June 15, 2015

Mitt Romney steps up to the role of keeping Republicans from attacking Republicans.

From yesterday's "Meet the Press":
CHUCK TODD: There have been some reports that you and Sheldon Adelson, the big, Las Vegas casino mogul, that you want to avoid a repeat of the primary chaos you went through in 2012. What does that mean? What was the chaos of 2012 that you don't want to see repeated for the Republican field in 2016?

MITT ROMNEY: Well, I think that's a comment I'll make very broadly, which is I think it's harmful in a process if you have Republicans attacking Republicans. And so I think it's very effective if instead we can talk about the differences between our views to help people in the middle class and help the poor versus the views in our opposition, as opposed to going after one another. And I'm not saying I was perfect in that regard either. But going back to Ronald Reagan's 11th commandment, that kinda makes a lot of sense for our party.
Embedded in Romney's answer is an assumption that Republicans did go too far attacking Republicans in the 2012 primaries and unwisely burdened the Romney campaign. When you think about that now, what do you remember? What hurt him? What stifling of vigorous debate would — in retrospect — have been a better idea? I have trouble calling to mind anything specific. I asked Meade, and he came right up with this:



By the way, Reagan's "Eleventh Commandment" has its own Wikipedia page:

While popularized by Reagan, "The Eleventh Commandment" was created by then California Republican Party Chairman Gaylord Parkinson. In his 1990 autobiography An American Life, Reagan attributed the rule to Parkinson, explained its origin, and claimed to have followed it:
The personal attacks against me during the [during the primary in the 1966 campaign for Governor of California] finally became so heavy that the state Republican chairman, Gaylord Parkinson, postulated what he called the Eleventh Commandment: Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican. It's a rule I followed during that campaign and have ever since.
The goal was to prevent a repetition of the liberal Republican assault on Barry Goldwater, attacks which contributed to Goldwater's defeat in the 1964 presidential election. East Coast Republicans like Nelson Rockefeller labeled Goldwater an "extremist" for his conservative positions and declared him unfit to hold office....

Reagan followed this "commandment" during the first five primaries during the 1976 Republican primary against incumbent Gerald Ford, all of which he lost. He abandoned this approach in the North Carolina Primary and beat Ford 52–46, regaining momentum and winning a majority of delegates chosen after that date. Former Texas governor John Connally speculated that Reagan's attacks weakened Ford in his contest with his general election opponent and eventual successor, Jimmy Carter.
So that's how we got Jimmy Carter!

29 comments:

Big Mike said...

Debate and discuss the ideas, but don't attack the person. What's so hard about that?

Brando said...

A lot of it has to do with the attitude GOP candidates take towards one another. There seems to be a "damn the consequences" vibe to the attacks--calling Romney a "vulture capitalist" and Perry saying it was "heartless" to oppose his immigration policies. While the Democrats could play dirty with one another (Hillary's sycophants playing the "birther card" against Obama) you don't see them really get as nasty towards one another as the GOPers do in their primaries. It's as though the Dems recognize that much as they want to win, they would rather their opponent be president than someone from the other party.

Plus, among the long shot GOP candidates, there is an element of "maybe with some newsy lines I can make my later book deal more lucrative".

I don't see anything process-wise that can change this--if they want to tear each other down there's no real way to stop them.

Brando said...

"Debate and discuss the ideas, but don't attack the person. What's so hard about that?"

Sounds easy in theory, but the line between attacking someone's positions and tearing them down as a candidate is subjective.

Bay Area Guy said...

Former Texas governor John Connally speculated that Reagan's attacks weakened Ford in his contest with his general election opponent and eventual successor, Jimmy Carter.

So, that's how we got Jimmy Carter!


--------------------------------------------------

I think that's right. Due to the aftermath of Watergate and Ford's pardon of Nixon, Carter was ahead by 20 - 30 points for most of the Summer of 1976.

But Ford stormed back. He fended off a major challenge by Reagan, he closed the gap to within 2, but he couldn't quite get over the hump. He lost all the Confederate states, except Virginia, to Carter.

Some say that had Reagan accepted the VP slot (I think Ford offered it), then that might have carried the day.

In 1980, the exact thing happened in reverse: Teddy Kennedy beat up on Carter in the primaries so badly, that Reagan benefitted from this in the General.

Because of these raucous primaries, I think for years, Ford disliked Reagan and Carter disliked Kennedy.

Carter was a disaster as President, but without him there'd be no Reagan.

Jon Burack said...

I wish Romney well. I am not hopeful the Republicans will take heed. What's needed, though it sounds somewhat contradictory, is some harsh talk about the sources of harsh talk. The key source has been the carnival-barking talk radio right and its manifestations in the Tea Party mentality of righteous indignation and semi-paranoid contempt for all opponents. This listen-to-your-own-side-only mental prison is one the left is in as well. It is a central disease of our age. No aspect of public issues fails to get turned into red meat for the various meat grinders. And all too many of the Republican candidates, even while vowing a more moderate approach, fail to condemn the red-mean generating sources on the right that they continue to kowtow to. I am not that big a fan of Jeb Bush, but his readiness to defend Common Core, a perfectly reasonable and even tepid educational reform effort, and his refusal to bow to the imperious Norquist and his straight-jacketing tax pledge nonsense, is the only candidate I see who has actually stood against the real source of the attack mentality on the right. Until the Rush-Laura-Beck-etc. juggernaut and their imitators in the right-wing blogosphere (comments sections especially) are put in their place, the damage will continue.

In point of fact, neither party has yet come even CLOSE to a program and a set of guiding ideas that give any hope of lifting America out of its doldrums in the globalized setting we now find ourselves in. At a time when intellectual understanding is actually very tentative and muddled, we are surrounded by the semi-informed who "are full of passionate intensity" they have not earned any right to.

Big Mike said...

@Bay Area Guy, by the end of Carter's term mortgage rates were near 15% and people could not sell their houses if required to relocate because of their job. Inflation was running near 13%. The poverty rate during his term went from 11% to 15.2% And the median family income declined by 10%, with the worst declines coming among the working poor.

It didn't require Ted Kennedy's candidacy to beat Carter.

Tank said...

My recollection is that Romney's ads were the worst at attacking and unfairly smearing other candidates. He has the right idea, but is the wrong guy to make the argument.

Fandor said...

Big Mike, Brando and Bay Area Guy all make good points.
Mitt Romney is correct to evoke Reagan's 11th commandment.
No one need support an opponent's view on an issue but neither should he viciously attack another's character because of it.
In 2008, McCain and Giuliani were responsible for providing the vitriol against Romney and Paul respectively in those Republican debates. Last time around, in 2012, Rick Santorum and Perry provided the acrimony directed at Romney.
Going back to 1980, George H.W. Bush was a nasty sounding campaigner in the primaries. He coined the phrase "voodoo economics" in his attempt to undermine Reagan's growing support.

Of course, my hope is that by the time we arrive at the convention next summer, the unanimous support of the Republican party is behind the best man who can defeat the democrats and turn this country around. I still believe that man is Mitt Romney. I hope he gets back in, if he really isn't already.

Brando said...

"It didn't require Ted Kennedy's candidacy to beat Carter."

Kennedy may have been a symptom rather than a cause of Carter's problems in 1980--liberals had largely soured on Carter, and they made their distaste known by backing Kennedy in the primaries and then John Anderson in the general.

But Reagan's campaign would not have had much traction if the country wasn't ready to dump Carter in 1980.

F said...

Fandor: Or woman.. .

sinz52 said...

Couple of historical corrections:

In 1976, what doomed Ford's candidacy in the end was his disastrous "No Soviet domination of Eastern Europe" gaffe in the debates with Carter. It solidified the public's perception of Ford as a moron. And the debates were so close to the election that Ford was unable to recover.

John Burack believes that the vicious partisanship of the GOP and Dem bases is all their fault. In fact, it's a true reflection of the self-segregation of the American electorate.

The collapse of the New England GOP and the virtual extinction of white Southern Democrats has left the GOP much more conservative, and the Dems much more liberal, than in years past.

This has been confirmed by actual studies of objective measures. There has been a sharp decline in the percentage of bills introduced in Congress with bipartisan co-sponsorship, for example.

Also, there has been a sharp increase in the percentage of so-called "landslide districts": Congressional districts where one party always wins by a sizable margin. The percentage of true swing districts has declined sharply.

Americans always liked to live in communities and states that shared their values. But now that the culture war has become part of politics, Americans are increasingly living in communities and states that share their political views too and vote for the same candidates too.

DWPittelli said...

"Debate and discuss the ideas, but don't attack the person. What's so hard about that?"

But sometimes attacking the person is also important. We aren't just debating policies, we are debating who would best be President, so an attack on the candidate's fitness for office does not fall under the ad hominem fallacy. Take Hillary Clinton (... please!). A Democrat (or a Republican) ought to be able to point out that she isn't just wrong on policy, she is personally corrupt, that pardons for cash (and for Senate votes) was part of her legacy as much as Bill's, and that taking 6- and 7-figure bribes (oops, donations to her slush fund charity, and speaking fees) from foreign governments while you are making major decisions in their favor is unacceptable, and shows that she is too corrupt to be a decent President.

Writ Small said...

Besides personal attacks, the worst are attacks that fit the left-wing narrative. When Perry ran the "vulture capitalism" attacks and Gingrich did likewise, real harm was done.

NotquiteunBuckley said...

"I think it's harmful in a process if you have Republicans attacking Republicans."

I think the tree of liberty needs blood so it doesn't die.

That being said, all GOP voters should look at Paul Ryan begging to raise taxes on small business and consider how much smarter Garage and Robert and Inga are than you.

The Leftists don't humiliate their base on a regular basis, making Leftists winners and admirable, like suicide can be.

Michael K said...

"Until the Rush-Laura-Beck-etc. juggernaut and their imitators in the right-wing blogosphere (comments sections especially) are put in their place, the damage will continue. "

Spoken like a Rockefeller Republican. Beck is not mainstream but the others are. The Tea Party is the future of the GOP and the elites know it.

Gingrich was the worst offender in 2012 and someone said his campaign was a plane ticket and attacks on Romney. The Gingrich attacks were the source of the Democrat ads, just as the Hillary campaign was the source of the "birther issue."

Bushin 1980 originated the "Voodoo economics" slur but it didn't touch Reagan except with people who were not going to vote for him anyway. It made Bush look foolish to the GOP base.

If the GOP can't beat Hillary this time, Maybe it should just give up.

Thorley Winston said...

Of course, my hope is that by the time we arrive at the convention next summer, the unanimous support of the Republican party is behind the best man who can defeat the democrats and turn this country around.

That’s my hope as well although if someone like Governor Nikki Haley gets in the race, I’d be open to getting behind the best woman ;)

bbkingfish said...

After you, my dear Alphonse.

narciso said...

Romney outspent his primary rivals sometimes 50/1 with Newt, 10/1 with Santorum, yet when it came to Obama, he was a basenji, why do you think that was?

Bay Area Guy said...

If you look at the Gallup polls in Oct 1976, though, despite all the bad economic news, Carter and Reagan were still neck and neck -- old Jimmah even had a slight lead.

Reagan did not seal the deal, until the famous debate, which, without googling, I recall was a week or so before the election.

Also, don't forget that many disenchanted liberal Dems voted for John Anderson (he got 10%).

Factors that caused Jimmy Carter to lose:

1. Bad economy
2. Bad foreign policy
3. Kennedy primary challenge
4. Reagan's godliness
5. 3rd party run by John Anderson
6. Botched rescue of Iran hostages
7. Killer rabbit mockery.


How's that?

DavidD said...

I don't see how any Republican could've defeated Kennedy's ghost in '64; likewise, I don't see how any Republican could've overcome Watergate in '76.

I think the Democrat party could've run anyone in either election and won, regardless of who was on the Republican ticket.

Are there any other recent elections where this, or its opposite, would be the case?

One parting question: Is the modern Democrat party now so immune to scandal such that Hillary is a lock, regardless?

Jon Burack said...

Michael K
"Spoken like a Rockefeller Republican."

It's evidence of how skewed our politics has become and a perfect proof of my point that calling someone as "Rockefeller Republican" is supposed to dispose of anything and, I gather, dismiss it.

"Beck is not mainstream but the others are. The Tea Party is the future of the GOP."

Beck has his own unique forms of paranoia and his own array of conspiratorial gambits to gin up his audience with for the sake of his sponsors. Common Core was for a time the most important threat to the life blood of the republic for him, but lately he seems to be on to other most important threats, every one as dire as the one just dropped. Got to keep feeding the beast, I guess. For Laura its all about immigration (and everything else is tied to that also). Whatever. Distinctions without a difference. As to the Tea Party, I do not deny it may be the GOP's future. It just will never be the nation's. It simply has no program by which to govern and would fall apart in months if it had to.

Anyway, if it matters, I am not a Rockefeller Republican. I'd much prefer Richard Nixon, FDR, Truman, Ike or Ronald Reagan. "We could use a man like [any one of those] again." Those were the days - and just maybe they might come again.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Writ Small said...
Besides personal attacks, the worst are attacks that fit the left-wing narrative. When Perry ran the "vulture capitalism" attacks and Gingrich did likewise, real harm was done.

Yes, exactly correct. Sorry to bang the Media bias drum again, but the real problem isn't attacking a fellow Repub, it's attacking a fellow Repub in a way the Media approves. It was Clintons team who went Birther on Obama, but it didn't hurt Obama because the Media didn't approve of that attack. When Repubs attack fellow Repubs with Media-approved (which means, obviously, Leftist) narratives they're basically doing the Dems work for them.
When you already start off at a significant (Media) disadvantage, it's not a good idea to help the other side.

Brando said...

"I don't see how any Republican could've defeated Kennedy's ghost in '64; likewise, I don't see how any Republican could've overcome Watergate in '76."

The decks were stacked for the Dems those years (also economy was good in '64, and LBJ had deftly secured each wing of the broad Democratic party that year) but the GOP (with the benefit of hindsight) could have done better in both. Goldwater was an especially poor candidate--not just because he was at the far end of his party, but he just didn't have great retail political skills. His libertarianism would have been a hard sell that year, but he wasn't a very good salesman for it. One reason Reagan became popular that year (when he promoted the Goldwater ticket) was people wished Goldwater could sell the message as well as Reagan could. But I agree that year would have been hard for any GOPer. In '76, the economy was a bit better than say '74, but scandal and 8-year itch made Ford weak, and he did make some gaffes (notably the debate). But he still came remarkably close.

"Are there any other recent elections where this, or its opposite, would be the case?"

I'd say 1968 was heavily stacked against the Dems--riots, Vietnam, 8-year itch and LBJ divided the party pretty bad. 1980 was also stacked against them, just as 2008 was stacked against the GOP. 2016 looks like a push--economy so far doing okay, but lots of squeeze on lower classes (as Dems point out); 8-year itch again; GOP fairly divided but perhaps desperate enough to unite behind a decent candidate. I can't remember a time (except maybe 2000) where I was so unsure how it would turn out.

"One parting question: Is the modern Democrat party now so immune to scandal such that Hillary is a lock, regardless?"

On the Democratic nomination? It certainly looks that way. A lot of liberals and moderates will be holding their noses while voting for her, unless the GOP candidate is skilled enough to make the former decide to stay home and the latter vote GOP. In which case I'm sure the Dems next cycle will decide that personal honesty is an important criteria in a candidate.

n.n said...

Good for Romney. It's insane to fight the war for the enemy, competitor, etc. While I wouldn't go so far as to Democratize the Party, including supporting policies that promote diametrically conflicted outcomes, reject moral axioms, etc., it really is a bad idea to sacrifice people who are merely unwanted, inconvenient, or commit minor violations. Politics is about negotiating and reaching a tolerable consensus.

jcr said...

So, Willard is now pretending to oppose the kind of shit he pulled on Ron Paul?

Romney and his minions pulled out all the stops to turn the RNC into a goddamned Supreme Soviet, with nobody allowed to speak unless they promised to praise the leader. He can burn in hell.

-jcr

Drago said...

jcr: "Romney and his minions pulled out all the stops to turn the RNC into a goddamned Supreme Soviet, with nobody allowed to speak unless they promised to praise the leader. He can burn in hell"

Lighten up Francis.

Rhythm and Balls said...

Critical thinking is not something that Republicans can tolerate, so Romney's directive is in line with that.

Later on, they will endlessly attack each other's "character". But never their ideas. It's just not allowed. Being critical of ideas involves thought.

Rhythm and Balls said...

Like The Borg, Romney believes he might be assimilate all Republicans in the form of some kind of hostile takeover - and forever prevent dissent between them that way.

john marzan said...

who attacked who? most of romney's ads in the primaries were attack ads.