Two big names in the media who are definitely going to vote for Mitt Romney have taken shots at Romney this week. Yesterday it was Rupert Murdoch, whose New York Post was used to humiliate Romney: a cover story claimed that convention keynote speaker Chris Christie turned down the VP slot because he believes Romney will lose. Today it's David Brooks going all Andy Borowitz on Romney:
... Mitt Romney was born on March 12, 1947, in Ohio, Florida, Michigan, Virginia and several other swing states. He emerged, hair first, believing in America, and especially its national parks. He was given the name Mitt, after the Roman god of mutual funds, and launched into the world with the lofty expectation that he would someday become the Arrow shirt man.The column goes on and on in this vein. It's gentle. None of Brooks's jokes will really leave a mark -- what stings is the fact that the column exists at all. What Brooks seems to be saying to Romney is For crissakes, lighten up! Have a sense of humor about yourself! Tell some jokes at your own expense! Otherwise, you're going to lose -- we're going to lose! That's what motivates Brooks to use liberal and Democratic punch lines against Romney.
Romney was a precocious and gifted child. He uttered his first words ("I like to fire people") at age 14 months, made his first gaffe at 15 months and purchased his first nursery school at 24 months. The school, highly leveraged, went under, but Romney made 24 million Jujubes on the deal....
The Post article is far nastier, but that's Murdoch -- he supports Romney, but thinks Romney is a weakling who won't fight like a real tough guy (y'know, like Murdoch):
Romney people upset at me!Of course I want him to win, save us from socialism, etc but should listen to good advice and get stuck in!— Rupert Murdoch(@rupertmurdoch) July 2, 2012
And he has a mancrush on Christie, not Romney:
Mr. Murdoch has never been particularly impressed with Mr. Romney, friends and associates of both men say. The two times Mr. Romney visited the editorial board of The Journal, Mr. Murdoch did not work very hard to conceal his lack of excitement. "There was zero enthusiasm, no engagement," said one Journal staff member who was at the most recent meeting in December....Both Murdoch and Brooks see Romney as a guy who, when you mock or humiliate him, just takes it -- or modifies his behavior in a desperate attempt to please you. That's the guy they want to be our next president? Well, yeah, it is -- they think he can be pushed around (gosh, I wonder what gave them that idea) and they're the guys to do it.
Along with Roger Ailes, chairman of Fox News, Mr. Murdoch urged Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey to run. Both men admire Mr. Christie's gusto and toughness -- a sharp edge they have themselves. "He really wanted Christie," said one of Mr. Murdoch's friends. Mr. Ailes, a former campaign strategist for Richard M. Nixon and Ronald Reagan, shares Mr. Murdoch's disdain of how the Romney campaign is being run, telling people privately that it is too soft.
Murdoch, I suspect, doesn't really think Romney has much of a chance this year (and absolutely thinks Christie does four years from now), but he assumes that showing up Romney's weakness isn't going to make Romney look any weaker than he looks now, and might toughen him up enough to get him a victory. Of course, Murdoch's definition of "toughened up" is "prepared to do whatever Murdoch wants" -- an odd notion of personal integrity and backbone.
This is all an intramural variant of Josh Marshall's bitch-slap theory of American politics. In this case, it's not Republicans demonstrating that a Democrat is too weak to fight back -- it's about demonstrating that with regard to their own guy. They're doing it not because they want him to lose, but because they want to be the ones who can claim they shoved him across the finish line -- at which point he'll owe them.
UPDATE: Noah Pollak solves the riddle of the David Brooks column:
He's right -- here's the career-making column in question, which Brooks wrote as an undergraduate about William F. Buckley.