Wag the Veep

Yesterday, as the Romney campaign was drowning in revelations and nagging questions about his time (and maybe-time) at Bain Capital, mysterious “sources” apparently decided it was an excellent time to call Matt Drudge and dangle a shiny pseudo-scoop in front of him. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, he breathlessly reported at 7:30 p.m., is “now near the top of the list” to be Mitt’s vice-presidential choice. Why? Well, apparently because she gave a real nice speech at the Romney retreat in Utah recently. (BuzzFeed has the audio.) And what do you know? The interwebs and cables were instantly ablaze with just-add-water analysis of Rice’s prospects, pros and cons. Bill Kristol hopped on the bandwagon. Sarah Palin declared it a “wonderful” idea and, in a related development, Juan Williams opined that it would be a “game changer.” 

If the phrase “game changer” doesn’t send instant chills up the spines of Republicans, it’s hard to imagine what would. Rice, of course, is no Palin; she’s surely not expecting Vladimir Putin to start bombing Alaska any second now. But while much of the insta-punditry today focused on the fact that Rice is somewhere to the left of Rick Santorum on abortion rights—inspiring yammers of protest from pro-life purists—the real reason this was surely nothing more than a classic political distraction is rooted in Rice’s own foreign-policy experience. As the Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephans wrote in May, when her name first began to surface, “There's only one problem. Ms. Rice was a bad national security adviser and a bad secretary of state.” And to make matters far, far worse, she was George W. Bush’s bad foreign-policy adviser. Americans may have the world’s shortest historical memories, but it wouldn’t take much to remind them of the whoppers she told about Iraq’s nuclear threat, or the fact that she was national-security adviser for the administration that ignored al-Qaeda threats leading up to 9/11, or … the list goes on, catastrophically. There’s a reason why Mitt Romney would rather talk about magic underwear than the Bush years—and picking Rice would connect him to much of the worst of that dreadful epoch.

Rice is probably as likely to win the nomination as Palin herself. The only “news” in Drudge’s scoop, and the ensuing media frenzy, is that the Romney people might have learned a little bit about manipulating the media. When Romney goes on five networks tonight—ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, and CNN—to try and clear the air about Bain, the Caymans, and those missing tax returns—at least there’ll be something else for him to be asked about.


So They Say

“The rigidity of those pledges is something I don’t like. The circumstances change and you can’t be wedded to some formula by Grover Norquist. It’s—who the hell is Grover Norquist, anyway?”

President George H.W. Bush, interviewed by Parade, commenting on Norquist's “no new taxes” pledge


Daily Meme: The Moth, White House Edition

  • Barack and Michelle sat down with Charlie Rose yesterday to discuss their four years in the White House. They covered some predictable ground, such as calling out Romney's private sector qualifications.
  • Not so expected? His regret over not being the storyteller-in-chief for the America people, which he called the big mistake of his first term.
  • Or, as he summed it up for Charlie, "explaining but also inspiring," a phrase that seems to convey what we loved best about Obama the candidate.
  • The New York Post gloss? "It’s the storytelling, stupid."
  • The fact that Obama sees a lack of storytelling as his greatest failing so far is a little ironic given that's why his supporters fell in love with him in the first place. Dude can spin a yarn.
  • Fox News was not impressed, and called the response a "Michael Scott defense."
  • Mitt Romney, the man who eloquently described lemonade as “Lemon. Wet. Good," countered by saying, "being president is not about telling stories."
  • Dan Amira expects "there are some things Obama regrets about his first term in office even more than his supposed failure to ‘tell a story to the American people.’ … And we further suspect that the Romney campaign will be more than willing to help jog Obama's memory in the coming days."
  • But presidents often have unusual perspectives on their biggest mistakes: For example, Dubya's assertion that the Kanye incident was the low-point in his presidency.
  • On the other hand, it is hard out there for a presidential storyteller. FDR, one of the rhetorical greats, had a rapt audience of more than 60 million for his first fireside storytime. Obama doesn't get that perk anymore thanks to cable and the Internet. The viewership for the last State of the Union—the biggest presidential speech of the year? About 38 million.


What We’re Writing

  • Jamelle Bouie explains why everybody’s focused on Bain: “because it’s Mitt Romney’s stated qualification for the presidency.” 
  • Abby Rapoport reports on the Latino Tea Partier who might be the next U.S. Senator from Texas.


What We’re Reading


Poll of the Day

The 2012 campaign doesn’t appear to be galvanizing America’s youth. Only 58 percent of registered voters under 30 say they’ll “definitely vote” in November, according to Gallup. How low is that number? In 2008, it was 78 percent—and in 2004, 81 percent.

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