The Other McCain

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

Dear Byron York: Huh?

Posted on | November 6, 2011 | 49 Comments

“This could have been Tim Pawlenty’s moment. With many Republicans writing off Rick Perry, worried Herman Cain can’t last, and perpetually dissatisfied with Mitt Romney, the former Minnesota governor might have gotten another look, had he stayed in the race. Given all the changes that have taken place in the GOP presidential contest, who knows? Pawlenty might have been a serious contender by now.
“Instead, Pawlenty is at home, having quit immediately after finishing third in the Aug. 13 Ames, Iowa, Republican straw poll. He has endorsed Romney — in what seemed a not-terribly-enthusiastic gesture — and he has publicly mused that maybe he got out too early. Indeed, there must be moments where Pawlenty kicks himself for bailing out of a race that proved much more volatile than anyone thought.”

Byron York, “Pawlenty coulda been contender in this race”

No, sir, Mr. York. You’re completely wrong. Pawlenty’s mistake wasn’t quitting too soon. Pawlenty’s mistake was running for president.

Whatever his merits, Pawlenty lacks charisma. He’s less charismatic than Mitt Romney, and that’s saying something.

It is probably unfair that so many Americans believe that they can judge a man’s qualification for high office based on how he seems on TV. This process favors people who are good at seeming qualified, regardless of whether they actually are qualified. Nevertheless, we must live in the real world, and the reality is that “Minnesota Nice” didn’t play well on TV.

Back when he was actually running, people kept telling me that Pawlenty seemed weak in the debates. And the word “seemed” is inescapable in that formulation. Regardless of whether Pawlenty is weak, he seemed that way to a lot of people, and this was enough to destroy his candidacy. Because apparently the voters reckoned that whoever goes up against Obama must be ostentatiously strong. The fact that Michele Bachmann seemed stronger on TV than Pawlenty . . .

Finish that sentence however you wish. The point is that Byron York or anyone else who thinks Pawlenty would fare better now than he did three months ago is deluded. Pawlenty just didn’t have what it takes, and York’s revisionist “what if” hypothesis points to what was wrong with the idea of Pawlenty’s candidacy from the start. Pawlenty’s campaign was always more plausible in theory than it was in fact.

“Successful two-term Midwestern governor” is, theoretically, a splendid description of a presidential candidate. But when the successful two-term Midwestern governor has the demeanor of an undertaker, the theory is much less splendid than it might appear on paper.

One look at Tim Pawlenty ought to have been enough to dispel the theory of his candidacy, yet he was one of two names — along with Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels — mentioned by George Will in May as having a “reasonably certainty” of winning the GOP nomination and beating Obama. And one look at Mitch Daniels . . .

Perhaps you get my point. The TV Age doesn’t necessarily require successful presidential candidates to look like movie stars, although being an Evil Dead ringer for Bruce Campbell certainly hasn’t hurt Mitt Romney. Yet it is amazing that candidates like Pawlenty and Daniels, who simply don’t look the part, always strike pundits as so eminently plausible. Ditto the jolly jelly belly from Jersey, Chris Christie.

Also, Byron, you get a five-point foul for invoking “many Republicans” as a sock-puppet for espousing your own sense of the campaign. It’s a convenient rhetorical device, but it’s sort of a push-poll kind of thing — the “suggested sell,” as they say in food service: “Would you like to add a fried apple pie to your Value Meal, sir?”

“Many Republicans” can be deployed endlessly, e.g.: “Many Republicans are glad they don’t have to worry any longer about that boring blowhard Tim Pawlenty,” or “Many Republicans don’t even remember that a guy named Tim Pawlenty was ever a candidate for president.”

The last thing in the world we need at this point is a bunch of woulda-coulda-shoulda second-guessing over stuff that we can’t go back and change. Pawlenty is gone, and best forgotten, and I don’t want to hear any more about him.


49 Responses to “Dear Byron York: Huh?”

  1. smitty
    November 6th, 2011 @ 10:22 am

    @rsmccain: I don’t dispute your point, but style over substance is precisely what elected BHO in ’08.

  2. rosalie
    November 6th, 2011 @ 10:43 am

    I don’t think style elected O as much as McCain, Bush, the media, and the economy.  He had one heck of a lot of help.   I know I’m in the minority but I just don’t think O has style and I never thought he was a good speaker.   

  3. ThomasD
    November 6th, 2011 @ 10:48 am

    Many republicans wish there was a way to lock the entire crop of candidates in their basement laboratory, drain any remaining youth and ‘fire in the belly’ they possess, then transfuse it all into Fred Thompson.

    But only if they were willing, of course.

    Or, perhaps ‘willing’ would suffice.

  4. ThomasD
    November 6th, 2011 @ 10:52 am

    Obama was -just barely- smooth enough, bland enough, and presentable enough for the media to make him acceptable to an electorate tired of being beaten over the head with all of the negatives associated with the Bush administration.

    His actual style was revealed in things like his brief interaction with Joe the Plumber, an off the cuff exchange that put the media into a panicked full court press mode in order to save him from himself.

  5. GAHCindy
    November 6th, 2011 @ 11:09 am

    I agree completely. I have never understood why people think Obama is such a great speaker. His slow-speaking style and choppy phrasing make me want nothing more than a long, long nap. Of course, that might have been the secret to his success. He can say the most infuriating things, but everybody is too sleepy to react. Funny how “boring” becomes “mesmerizing” when the media start to spin things.

  6. Zooropa
    November 6th, 2011 @ 11:12 am

    It isn’t necessarily fair but it is true that a Presidential candidate has to have at least some charisma in order to be seen as someone who can lead the country on the world stage.  Pawlenty and Daniels had zero charisma.  They may be competent administrators but they are not easily visualized as potential world leaders and that’s the difference between being a midwestern state governor and being a President. 

    Despite the fact that he had not held a leadership position in his entire career the media in 2008 successfully painted BHO as a charismatic world leader (remember the fawning wall-to-wall coverage of his campaign speech in Germany).  Now that the public has seen his lack of leadership first hand it won’t be as easy in 2012, but the Republicans will still have to put up a candidate with noticeable charisma to compete against him especially since the media will not assist them in hiding a Republican’s lack of leadership skills.

  7. Tom Callow
    November 6th, 2011 @ 11:13 am

    Many democrats and media think his being a clean and articulate, non-Ebonic speaking black man was enough to qualify him for the job, and those many media voices then proceeded to elect him, re: JOURNOLIST

  8. TC_LeatherPenguin
    November 6th, 2011 @ 11:17 am

    I’m sure you’ve heard of “regulatory capture”; well, Byron (and many of his ilk) for me is a prime example of “Beltway Capture.” He’s just parroting the crap Republican DC insiders share when they’re with “their” people, as opposed to the crap they utter for public consumption when they want your vote.

  9. Tom Callow
    November 6th, 2011 @ 11:18 am

    Ooh-ooh, I want to sock puppet too, hmm, ok here is one:
    DeMint refusing to push-poll any primary nominee is refreshing, but…. many republicans think it has something to do with who is/is not among that herd . We will never know whether that missing person is male or female; hispanic or grizzly or east indian or pasty midwest white-bread.
    Just insert your favorite one !

  10. Dm
    November 6th, 2011 @ 11:22 am

    A deadly accurate comment not untouched with a certain malice, betraying RSM’s bad mood this morning.

    And a bad mood isn’t unexpected, in as much as Alabama went down hard last night in a football game they should have won by ten points.

    Yea, I’d be in a bad mood too, were I besotted with Alabama’s football team.

  11. Daily Pundit » No Uncool Kids Allowed
    November 6th, 2011 @ 11:23 am

    […] Dear Byron York: Huh? : The Other McCain Perhaps you get my point. The TV Age doesn’t necessarily require successful presidential candidates to look like movie stars, although being an Evil Dead ringer for Bruce Campbell certainly hasn’t hurt Mitt Romney. Yet it is amazing that candidates like Pawlenty and Daniels, who simply don’t look the part, always strike pundits as so eminently plausible. Ditto the jolly jelly belly from Jersey, Chris Christie. […]

  12. Edward
    November 6th, 2011 @ 11:28 am

    Pawlenty might be a nice guy.  Might be a good politician in some circumstances.  Basically what turned me off was how he handled the media attacks on Palin after that shooting incident.

    The media piled on with ridiculous assertions and attacks and Pawlenty, in order to curry favor or to not have that liberal fury directed at himself, did the low and cowardly thing.

    I don’t ask much of my political leadership, and by and large they pretty much don’t do much either, but the one thing I absolutely demand and will not accept any substitute for; is a spine.

    We have enough spineless jellyfish in Washington.  We don’t need any more and frankly we rather need to cull what we’ve already got.

  13. richard mcenroe
    November 6th, 2011 @ 11:31 am

    The low and cowardly thing is the new black in the conservative blogosphere, if the last week is anything to go by.

  14. Christy Waters
    November 6th, 2011 @ 11:35 am

    Ah yes, Mitt Romney’s little concubine. Speaking of Mitt, I happened to come across this website, which says this:

    We the undersigned can agree on one thing:
    “Mitt Romney should NOT be OUR nominee.”

    And one of the undersigned is Robert Stacy McCain. Being solidly in the Cain camp I joined up right away.

  15. Shawn Gillogly
    November 6th, 2011 @ 11:36 am

    Mr York also seems to forget that before Pawlenty bowed out, his staff did a complete abandon ship on him. Pawlenty failed because he wasn’t a competent Presidential Candidate and because his own people didn’t believe in him.

  16. Zooropa
    November 6th, 2011 @ 12:01 pm

    But Pawlenty can’t be singled out for not publicly supporting Palin during that time.  None of the potential candidates or any other Republican leaders did either.  They all left Palin to twist in the media wind.

  17. Leslie Eastman
    November 6th, 2011 @ 12:01 pm
  18. Jack Okie
    November 6th, 2011 @ 12:04 pm

    Pawenty’s campaign died the moment in that early debate when he had a chance to take to to Romney on Romneycare, and wimped out.  Pawlenty’s campaign theme song:  “I’ve got Pawlenty of nuthin’.

    He’s a twerp.

  19. rosalie
    November 6th, 2011 @ 12:26 pm

    Ed Koch and Dersowitz defended her though.

  20. Zooropa
    November 6th, 2011 @ 12:49 pm

    Yes, but only in regards to her use of the ‘blood libel’ phrase.  They did not support her in the original media attacks which led her to use that phrase.

  21. Adjoran
    November 6th, 2011 @ 1:29 pm

    The killer about that was that he had been lambasting Romney over it on the TV talks shows for several days, but backed off when they were face to face.  It was weak; he never recovered.

  22. Anonymous
    November 6th, 2011 @ 1:34 pm

    “I’ll make card check the law of the land” then “spreading the wealth around is good for every body” was all I needed to Determine that Obama is a Bolshevik bent on destroying the “American Way”. From that point on the sound of his voice seemed more like the sound I imagine a cat makes when petted the wrong direction with a cheese grater.

  23. Adjoran
    November 6th, 2011 @ 1:37 pm

    Since WWII, we’ve elected Ike, LBJ, Nixon, and GHWB, none of whom were brimming with charisma.  But they all had a certain “gravitas” that Pawlenty doesn’t project.

    He also had no viable path t0 the nomination other that win Iowa and hope the momentum carried him.  The only other Midwestern/Rust Belt state to vote before the end of March is Michigan, a Romney stronghold.  There is no candidate who can keep the money coming in after losing eight or ten in a row.

    Once Bachmann out-organized him in Iowa, he was done.  Even though Ames isn’t much of a predictor of the nominee 0r even the winner of the Caucuses, it was still a shock because he knew Bachmann’s lack of a record, being from the same state.  All Iowans seemed to want this year was red meat; Bachmann specializes in it and Pawlenty can’t deliver it.

    It’s some kind of Beltway fantasy, like with Daniels.  Daniels could be an excellent President, but there is no way for him to win the nomination.

  24. Anonymous
    November 6th, 2011 @ 1:42 pm

    To that I would add his annoying head swivel as he pivots from prompter to prompter. This effect is probably less pronounced when seeing him speak in person rather than when he’s on TV as the perspectives are diffused. When he speaks in front of a camera he never even pauses to look directly into the camera.

  25. Anonymous
    November 6th, 2011 @ 1:49 pm

    This supports my theory that “nice guys don’t finish last they don’t finish at all”.

  26. Anonymous
    November 6th, 2011 @ 1:53 pm

    Thanks for the link.

  27. Joe
    November 6th, 2011 @ 2:05 pm

    I am sorry, did you mention T-Paw?  I got sleepy and that was with rolling back the clocks an hour. 

  28. Dave C
    November 6th, 2011 @ 3:39 pm

    I think both times he ran for Gov. of Minnesota he was running  against a split ticket (Liberal and even more liberal) which let him win a  majority in a three way split.  

    He lucked out in other words. 

    I’ll never understand the love and attention someone like Daniels and Pawlenty garner from the rank and file.  

  29. Anonymous
    November 6th, 2011 @ 5:23 pm

    You’re right as rain, Stacy.

    It’s clearly Rudy’s time.

    Giuliani/Daniels 2012!

  30. Anonymous
    November 6th, 2011 @ 5:32 pm

    Reminds me of a comment I overheard once about a guy on campus who seemed to have a different girlfriend every week, despite looking like a major loser.  These two guys were watching the putative “loser” walking past them, arm-in-arm with a new girlfriend, and one of the guys says:

    “I just don’t get it.  How does he end up with so many girls?”

    Other guy says: “Well, best I can figure it, either he’s so small he can’t hurt them, or he’s so big they can’t live without him.”

    Of course, that was back in the day, when sexism was still the reigning style, and all the guys knew that women on campus were all just there to get their Masters of Rotary Science degrees.

    OK, it’s not funny now.  You had to be there.

    Never mind, alright? Geez!

  31. Anonymous
    November 6th, 2011 @ 5:36 pm

    You got that exactly right. I remember it well.

    Never give a sucker an even break.

    That’s at the core of every sales pitch.  A successful sale is driven by the willingness to play the sucker, once he’s on the hook.

    Pawlenty managed to bait the hook, at least.  He lacked the fortitude to finish the job.

    Man, that’s two majorly un-PC comments in a row for me.  I gotta go meditate or something.

  32. Anonymous
    November 6th, 2011 @ 5:38 pm

    Names, or it didn’t happen.

  33. Dave C
    November 6th, 2011 @ 5:47 pm

    With that match up, they’re bound to win!! 

  34. Dave C
    November 6th, 2011 @ 5:48 pm

    or he’s so big they can’t live without him.

    That may explain Chris Cristie..

  35. Anonymous
    November 6th, 2011 @ 5:49 pm

    I wish people would drop this “didn’t stand up for Palin” concept.

    You don’t step in to fight someone’s fight for them. WHY?  because it makes THEM look weak. You just don’t do it.

    After Palin made her comment on it, plenty of conservatives backed her up.  That’s the way it has to work.

    If Palin were a non-contender or non-opinion-driver, and was not also a certified “public” persona, then hell yes, you jump in with both feet.  Like I would do if I saw someone spitting on a soldier.

    But you do not fight someone else’s battle in the public arena.

    That’s politics 101 stuff.

    In fact, it applies here, as well.  Whenever a troll goes after a capable “regular”, you leave it to that person (the capable regular) to decide how to respond.  After they do, that’s when you “plus them up” (the regular).  If a troll goes after a newbie, then the troll usually gets slammed by the regulars and mods.

    Besides, the Arizona thing was FAR more of a tragedy for those directly involved.  So a little perspective is due.

  36. Anonymous
    November 6th, 2011 @ 5:53 pm

    Good call to go back and insert that “I imagine” phrase.

  37. Anonymous
    November 6th, 2011 @ 6:24 pm

    Go back?

  38. Anonymous
    November 6th, 2011 @ 6:50 pm

    You may be underestimating the spirituality of troll bashing.

  39. Anonymous
    November 6th, 2011 @ 6:54 pm

    Still funny.

  40. Anonymous
    November 6th, 2011 @ 9:26 pm

    You shoulda seen what I edited before hitting send! I’m just messin’ around. Weird day.

  41. Anonymous
    November 6th, 2011 @ 9:28 pm


  42. Anonymous
    November 6th, 2011 @ 10:10 pm

    You have a lot to learn, grasshopper.

  43. Dave
    November 7th, 2011 @ 1:18 am

    Personally, when playing the “if-only” game, the non-candidate I look at is Palin. I was shocked and disappointed when she didn’t run, I saw everything falling in place for her(I suppose she must have decided that it would have been too hard, even dangerous, for her family and can regretfully accept that), but looking back since she bowed out, can anyone doubt that if she had thrown her hat in the ring right now she would be strongly pulling 35-40% support, if not more? We’re STILL looking for charismatic a not-Romney, she was positioned beautifully to be that person.  I don’t think the Cain or Gingrich surge happens with her in the race, I think she gets most of that support plus her own core constituency. Her “If only s/he’d run/stayed in the race” is a lot stronger proposition than Pawlenty’s if only. MHO only, of course.

  44. Bob Belvedere
    November 7th, 2011 @ 8:43 am

    I think, Admiral, that Rosalie is onto something.  The MSM and their fellow travellers created the perception that BHO was ‘all that’, and many played along with the fantasy for various reasons, but the truth was always that he was a mediocre speaker who was lost without a script and the content of his speeches were nothing buy airy bromides, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

  45. Bob Belvedere
    November 7th, 2011 @ 8:44 am

    Funny, K-Bob, knowing Adobe as I do, I thought that too was a later insertion.

  46. Bob Belvedere
    November 7th, 2011 @ 8:49 am

    With a Congressman, bland and uncharismatic is fine, because you just want them to put their heads down and do their jobs [see: Hoffman, Doug], but our President must be both Prime Minister and King.  He must be able to run the Executive and inspire the nation.

  47. Bob Belvedere
    November 7th, 2011 @ 8:50 am

    To be fair to Mr. York: he’s not as captured as some.  He’s a damn fine reporter.

  48. TC_LeatherPenguin
    November 7th, 2011 @ 9:06 am

    “he’s not as captured as some”

    True, and he is a good reporter, but not being “as bad” as a large number of his cohort… for me, that doesn’t let him off the hook.

  49. Bob Belvedere
    November 7th, 2011 @ 10:18 am

    No, indeed, but it does require the punishment doled-out to be less severe.