MITT ROMNEY: MARRIED TO THE RIGHT-WING MOB
Here's the official narrative of today, as Mitt Romney would like you to understand it: a rogue rich guy was planning to unleash a distasteful, racially tinged attack on Barack Obama. Mitt Romney and his campaign (a) were surprised and horrified to learn of this gutter-level independent effort or (b) were the folks who secretly told The New York Times what was going on. Result: gutter campaign nipped in the bud. The effort to defeat Obama will remain high-minded from now on.
Except that, if Romney really doesn't want attacks of this kind to take place, stopping them is not going to be that easy. There are just too many crazy right-wingers with too many crazy ideas, and some of them have lots of money and/or media sense.
Even as this attack was prevented, we had a birtherite Breitbart post of a literary agent's brochure from 1991 that -- as the result of a then-assistant's mistake -- declared that Obama was born in Kenya. We had the Murdoch media's current pet author, Edward Klein, hinting that Obama was a Muslim when he met Jeremiah Wright. We had another GOP congressman going birther. And that's just in one news cycle -- months before the general election campaign gets under way in earnest. Does the Romney team think this is just going to stop?
Do you seriously think every right-wing gazillionaire has been cowed by what happened today? Here's something Josh Marshall wrote today about the thwarted plan to use Jeremiah Wright to beat Obama:
...the key is the strategist's claim, quoted in the Times, that the plan would "do exactly what John McCain would not let us do."
This is an old saw that's been going around for almost four years now. And I cannot tell you how many GOP operatives I've heard it from.
... If only the campaign or the RNC had prepped a few dozen commercials featuring Obama in a foot-wide-brim pink fur hat, maxing around with Jeremiah Wright and Weather Underground terrorists about to send his race army of ill-tempered rappers to shake down a few good white folk, the thinking goes, he would have just come apart at the seams.
That's most of what is behind the continued, and, in some ways, really passionately believed mantra on the right that Obama was never really 'vetted.' If we’d only said Kenya a few more times we could have done this thing!
You think that's over? It's not over. There are going to be Joe Ricketts-style attacks from now to November. And if Romney thinks they're going to be counterproductive, or at least a distraction, well, tough -- he signed on for this. This is what the GOP is now, and he wanted to be its nominee.
Will it hurt him? I'm not sure. The right is good at getting its base to believe that every liberal and Democrat is part of one huge hydra-headed beast, but Democrats never do that with the right, so Romney might be able to distance himself from the crazies well enough to win swing voters.
But even if Romney wins in November, he's never going to be rid of these people. If he's president, they're going to demand such lunacy -- arrests of outgoing administration members (including the president), torture of any terrorism suspect we capture, banning of all Muslims from commercial airliners ... who the hell knows what they'll demand? And even though I'm sure he's going to pursue extreme measures a la Scott Walker and the other 2010 Republican governors, I think he still might not be extreme enough for the crazies. And God help him if he ever gets thwarted or outmaneuvered by Democrats.
If he wins, I think he'll be held to such a high standard of wingnuttery that he'll almost certainly have a serious primary challenger backed by much of the looney-right establishment in 2016. Until then, he'll be like John Boehner, always protecting his right flank. And it will never be enough.