The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Campaign-Induced Tourette’s Syndrome

Posted on | January 13, 2012 | 34 Comments

‘The Phantom Menace’ in Des Moines, Iowa, Aug. 9, 2011

“Perry’s decision to make his announcement in South Carolina was widely viewed at the time as a genius move that would lock down his support in a crucial early primary state, and once he emerged as the most viable conservative alternative to Mitt Romney, Perry would have no trouble making up whatever he’d lost in Iowa by dissing Ames.
“Such was the conventional wisdom in August . . .”

Robert Stacy McCain, Oct. 17, 2011

“There could be some populist cred for Perry if big donors tied to Wall Street start leaving him, but that’s a big trade-off for the funding Perry desperately needs in South Carolina. If he can’t put ads on the air and compete with Romney, Santorum, and Gingrich, then Perry won’t go anywhere in his last-gasp effort to stay in the race. He’s already at the bottom of the pack in the latest Insider Advantage poll, at 5%. Even Jon Huntsman scores better than Perry in South Carolina, at 7%.”
Ed Morrissey, Jan. 12, 2012

“Oops he did it again. When asked to name and provide the number of federal departments he’d eliminate as president, Texas Gov. Rick Perry managed to list three, but they weren’t the three agencies he consistently names on the stump or that he attempted to name when he committed his now infamous ‘oops’ moment.”
ABC News, Jan. 13, 2012

“Mitt Romney still holds first place in the South Carolina Primary field, while his opponents jockey for second with the voting eight days away.”
Rasmussen Reports, Jan. 13, 2012

While I was in New Hampshire, I occasionally startled my hosts with outbursts of profanity, cussing my way toward deadline. It’s my theory that unless you thoroughly cuss out your computer once in a while, the damned things become arrogant. So I’d be sitting there in Mike Rogers’s kitchen, frustrated by the effort of trying to upload a video, and suddenly erupt in a fit of vulgar shouting at my laptop.

But it’s not just the computer that’s testing my patience these days. It’s also the campaign itself. Because I see a widespread confusion prevailing among conservatives that has been generated by the same bandwagon-jumpers who, in August, kept telling us that the Mighty Rick Perry Juggernaut was going to roll all the way to Tampa and then on to the White House.

The Perry myth — Howdy, Thank You, Erick — has gone through several permutations in the months since Perry’s debate disasters torpedoed his poll numbers. But the myth has enjoyed a zombie afterlife in the form of a phrase that the Perrybots made ubiquitous back in the heyday of the Smilin’ Texan’s frontrunner glory:

“A Vote for [Blank] Is a Vote for Romney”

You could fill in the blank with any name — Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, whoever — and it didn’t matter to the stooges and shills who were riding aboard the Mighty Rick Perry Juggernaut. Their peculiar variation on the Bandwagon Fallacy involved not merely the hyping of Perry as The Only Man Who Could Beat Romney™, but also the orchestrated derogation of any other “Not Romney” candidate.

Ergo, supporters of all other Republicans were dismissed as hopelessly naive: “Don’t you know that a vote for [your candidate] is a vote for Romney?”

Some graduate student of political science might wish to do a Ph.D. dissertation examining the methods by which this myth was promulgated and, if so, please contact me for the names of my friends who were victims of this Perrybot brainwashing experiment. I remember one phone conversation in particular, back in September or October, in which a friend assured me in all apparent sincerity that Herman Cain was just a stalking-horse for Romney. And my startled reaction to that assertion — how could anyone believe such a thing? — was regarded by my friend as proof of my own ignorance.

Because they knew, you see. They were certain. They had been told by people whom they trusted: Rick Perry was The Only Man Who Could Beat Romney™ and all the other not-Romney candidates were just wasting their time.

My perspective on this phenomenon is perhaps unique because I spent most of the past year riding the Cain Train and, when it derailed, I immediately switched to the Santorum Express.

No two candidates in the GOP field were so diametrically opposite as Cain and Santorum. After months of hearing Cain’s faults recited by the Perrybots — Cain lacked previous political experience and was especially deficient in foreign-policy knowledge — I expected some relief from such sneers when I became a supporter of the experienced Santorum, widely recognized for his knowledge of foreign policy and national security. But I was sadly mistaken.

No sooner had Santorum’s late-December surge begun than the Perrybots suddenly got in touch with the inner libertarians, and started denouncing Santorum as a “Big Government conservative,” the Worst Earmarker in American History.

The fact that these anti-Santorum arguments bore an uncanny resemblance to the content of anti-Santorum arguments propagated in Rick Perry’s own ads? Just a coincidence, I’m sure.

And there was something else, too.

There was an interlude between the time the Cain Train ran off the rails and the time when Santorum’s surge in Iowa became widely apparent. That interlude — roughly from Thanksgiving to Christmas — was filled by the Newt Bubble. And during those weeks, there were many conservative pundits who, although ostensibly devoted to the Anybody But Romney mission, were all the time suggesting that if Newt could not withstand the frontrunner scrutiny, the man who would supplant Gingrich as the “conservative alternative” candidate was . . .

Rick Perry: The Only Man Who Could Beat Romney™

Maybe you didn’t notice this, but I did, because I had months earlier decided that if Herman Cain couldn’t go the distance, Rick Santorum would be my guy. (See “Destination Iowa: The Intersection of Preparation and Opportunity,” Dec. 3.) And as the final tragedy of Cain’s campaign played out in late November and early December, I became aware that almost no one in the conservative blogosphere seemed to view Santorum as an acceptable “not Romney” alternative.

While some conservative pundits were enthusiastically jumping aboard the Gingrich bandwagon in November, others kept pushing the “Second Look at Perry” theme — an idea that struck me as ludicrous beyond belief. If there had been any one consistent fact during the up-and-down “Flavor of the Month” cycles in 2011, it was that once a boomlet faded, it was gone for good. There was clearly no way that Perry, who had spectacularly imploded during his September moment in the spotlight, could regain the confidence of voters who had already considered and rejected him.

The folly of the Perrybots, who had never fully abandoned the arguments they repeated endlessly in August and September, caused them to hold out for the improbable chance of the Texan’s resurrection. So I was perplexed and dismayed by the “Second Look at Perry” theme, knowing that it could only serve to artificially sustain a doomstruck and hopeless campaign, thus preventing a consideration of “First Look at Santorum.”

Now we’ve come down to nut-cutting time in South Carolina. If Mitt Romney wins there, conservatives can abandon all hope of preventing his nomination. Given everything we’ve seen in recent days, therefore, I think it’s high time to come full-circle and confront the Perrybots with the ironic obverse of their own fill-in-the-blank argument:

“A Vote for PERRY Is a Vote for Romney”

And now read my latest column at The American Spectator: “Return of the Phantom Menace: Will Rick Perry help Mitt Romney clinch in South Carolina?”



34 Responses to “Campaign-Induced Tourette’s Syndrome”

  1. Anonymous
    January 13th, 2012 @ 12:16 pm
  2. Hooah Mac
    January 13th, 2012 @ 12:20 pm

    You are pretty late to the “A Vote for PERRY Is a Vote for Romney” train, Santorumbots, Newtbots, etc. have been using that one since before the Iowa cauci.  I have had a lot of respect for you since I met you in NY-23, but while ripping on the fanatical supporters of [insert name here], you should take the occasion to do a self-check in the mirror.

  3. Anonymous
    January 13th, 2012 @ 12:31 pm

    Santorum is hardly some sort of conservative dream candidate, but he is generally conservative.  And he also managed not to engage in the pathetic acts of Newt and Perry this week.  

    I am not a big Mitt fan.  But given the choice of Newt or Mitt, after this week, it would be definitely Mitt.  That does not mean I want Mitt to be the nominee–it just means I definitely don’t want Newt to be the nominee.  

    As for Perry, come on. Perry failed because of Perry.  His comments this week was more akin to a guy pissing himself on the walk up to the gallows.  

  4. Finrod Felagund
    January 13th, 2012 @ 12:46 pm

    Computers need to be sworn at now and then, it’s just the way they work.  A good friend of mine espouses the perfectly reasonable theory that computers need swearing to run properly, and that if you don’t swear at them every now and then, they just get slower and slower until they eventually stop.

  5. Hooah Mac
    January 13th, 2012 @ 12:46 pm

    I chose a candidate fairly late in the process, based on the criteria I look for in a President, not based on the strength or lack thereof, in a campaign.  Since choosing that candidate, I haven’t engaged in any of the over-the-top criticisms that RSM was talking about, because it never made sense to me to do so.  I talk up my candidate, and occasionally point out flaws in my candidate or others, but the invective that many have used is ridiculous.

    The problem with Santorum is that he would be a good President in a lot of ways, but I don’t see evidence he would fix what is wrong re:spending.  I don’t think there is a candidate in the race more likely to repeat GWB’s failures on that issue.  On the other hand, Santorum’s positives would likely be stronger than GWB’s, so I would happily vote for him were he the nominee.  Mitt, Newt, and Paul shouldn’t even be considered since all three are or have been fairly solidly at odds with the Republican platform, but I could accept Newt.
    Huntsman could be a good choice, but he inexplicably decided to run to the left.

    I really truly don’t understand the craziness among conservatives this last week.  Does questioning the actions of a capitalist automatically equal “attacking capitalism”?  I can see disagreeing with both Newt and Perry’s criticisms, but to go nuclear on them and call them something they weren’t intended to be.  (Note that the criticisms dropped from Perry’s stump speeches almost as soon as they started.)

  6. Finrod Felagund
    January 13th, 2012 @ 1:01 pm

    Yeah, as the most mendacious Republican presidential candidate since Richard Nixon.

  7. Anonymous
    January 13th, 2012 @ 1:21 pm

    Here’s a local story on Santorum re: SC.  I find it interesting that Perry is attacking Santorum on earmarks, where I am 100 percent positive Perry did not reject monies from DC for Texas.

  8. Hooah Mac
    January 13th, 2012 @ 1:27 pm
  9. Hooah Mac
    January 13th, 2012 @ 1:31 pm

    Which really gets to my point -Perry may or may not be an effective campaigner, but he is the real deal when it comes to conservative record, particularly on fiscal issues.

  10. keyboard jockey
    January 13th, 2012 @ 1:35 pm

    There is one proven job creator in the primary race he has real world experience, he knows how to create a climate for job growth. He’s not Mitt Romney – “Mitt Romney, I’m Not Really A Vulture Captialist” Ala Christine O’Donnell, I’m not really a witch.  We all know how effective that ad campaign was. 

    Mitt Romney is not a conservative on his best day and he is trying to survive the primary. Americans need to Coalesce behind a strong conservative candidate. Maybe that’s begun in South Carolina?
    Newt and Romney in a statistical tie in South Carolina. I don’t think it’s quite time yet to coronate the King of Bain 🙂
    The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe, Mitt Romney, I put the finger on you.

  11. Tennwriter
    January 13th, 2012 @ 1:36 pm

    Social conservatism leads to fiscal conservatism.  Plus, someone willing to kick the Left in the teeth on their close to the heart issues, is going to be willing to kick them in the knee on the less important fiscal issues is my theory.

    I do agree with your last para..

    Santorum is our best choice, barring Palin re-entering the race.  Those who call Santorum a Big Gov’t Conservative probably would say the same thing about Lincoln.

    And while spending is important, moral courage is more so.  After all, as we stand right now, if the USA won the Pan-Galactic Lottery, and paid off all our bills, we’d be back in hock in no time at all.

  12. Tennwriter
    January 13th, 2012 @ 1:42 pm

    And there are practically no Santorum bots.  You’ve got a lot of thoughtful, deliberate sorts who support Santorum……but the raging and somewhat mindless enthusiasm for  say, the Smiling Texan is almost wholly absent.

    Real Conservatives know that even though Santorum is probably our best choice right now, he’s Still Just a Man, and he has feet of clay, and puts his trousers on one leg at a time just like you and me.  This is the Conservative mindset.  Solid, durable, skeptical, and not too enthused about any man short of the Christ.

  13. Anonymous
    January 13th, 2012 @ 1:51 pm

    Mac, nothing personal here. I am well aware that one does not make friends in politics by contradicting conventional wisdom or by criticizing popular and influential personalities like Erickson. But I would rather be hated for speaking unpopular truths than to seek approval by repeating popular lies.

    Ultimately, the truth is the truth and everyone will see it. If I am mistaken, it is an honest mistake, and if I’ve erred due to prejudice in favor of certain candidates and certain strategic conceptions of the primary race, these are prejudices I’ve freely confessed from the start. But if my judgment proves to be accurate, I should hope that my misguided friends will — instead of resenting my  I-told-you-so’s — focus their justified rage on those who misled them.

  14. RSS Ronald Reagan
    January 13th, 2012 @ 1:51 pm

    “If there had been any one consistent fact during the up-and-down “Flavor
    of the Month” cycles in 2011, it was that once a boomlet faded, it was
    gone for good. There was clearly no way that Perry, who had
    spectacularly imploded during his September moment in the spotlight,
    could regain the confidence of voters who had already considered and
    rejected him.”

    Absolutely right!  The lingering Perry support has baffled me for quite some time now. 

  15. Hooah Mac
    January 13th, 2012 @ 1:54 pm

    I’ve actually seen a lot of nonsense types flaming in support of Santorum, but there is that from all candidates.  Santorum’s social conservative record is no better than Perry’s.  They are both consistently pro-life, pro-marriage, etc.  The reason that Santorum is seen as such a social conservative stalwart is that he isn’t seen as strong in other areas.

     Santorum is called a big government conservative because he has voted that way.  His votes for the big government programs while he was in the Senate is excused by pointing out that he voted with the rest of the GOP – but doesn’t that weaken your argument about him being willing to “kick them in the knee”.  His explanation for why he didn’t support right to work legislation was the first item that made me really doubt him.

    Lastly, fiscal issues are less important in the grand scheme of things, but they are urgent – and they will be what this election is about.  Also, there is plenty of evidence that social conservatism does not automatically lead to fiscal conservatism.

  16. Hooah Mac
    January 13th, 2012 @ 2:00 pm

    I could care less about Erickson, just to be clear from the start.  I was surprised by your choice of Santorum actually, but have no argument with you there.  You have solid reasoning that I disagree with, all good.

    My point was that your comments have not been exactly invective free, in fact I’ve wondered if Rick Perry ran over your dog or something.  Just a friendly suggestion that your railing about people’s tone is hampered by, well, by your tone.

  17. Anonymous
    January 13th, 2012 @ 2:43 pm
  18. richard mcenroe
    January 13th, 2012 @ 2:48 pm

    I really truly don’t understand the craziness among conservatives this last week.  Does questioning the actions of a capitalist automatically equal “attacking capitalism”?”

    It does when you have no other defence for your flip-flopping, 47th in the nation on jobs, created Obamacare candidate.

  19. richard mcenroe
    January 13th, 2012 @ 2:53 pm

    Except for the people he commissioned to bring fed money to Texas for him.  Look, I respect Perry’s service, and yes, Texas prospered during his administration but his many gaffes on the campaign trail and, worse, his seeming inability to learn from them, just reinforces my feeling that Kinky Friedman was onto something when he described Perry as an empty suit in front of the real workers.

  20. Adjoran
    January 13th, 2012 @ 3:12 pm

    So, they’re like offensive linemen?

  21. Adjoran
    January 13th, 2012 @ 3:17 pm

    Don’t get excited about the polls in SC.  Insider Advantage is run by a former Gingrich cohort, and actually shows Newt dropping like a rock from December.  The “statistical dead heat” is from ARG, but it is their first poll in the state, so who knows?  A lot depends on how many polling places are open – the parties have to pay for their own (presidential) primaries here, and sometimes I’ve had to vote ten miles away.  For some people, having to track down their polling place on Saturday is too much to bother unless they are strongly for their candidate.

  22. Adjoran
    January 13th, 2012 @ 3:27 pm

    The first attack mailing against Santorum by Restore Our Future (pro-Romney PAC) came today.  It is all about spending, mentioning pork and general big spending.  The one misleading – and I believe, unfair – charge is on the list of fiscal sins:  “voted to raise the debt ceiling five times.”

    Folks, when we hit the debt ceiling, it has to be raised.  You can’t get cute with it.  Don’t like spending?  Me either, but that’s like trying to close the barn door after the horse ran off and the barn is burning.  Wanna cut spending?  Great! – cut spending, pay the debt. 

    Then, as now, the debt ceiling is covering spending we’ve already appropriated and authorized.  Raising it when necessary is what a responsible legislature does.

    For instance, Republicans in Congress could have refused to budge until a budget was passed by the Senate, as per law.  It would have been a political loser, probably (except among our base), but more rational than negotiating on the debt ceiling.

    The rest of the pro-Romney flyer was accurate, though:  Santorum is no fiscal conservative beyond voting for a BBA that didn’t stand Rick Perry’s chance on Jeopardy!.

  23. Anonymous
    January 13th, 2012 @ 3:28 pm

    Yes, I knew about this.  But, color me skeptical … did he reject highway funds that he criticizes Santorum voting for?

  24. Anonymous
    January 13th, 2012 @ 3:30 pm

    Not to mention, the argument can be made that TX has a weak executive, and the legislative branch has kept him honest.  

    So, how much of it is his own doing, or just the position of a TX Gov.?

  25. Charles Martel
    January 13th, 2012 @ 5:09 pm

    There are 3 excellent reasons to vote for Perry.  Unfortunately, I forgot what they are.

  26. Zilla of the Resistance
    January 13th, 2012 @ 5:21 pm

    It’s a great piece at AmSpec, Stacy, and I agree with you about the damage Perry has wrought to all, but DAMN is the American Spectator comments section over-run with trolls and jackasses! It’s disgusting over there. They should hire a good mod who isn’t afraid to deploy the BAN HAMMER. 

  27. Datechguy's Blog » Blog Archive » Building up or Pulling Down The Rick Perry Campaign » Datechguy's Blog
    January 13th, 2012 @ 6:00 pm

    […] having failed to raise oneself up we are left apparently with plan B: No two candidates in the GOP field were so diametrically opposite as Cain and Santorum. After […]

  28. Mike Rogers
    January 13th, 2012 @ 6:28 pm

    Yes, I could see where you were trending, and yes I agree that votes for Perry or Huntsman are just ways To help Romney along.
    Now, if Gingrich or Santorum would endorse the other, we could have a conservative cleanup. After the unfortunate “vulture capitalist” comments, methinks Newt should be the one to now to Santorum – not betting on it, though!

  29. Bob Belvedere
    January 13th, 2012 @ 6:37 pm

    So GOTV means a lot is one of the things you’re implying?

  30. Anonymous
    January 13th, 2012 @ 7:56 pm

    Rick Santorum is not my dream conservative candidate. He definitely has his flaws.  But given what I seen this week, he is the only conservative still in race.  

  31. CO
    January 13th, 2012 @ 8:26 pm

    I could vote for Santorum but I won’t for a Party man and that is what he is.  I’ll vote for the man who won’t recite his lines, the man who hasn’t driven his state to the poor house.  I’ll vote for Rick Perry.

  32. Can Mitt Be Stopped? ‘A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy of Romney Inevitability’ : The Other McCain
    January 13th, 2012 @ 9:01 pm

    […] – Boston GlobeOn the phone with a friend this afternoon, we were talking about the Perry problem, which is beginning to depress me. Da Tech Guy is trying to be philosophical about it, but […]

  33. Tennwriter
    January 13th, 2012 @ 10:27 pm

    I’ve seen practically zero, except for Other McCain.  And he has good reasons.  On the other hand, I’ve seen a bunch of Really Enthused People for other pols.

    The reason Santorum is seen as such a social conservative standout is because so many others are kinda wimpy.  Andthe media kept bugging him about it.

    He’s called a big gov’t conservative because he is willing to use the Fed to stop gay marriage.  And because Ronulans think anyone a tenth of an inch to the left of Ron Paul is Obama.

    There’s more evidence that fiscons lead to fislib and solib than

  34. ThePaganTemple
    January 14th, 2012 @ 8:04 am

    And if he wins all the little kiddles will get free Tardisil hahahaha