RomneyCo begins attacks on Santorum from the right; Coulter provides flank defense by hoping to shame the Hobbits, most of whom she know realizes don’t come from Connecticut and think the last time Bill Maher was funny was in DC Cab
I posted this in the comments yesterday, but not everyone reads the threads all the way through, so I figured I’d elevate it to the front page. Which I can do, this being my site and all.
First, this: The Romney campaign — perhaps sensing a potential Santorum surge — has begun in earnest to dump its oppo research into people’s inboxes. To wit: “Romney is going after Santorum now. Inbox: RICK SANTORUM: PROUD DEFENDER OF EARMARKS AND PORK-BARREL SPENDING”.
To which I’d like to ask that someone, anyone — and there are plenty of you erstwhile very staunch small-government conservatives (many former Perry supporters, in fact) who are now on the Romney inevitability train, for whatever your reasons — please please please tell the Romney campaign to stop trying to attack the remaining conservative candidates from the right. It insults the intelligence of anyone left who has any — first, because it’s very transparent aim is to depress the base by suggesting that there are no conservatives alternatives remaining to serve as antidotes to the coronation of Captain Gladhand Milquetoast; second, because it relies on the strategy that those in the base it can’t win over it can at least demoralize and keep at home, allowing Mitt to win primaries where voter turnout is low; and third, because it implicitly suggests that Romney suddenly cares about conservatism — making his support for, eg., Obama’s stimulus, TARP, federal minimum wage increases, cap and trade, the individual mandate, government-run health care, gun control, and the bureaucratic suppression of religious conscience laws, all seem strangely anomalous.
So we’re not buying it. Nor are the “independents” we’re supposed to believe only Romney can garner for us.
And as to the substance of the Romney attacks on Santorum (and I expect Ron Paul to join in with this, given the libertarian small-government ideologues strange relationship with the big government corporatist Romney), let me just note that there are strong conservative arguments to be made for earmarks. For instance, here’s James Inhofe, whose conservatism is largely beyond reproach:
Banning earmarks will result in less accountability and transparency. The flawed Obama stimulus bill famously did not contain a single congressional earmarks, yet, as we found out long after the fact, those tax dollars were spent on hundreds of frivolous items such as a clown show in Pennsylvania, studying the mating decisions of the female cactus bug, and a helicopter able to detect radioactive rabbit droppings, to name a few. What all of these have in common is that they were spent by presidential earmarks, not congressional earmarks. Similarly, as faceless bureaucrats in the executive branch have continually taken greater responsibility over federal expenditures, lobbyists are increasingly turning to them, not Congress, for money. Unlike congressional earmarks, which are posted online prior to the expenditure and approved by representatives who must face the voters, executive spending is in the hands of unaccountable bureaucrats, and we often do not find out about these expenditures until years after the fact.
Demagoguing earmarks provides cover for some of the biggest spenders in Congress. Congressional earmarks, for all their infamous notoriety, are not the cause of trillion-dollar federal deficits (of all the discretionary spending that took place in Washington last year, earmarks made up only 1.5 percent). Nor will an earmark moratorium solve the crisis of wasteful Washington spending run amuck. While anti-earmarkers bloviate about the billions spent through earmarks, many of them supported the trillions of dollars in extra spending for bailouts, stimulus, and foreign aid. Talk about specks versus planks! Over the course of the last several years, the overall number and dollar amount of earmarks has steadily decreased. During that same time, overall spending has ballooned by over $1.3 trillion. In reality, ballyhooing about earmarks has been used as a ruse by some to seem more fiscally responsible than they really are.
Santorum has come out for a significant change in the tax code; he has talked about the need to make tough decisions on cuts to programs and departments that he knows will be demagogued; he has promoted free-market alternatives to government programs meant to significantly downsize the size and scope of the federal government; he’s called for a balanced budget amendment coupled to an 18% cap in spending.
And yet we’re supposed to believe Santorum is a big-spending liberal Republican? The guy who rejected both the stimulus and TARP? Or worse still, we’re to conclude that Romney is therefore the better choice, because, well, why, exactly? The hair? The money? The organization necessary to defeat his opponents by outspending them on negative ads while allowing his fluffers in the GOP establishment to carry the water for him with strained defenses of his demonstrably anti-conservative record as a public servant?
This is madness. Unless you happen to be a status quo Republican, that is, in which case this is the hill you are willing to die on — knowing as you must that should a TEA Party wave sweep a conservative into office, reforms to the system you’ve grown so comfortable with will prove “draconian” to your hold on power, and there will have been an unambiguous mandate for the kind of institutional house cleaning that will of necessity follow.
Then there’s this from Ann Coulter, whose reputation as a unabashed conservative has given way to her new more well-deserved reputation as a rank opportunist and Rockefeller Republican groupie: says Coulter, should the TEA Party back Gingrich over Romney, they’ll prove themselves to be hypocrites, because they’ll have thrown their support behind an “influence peddler for Fannie and Freddie” (note the language, which comes right out of the Romney ads), and not behind the candidate Coulter tells us is “the most conservative” on immigration.
Listen: it may be true that Gingrich quasi-lobbied for Fannie and Freddy; but Romney supported the stimulus (Gingrich did not) — and unlike Gingrich, Romney did not lead the Reagan revival in the House, did not spearhead welfare reform, and did not balance the federal budget. Instead, he got busy with his friend and collaborator Teddy Kennedy designing the blue prints for state-run health care.
And of course, Santorum — whom Coulter will likely begin attacking next — called for reforms to Fannie and Freddy long before the housing bubble burst, rejected both the stimulus and TARP, and never supported an individual mandate, despite the Romney camp’s attempt to plant that seed by sending “conservative” new media outlets its bogus gotcha reports, which many of them initially ran with without bothering to verify.
So here’s my advice to the Santorum campaign, which I hope they read and consider: anytime an ad comes out against your candidate questioning his conservative credentials, the response from Santorum should be first to list the various big government, “moderate” and “progressive” things he doesn’t support that Romney does — from the stimulus to TARP to cap and trade to an individual mandate to federal minimum wage increases to gun control — and then second to follow up that list with something like, “Were Mitt Romney or his Super Pac truly concerned with the conservatism of the Republican candidates for President, he’d be spending millions of dollars and saturating media markets with a series of ads attacking himself.”
(thanks to Bob Reed, newrouter)