomayor being a racist several months ago. He had to retreat from his remarks from his remarks, but if he ends up running as a national candidate in states with a Hispanic electorate, he’ll probably be asked about that tweet again by the press and his opponents.

There will also come a time when candidates like Romney don’t want to knock down the anonymous quotes in the press. All candidates find it useful to have messages conveyed anonymously without having to own up to them. When this happens, and reporters ask questions, reporters are told the candidate is too busy to sit for an interview and simply can’t answer every claim made by an anonymous source. But now with such a low bar—who doesn’t have time for a 140-character response?—it will be harder for candidates to hide.

Juli Weiner at Vanity Fair

Wonkette:

Apparently everyone decided yesterday was the start of the 2012 presidential election, and Mark Halperin of Time (or as Politico calls it, “Time” magazine, snarkily) reported that a “Romney intimate” (GROSS!) does not believe Sarah Palin is a “’serious human being,” correctly. So Politico called up a Palin intimate (ALSO GROSS), and that person does not like these comments at all! The person called it “frankly immature,” and probably knows something about frank immaturity, being a “longtime Palin aide.” And thus we have an election on our hands.Halperin:

Some of the other would-be candidates and their senior advisers have known Palin over the years, primarily from her days as governor, but most have literally never met her or had a substantive talk with her. That is a strange situation to say the least; it forces them to evaluate her without any direct insight into her strengths and weaknesses.

Perhaps it’s best not to assume she is able to do things such as “substantive talk,” candidates.

Still, few express much regard for Palin’s ultimate chances. One adviser to Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, and, by traditional standards, the putative 2012 frontrunner, says of Palin, “She’s not a serious human being.” Another Romney intimate warns, “If she’s standing up there in a debate and the answers are more than 15 seconds long, she’s in trouble.”

Sounds about right. But “frankly immature!” Take it, Palin aide:

“It shocks me that anyone would try to do that,” the aide said. “You’d think we’d all be working together toward a common goal — that being 2010 — and that should be the focus right now. Those who try to claim the mantle of Reagan would be good to follow one of his most sacred tenets.”

Selling arms to Iran? Funding the contras?

“For Washington consultants to sit around and personally disparage the governor anonymously to reporters is unfortunate and counterproductive and frankly immature,” said the aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Haha, nice attribution there, Politico: “who spoke on condition of anonymity.” How dare that person SIT AROUND and be anonymous?

The Palin adviser also jabbed at Romney for having changed some of his positions and suggested that Romney does not have full “control” of his team.

But perhaps this is not the cat fight of the century YET. Romney tweeted this:

“Anonymous numbskulls” may sound tame, but that is a major burn for a Mormon.

Jim Newell at Gawker:

20+ more months of this, folks.

UPDATE: Daniel Larison

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2 Comments

Filed under Political Figures, Politics

2 responses to “Today We Are All Anonymous Numbskulls

  1. Dan

    The facts are basically irrefutable. I’m getting REALLY sick of the left playing the politics of division and trying to tear conservatives apart. Mitt and Sarah have both been relatively close and certainly cordial for years now. No matter which one of them wins the nomination in 2012, I have no doubt that the other will do whatever they can to help the other become president. We’re all on the same team and both camps of supporters need to remember that!

    Get beyond the spin at http://mittromneycentral.com/2010/07/18/romneys-supposed-women-problem-you-be-the-judge/

  2. Pingback: What We’ve Built This Weekend « Around The Sphere

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