After last Wednesday’s debate, Team Santorum immediately suggested that Romney and Paul had cut a dirty deal to work together in the debates. Hence, we should ignore Santorum’s belly flop because the others cheated. Of course, Santorum has ZERO proof of this.
The following morning, Rush, who feigns neutrality in this race, ran with Santorum’s talking point. Only, Rush didn’t present it as a Santorum talking point, he claimed it as his own “epiphany.” Here’s what he said:
What I had detected, like an epiphany, all these debates I had never seen Ron Paul attack Romney, nor had I seen Romney attack Ron Paul. I saw Ron Paul attacking everybody else. . . .Let’s break this down.
The point is that there is an alliance between Ron Paul and Mitt Romney. This is what I have been remiss in not mentioning. So last night after the debate, I start doing show prep and I see all this stuff in the British press about Romney may be offering Rand Paul the vice presidency and I'm saying to myself, "I know I mentioned this in an e-mail to some of my friends.". . .
I'm not being critical here. I'm just pointing out something that is obvious. Romney is never criticized by Paul but Paul has criticized everybody else that has become the most popular not-Mitt of the moment. . . And, by the way, if you are a Romney guy and a supporter, you're thinking, "This is brilliant, a brilliant campaign tactic."
Whether it's true or not that there has been an actual meeting of the minds in conversations and strategy developed between the two guys, it is clear that there's a hands-off policy between Paul to Romney and vice-versa. Paul does not attack Romney. Ron Paul attacks every one of Romney's opponents; Romney doesn't attack Paul.
And so last night, we start seeing these stories in the British press. One of them, Toby Harnden, was that Ron Paul would be offered the veep slot. Then another one followed that and said maybe Rand Paul, and then Rand Paul put out a statement saying he would be honored to be Romney's VP. And that's when I said, "Damn it! Damn it, I wrote that e-mail on the 13th of January. I saw this, I knew what was happening, and I didn't say anything about it."
First, it’s not true. Ron Paul has attacked all the other candidates when he has attacked. By and large, however, he has not attacked anyone. Paul is an issues candidate who is there to talk about his issues. He mostly ignores the others. And when he has attacked, he has attacked each of the others as having a fundamentally flawed view of government. He has not omitted Romney from that. And his attacks on Santorum have been in response to Santorum attacking him as not a conservative.
Secondly, what Rush is doing is a standard smear tactic:
1. He argues in the conspiratorial. Indeed, the crux of his argument is this statement: “Whether it's true or not that there has been an actual meeting of the minds. . . it is clear that there's a hands-off policy between Paul to Romney.” Translate this logically: “whether it is true or not that there is a deal, there is a deal.” This is meant to mislead you by making it sound like Rush is only floating the possibility of a deal, when he is actually telling you the deal is a fact.
2. Then he suggests that this is more than mere speculation by telling you how it is being reported by others (i.e. the British Press). Except, the British Press were repeating what Santorum’s strategist said right after the debate. Basically, just like the MSM did with the Herman Cain smear, Rush is using the fact that an allegation has been reported as evidence of its being true. Then he doubles down by saying Rand Paul hasn’t rejected a VP slot, thereby implying Paul has affirmatively confirmed the deal.
Then he tries to confirm it himself by claiming that he told his brother about this back on January 13. This is the Herman Cain smear to the letter: (1) multiple people are repeating the same allegation so it must be true, and (2) I told my family before it hit the press, so it must be true. This is shameful reasoning.
3. Rush then misleads you further by suggesting that he’s not actually criticizing Paul or Romney for this deal, even though that’s exactly what he’s doing. Again this is meant to make Rush sound disinterested. But Rush isn’t disinterested. He supports Santorum, which is why he said this (which is now being used in Santorum mailers before a key primary): “Rick Santorum is ‘the last conservative standing’.”
And why he would say this about Romney:
“Something else I’m confident about saying: As hard-hitting and go-for-the-throat and take-no-prisoners as Romney’s going after Newt, he will not do this going after Obama. If you like Romney’s toughness in the way he’s taken out Newt, I’ve got a thing for you: He isn’t going to do that against Obama.”Even though Romney is the only candidate primarily targeting Obama, and even though Rush said this in 2008 about the man he now treats as a RINO:
“There probably is a candidate on our side who does embody all three legs of the conservative stool, and that’s Romney. The three legs of the stool are national security/foreign policy, the social conservatives and the fiscal conservatives.”What changed?
4. Third, note that nowhere does Rush mention that this is the same talking point Santorum’s people are spreading that very morning. Yet, this is the same man who often attacks the MSM for repeating Democratic talking points without pointing that out.
5. Nor does he mention that Romney and Paul both denied this. Nor does he give the more likely reasons for his (wrong) observations. Ganging up on the frontrunner has been the pattern throughout. Moreover, Paul strongly opposes Santorum’s brand of “conservatism,” (i.e. big government economic liberalism + neocon foreign adventuring + federal government intrusion in the bedroom). Also, it has been widely reported that Santorum has been entirely disrespectful of Paul. Those are all the likely reasons he attacked Santorum, not some dirty deal. But those don’t let Santorum claim he’s a victim of cheating.
But this issue goes beyond Romney/Santorum for me. For years, Rush excelled at rising above the smoke and mirrors and explaining genuine conservatism in a way that won people over. He did it with good will and good faith. But all that changed during the Bush administration when Rush began vehemently knee-jerk attacking anyone who dared to point out that Bush was not a conservative.
Since that time he’s been nothing but knee-jerk. He, like most of talk radio, jumped on every bandwagon he could find. He refused to vet people like Christine O’Donnell in Delaware, whose loss may be THE loss that keeps us from getting a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. He’s attacked everything the Republicans have tried to do, squandering every single long term opportunity just so he could scream loudest that he’s more conservative than those RINOs in Washington. Now he’s about to repeat the same mistake with the candidates because he won’t examine them with his mind rather than his ratings detector.
Conservatism needs better.
We are in the current problem precisely because people like Rush failed to vet candidates before the primary began. They went into this thing blind and without a plan, and have gone wherever the soundbites have taken them. They are stirring up the mob for no reason except ratings and he's no longer willing to take correct but unpopular stands. And that has brought us to this point, which should be the crowning moment of a new conservative age and instead has turned into a cluster-fudge of epic proportions.