Patterico's Pontifications

2/5/2008

McCain Smears Romney — Again

Filed under: 2008 Election,General — Patterico @ 12:48 pm



The Washington Times has the story:

On Fox News, Mr. Romney ridiculed a letter sent by Mr. Dole, of Kansas, to conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh. Mr. Limbaugh has attacked Republican front-runner, Sen. John McCain, of Arizona, and Mr. Dole wrote to the talk show host in Mr. McCain’s defense.

Mr. Romney said on Fox that Mr. Dole is ”probably the last person I’d would have wanted write a letter for me.”

“There’s a lot of folks who tend to think that maybe John McCain’s race is a bit like Bob Dole’s race,” Mr. Romney said.

Mr. McCain was on TV within hours, demanding that Mr. Romney apologize.

“I think Governor Romney should apologize to Bob Dole for that comment. He’s a great American. And for Governor Romney, who has never had any military experience, to disparage the service and courage of an American hero, I think is disgraceful,” Mr. McCain said on MSNBC.

How did Romney disparage Dole’s honor and courage? He didn’t. He just said Dole was a lousy candidate.

But Romney violated the Number One Law According To The Maverick: never say anything bad about a war hero — even if the criticism is legitimate, true, and has nothing to do with the hero’s military service.

John McCain has built his candidacy on enforcing that rule. He brings up his military service in every conceivable context, as a talisman against any criticism. Romney violated The Rule, and so Romney must pay. So McCain falsely claims that Romney was really criticizing Dole’s military service and courage.

The straight-talkin’ maverick’s statement is dishonest, self-serving crap. Raise your hand if you’re surprised.

I see no hands.

49 Responses to “McCain Smears Romney — Again”

  1. God I’m glad I put in for the Romney deligates…

    Scott Jacobs (3c07ad)

  2. Typical McCain misrepresentation.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  3. One of Romney’s biggest problems is that he lacks the art of finessing these sorts of things. Imagine Reagan, or even Dole himself, in this sort of situation. Either one of them probably would have diffused it with some sort of genial quip such as “I just don’t want the Republican candidate of 2008 to suffer the same fate that Bob Dole did in 1996.” Saying that Dole “is the last person I would want writing a letter for me” is taking it too far, and gratuitously maligning a guy who served the Republican party (if not quite the Conservative cause) for thirty years.

    My biggest concern with Romney is that at the end of the day he is too much the humorless technocrat that he often appears to be. I am sure the private man is warm, funny, and generous, but when we vote we only get to see the public man, and he isn’t proving to be all that adept at campaigning on a national scale.

    JVW (b03dfa)

  4. I agree with JVW, Romney probably didn’t mean to impugn Dole personally but it comes off that way and his clarifications didn’t really help any.

    chad (719bfa)

  5. Part of McCain’s fury, no doubt, is due to the fact that the comment hits very close to the bone. Dole is a war hero but made far worse attacks on other people when he was Jerry Ford’s VP nominee, another losing effort. I fear that McCain will be demolished by Obama as an old man with old ideas. Of course, we don’t know what Obama’s ideas are but they must be new since they are a mystery. This looks like 1976 and 1996 all over again.

    Mike K (f89cb3)

  6. Despite an arguably more productive and prolific legislative career, as a campaigner McCain seems little different from Kerry. Any substantive criticism is translated into “Don’t question my patriotism!” or it equivalent, when we are (and were, in 2004), questioning his judgment. Embarrassing for the GOP.

    RB (fbae5a)

  7. “its”…not “it”…shoulda proofed it better before hitting “submit”….

    RB (fbae5a)

  8. Don’t worry, RB, folks on this blog don’t generally get all Strunk & White on commentators.

    JVW (b03dfa)

  9. Can I raise my mitten?

    LaMano (fcd61d)

  10. I appreciate our military as much as anyone and all my charitable donations go to soldiers’ groups, fallen hero funds, etc. That said, I am sick unto death of this war hero cr@p!! Every time I hear it I think of Jf’nK. This is all McCain has to run on and I am turned off X 1,000. I will never, ever vote for that man.

    Peg C. (836973)

  11. I agree with Chad and JVW. If Romney is now the conservative great last hope perhaps the rest of us should expect him to be smarter than to fall into this kind of conflict. I just can’t quite see Kim Jong getting terribly concerned because Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham, Michelle Malkin or Rush Limbaugh run to the defense of an inept candidate such as Romney. “Leadership… the talk radio way”

    It is kind of sad to watch the conservatives going into self destruct mode. If Romney pulls off the comeback you won’t get too many moderates or independents to support him after the childish antics of the “base” in regards to McCain.
    They make the whining of the Dems after the 2000 elections seem almost mature.

    voiceofreason2 (590c85)

  12. Verbatim McCain quote:

    “I think there are a lot of folks who tend to think that maybe John McCain’s race is a bit like Bob Dole’s race — that it’s the guy who’s next in line, the inevitable choice” (emphasis added).

    The WashTimes version:

    “There’s a lot of folks who tend to think that maybe John McCain’s race is a bit like Bob Dole’s race,” Mr. Romney said.

    Saying Dole was an apparatchik given grace because he was “next in line” disparages his honor. The Washington Times is third-rate and classless.

    steve (bdafe4)

  13. Check out the Virginia caucaus fiasco–tell me McCain didn’t get even today? McCain’s temper will be the end of him. And I saw Dole last night and he appeared somewhat confused. He shouldn’t have gone on the program and shouldn’t have written the letter, nor have it leaked. Weak ass.

    Tregg Wright (9d1d01)

  14. #11

    I appreciate our military as much as anyone and all my charitable donations go to soldiers’ groups, fallen hero funds, etc. That said, I am sick unto death of this war hero cr@p!! Every time I hear it I think of Jf’nK. This is all McCain has to run on and I am turned off X 1,000. I will never, ever vote for that man.

    Comment by Peg C. — 2/5/2008 @ 2:21 pm

    I associate myself with your remarks. If being a war hero guaranteed good judgment and suitability to be Commander-in-Chief, Randy “Duke” Cunningham would be heading the GOP ticket instead of making license plates in PMITA prison.

    He was one of the most highly decorated United States Navy pilots in the Vietnam War, receiving the Navy Cross once, the Silver Star twice, the Air Medal 15 times, and the Purple Heart for wounds he received under enemy fire.

    Link

    capitano (03e5ec)

  15. “So McCain falsely claims that Romney was really criticizing Dole’s military service and courage.”

    Bad argument. McCain wins this round.

    He’s not saying Romney impugned Dole’s military service. Nothing about McCain’s remark implies that Romney said Dole was bad soldier or not a war hero.

    He’s trying to bolster Dole, a war hero, an American hero, lots of military service, etc.

    Watch the video again. McCain bolsters Dole. Then criticizes Romney for bashing his “service and courage.”

    As in, public service and courage to run for President in 1996. That’s no easy decision to make for anyone, especially against a popular incumbent like Clinton.

    I must stress. PLEASE WATCH THE VIDEO. McCain is on the up and up here.

    It’s very clear on the video that McCain isn’t accusing Romney of saying Dole was bad soldier in World War II.

    wt (ca1cea)

  16. As in, public service and courage to run for President in 1996. That’s no easy decision to make for anyone, especially against a popular incumbent like Clinton.

    Interesting and legitimate argument, wt. My only quibble is that I don’t know if it took that much “courage” for Bob Dole to run against Bill Clinton in 1996. Dole wanted to be President — indeed, had run before — and he undoubtedly knew that ’96 would be his last chance.

    JVW (b03dfa)

  17. #16 McCain is NOT on the “up and up”. Why did he bring up Dole’s service record if not to try and make it look like Romney was bashing a vet? Your splitting semantic hairs. You shouldnt have to do that if McCain was a real straight talker.

    chas (fb7ad4)

  18. Chas–

    No semantic hairs here.

    McCain is using the common tactic of bolstering. It involves increasing the popular value of a supporter, and politicians do it all the time.

    Say Mitt Romney wants to tout his National Review endorsement. He might point out its stellar commentary, its prescient analysis, and its position as a bulwark for conservative values.

    McCain is perfectly within his rights to do the same with Dole. He’s a war hero, he’s served his country. PLEASE WATCH THE VIDEO and you will see that this is obviously what McCain is doing.

    Then he chastises Romney for saying Dole “is the last person” he’d want to support him by writing a letter to Limbaugh.

    That seems like an eminently reasonable way to chastise a political competitor. He’s a hero. You’re not. You shouldn’t have said what you did about him.

    But to draw the conclusion that McCain is implying that Romney criticized Dole’s military service, i.e. saying he did a bad job in World War II, is obviously not what happened this morning.

    wt (ca1cea)

  19. steve wrote: Saying Dole was an apparatchik given grace because he was “next in line” disparages his honor.

    What “honor” are you referring to? The subject at hand is a Presidential nomination, which is totally separate from any accomplishments on the battlefield. The two have no connection.

    In 1980, Dole lost as running mate of Gerald Ford to Carter-Mondale. He unsuccessfully challenged then-VP G.H.W. Bush in 1988 after Reagan and Bush served two terms. After four years of Bush pere and four of Clinton after defeating Bush, it’s hard to argue that Dole was NOT “next in line” in 1996 as Romney suggests. Look at the field back then; Dole, Pat Buchanan (running for the first time for anything), Steve Forbes (ditto), Lamar Alexander, Richard Lugar, Phil Gramm, Alan Keyes (yeah, he’s been at this losing thing awhile), and Robert Dornan (a coal-mine canary in California).

    With the possible exception of Phil Gramm, not one of those other guys have anything approaching Presidential timbre. The GOP reached back eight years to promote someone who ran before and lost. Sound familiar?

    L.N. Smithee (b048eb)

  20. steve,

    It’s debatable whether the quote disparages Dole’s honor. I don’t personally think it does. But it’s beyond rational dispute that Romney did not question Dole’s service or courage, as John McSmear claimed.

    Could Romney have said it better? Sure. Does that give McCain the moral right to smear him? No.

    Patterico (cf19ac)

  21. The word “honor” is never uttered by McCain.

    That’s Patterico’s word, and used in Steve’s comment, but it’s not in the transcript. (Innocent mistake of mixing “honor” with “service.”).

    I’m not carrying water for Steve re: honor.

    But I do think there’s a legitimate argument that sticking it to Dole for running a losing campaign in 1996 could be construed as disparaging his public “service.”

    Seems pretty obvious to me.

    wt (ca1cea)

  22. wt – the fact that it isnt obvious to everyone is once again more proof of McCain’s lack of honor. He has continually engaged in dirty tactics against Romney. If he was really a “straight talker” no one would have to come behind to spin what he says.

    chas (fb7ad4)

  23. Chas–

    That’s a terrible standard. It has to obvious to everyone that McCain isn’t smearing Romney, or it’s “proof [that McCain] lacks honor.”?

    Then every politician is losing honor every minute of the day. Very few things are “obvious to everyone.”

    I’m not spinning. In four comments now I’ve begged people to PLEASE WATCH THE VIDEO.

    Once you do, it’ll be obvious McCain was entirely on the up and up on this one.

    wt (ca1cea)

  24. wt,

    You’re spinning like a top. Quote the whole sentence and then tell us “service” doesn’t mean military service.

    Patterico (cb3f7e)

  25. here’s what Romney said

    Governor Romney: “Well, it’s probably the last person I would have wanted to have write a letter for me. I think there are a lot of folks who tend to think that maybe John McCain’s race is a bit like Bob Dole’s race. That it’s the guy who’s the next in line. He’s the inevitable choice and we’ll give it to him and then it won’t work.

    here’s what McCain replied

    Governor Romney’s attack on Bob Dole is disgraceful, and Governor Romney should apologize. Bob Dole is a war hero who has spent his life in service to this nation and nobody has worked harder to build the Republican Party. Bob Dole deserves the respect of every American and certainly every Republican.

    McCain mentioning Dole being a war hero is muddying the waters. McCain always responds to criticisms w/ his version of the liberal defense “dont question my patriotism!!”

    As for the standard, the way I first worded it might be a bit high. I think what I really mean is to the average typical person it would be obvious. But McCain still fails that test repeatedly and has his spinbots out covering for him.

    chas (fb7ad4)

  26. Sure. Easy enough.
    “

    I think Governor Romney should apologize to Bob Dole for that comment. He’’s a great American. And for Governor Romney, who has never had any military experience, to disparage the service and courage of an American hero, I think is disgraceful,” Mr. McCain said on MSNBC.

    Same answer as before. Watch the video and it’s obvious.

    1. Romney isn’t a hero.
    2. Dole is.
    3. Romney shouldn’t disparage him.

    Wait, if you’re honestly saying that McCain was saying Romney impugned Dole’s military record, think about how obviously falsifiable that would be.

    McCain: Romney said Dole did a bad job during the Great War during the 1940’s.
    Romney: Uh. No.

    You’re (reasonable) reading of the transcript misses an essential part of the exchange.

    wt (ca1cea)

  27. McCain got his message across and let the listeners read into it what they would. As a top of mind connection, most readers would interpret service/honor in relation to McCain and Dole as referring to military service first and, if prompted, they might also acknowledge public service. To say otherwise is Clintonian.

    capitano (03e5ec)

  28. Calling something Clintonian is not a blanket trump card on each and every issue.

    You have to make persuasive arguments to back up your positions.

    This wasn’t a press release. This wasn’t a planned comment. This was McCain chiding Romney in response to a question in a morning interview.

    To say he 100% obviously meant to imply one thing while actually saying another is a little hard to believe.

    wt (ca1cea)

  29. wt: But I do think there’s a legitimate argument that sticking it to Dole for running a losing campaign in 1996 could be construed as disparaging his public “service.”

    Seems pretty obvious to me.

    Oh, really. So how does Dole’s heroism in World War II and the fact that Romney never served in the military just happen to pop up in a conversation about “public service,” something that Romney, as a former Governor, has a record of performing?

    I choose to believe you’re just lying, and that you’re not stupid enough to believe what you just wrote.

    L.N. Smithee (b048eb)

  30. I guess I’m that stupid then. Thanks for questioning my ethics though.

    I’ve already explained why McCain mentioned Dole’s status as an American war hero. To bolster him.

    And obviously he wanted to take a shot at Romney to contrast that bolstering with his current competition for the Republican nomination. Romney isn’t an American hero like Dole.

    This isn’t Clintonian. It’s Politics 101 guys. Bolster your supporters and minimize your competition.

    Do you honestly think every other politician, not just in this election, but in American history, hasn’t done this?

    wt (ca1cea)

  31. McCain’s focus was on the military – not the public service – aspects of Dole’s background, as evidenced by his use of the highlighted terms:

    And for Governor Romney, who has never had any military experience, to disparage the service and courage of an American hero, I think is disgraceful.

    If McCain’s point was Dole’s public service, he would have said this:

    And for Governor Romney, who has never had any public service experience, to disparage the service and courage of an American leader, I think is disgraceful.

    Of course, had McCain said that, it wouldn’t make any sense.

    DRJ (517d26)

  32. Do you honestly think every other politician, not just in this election, but in American history, hasn’t done this?

    Now that is very Clintonian!! “Everybody does it, come on, its not a big deal”

    chas (fb7ad4)

  33. “Bolstering” Dole by dragging in a reference to his military service in comparison to Romney is as our Brit cousins would say “too clever by half”. If he wants to draw comparisons in terms of “service” it’s his right, but it’s also the right of an objective listener to roll his eyes and say “there you go again”.

    For me, all it does is intensify my feeling [to go all Dem on you for a second] that McCain has many more similarities to ‘Bubba’ than is good for him. If it takes this contentious and long of a thread to parse his words…

    kaz (24ef8c)

  34. DRJ has it. McCain meant a cheap shot misrepresentation of Romney’s comment and that’s what he delivered.

    McCain’s never had the character for President in my opinion.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  35. Now that is very Clintonian!! “Everybody does it, come on, its not a big deal”

    Bad argument. Re-read my comment.

    If bolstering your supporters and minimizing your opponents is a smear, then you’ve drawn a line so skewed that no one can meet it, Romney included.

    I think I’m finished commenting — we should all start watching Super Tuesday coverage obsessively now — but I’ll leave with one last comment.

    In order to maintain the argument against me, you have to think McCain meant to say that Romney said Dole did a bad job in World War II. That’s his military (as opposed to public) service.

    The better interpretation is simply that McCain, on the spur of the moment, bolstered Dole and chastised Romney, contrasting the twos’ popular images.

    And I’ll plead with all of you one last time. Watch the video.

    Goodnight all. Thanks for letting me comment here.

    wt (ca1cea)

  36. wt, watched it. You fail to convince.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  37. You know, from the amount of threads (suddenly) slamming John McCain, one might think that you guys didn’t want him to win the nomination.

    Strange, considering that Romney doesn’t have snowball’s chance in hell of winning so much as the Pretty Face Prize come November.

    Also, remember when Kerry made that remark about “if you don’t go to school, you get stuck in Iraq”? I don’t remember anyone arguing that he should be given the benefit of the doubt (even thought he said it was a botched jab at Bush).

    Just saying.

    Leviticus (bd3479)

  38. after the childish antics of the “base” in regards to McCain.
    They make the whining of the Dems after the 2000 elections seem almost mature

    Patently wrong. Are we no longer allowed to have and express opinions?

    steve brings his standard fare.

    wt – Aren’t you dizzy? It is patently obvious that Johnny Mac reached for the Kerry “Don’t question my patriotism” card, by proxy with Dole. Straight talk would not require you to twist yourself into knots trying to explain away fairly plain English.

    JD (a11194)

  39. Leviticus,

    I argued that Kerry should be given the benefit of the doubt.

    Re Romney’s chances: I think any Democrat is likely to beat any Republican. But I can only guess; I don’t have a crystal ball. Seemingly, you do. Can I borrow it sometime?

    Patterico (51dfe3)

  40. wt – I went and watched it again, and you make ever less sense the second time around. Lying crap weasels …

    JD (a11194)

  41. McCain was acting on his nature – pit bull.

    Nothing McCain said absolves Romney for belittling Dole’s public service by implying his nomination was a seniority perquisite. It was tactless.

    steve (16aa8e)

  42. Romney did not belittle Dole’s service, public or private. He stated a fact.

    JD (a11194)

  43. This is like arguing with that person that claimed that telling the truth about someone can be a smear.

    JD (a11194)

  44. What fact did Romney state?

    That neither McCain nor Dole would have won without trading on a Congressional career begun in the wake of their battlefield sacrifices? Or that elder GOP statesmen too often garner unwarranted respect and name recognition taking their last laps on the national stage?

    steve (16aa8e)

  45. #45 – it would have to be the latter, Romney never said the former. and i agree, i think Dole got the nomination cause it was just his turn, no other reason.

    chas (fb7ad4)

  46. Romney doesn’t have snowball’s chance in hell of winning so much as the Pretty Face Prize come November.

    Um, I would say that in a race between Romney and Hillary, Romney would be a shoo-in for the Pretty Face Prize. It would be a toss-up against Obama, though — those are two nice-looking fellas.

    JVW (b03dfa)

  47. “Leviticus,

    I argued that Kerry should be given the benefit of the doubt.”

    – Patterico

    That’s true, you did. My mistake (although the general tone of that post was not defensive, if you’ll recall).

    “Re Romney’s chances: I think any Democrat is likely to beat any Republican. But I can only guess; I don’t have a crystal ball. Seemingly, you do. Can I borrow it sometime?”

    – Patterico

    Only if I can borrow yours… you know, the one that allows you to divine the exact intention of a politician’s press release, or to divine the exact intention/accuracy of the rebuttal (“The straight-talkin’ maverick’s statement is dishonest, self-serving crap”), or to divine the exact sentiments of your comment pool in regard to the aforementioned exchange (“Raise your hand if you’re surprised. I see no hands.”)… I mean, I see wt’s hand…

    Or, we could cut the crap and admit that we’re both engaging in the long-lived practice of “stating one’s opinion”; as fact, albeit, but not without a logical basis (in either case).

    Leviticus (3c99fc)

  48. Leviticus wrote: You know, from the amount of threads (suddenly) slamming John McCain, one might think that you guys didn’t want him to win the nomination.

    For which party?

    L.N. Smithee (e1f2bf)


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