Hugh Hewitt this morning scolds George F. Will for criticizing Mitt Romney’s changes of mind:
“Republicans may have found their Michael Dukakis,” Will concluded about Romney, and that will leave a mark.
Commentators other than Will among the most influential voices on the right — Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin to name two who matter, a lot — had already thrown some heavy policy critiques at Romney
Knocking Romney for Massachusetts’ mandate has become as popular as blasting Perry for his debate performances or hammering Cain for campaign inexperience and gaffes.
All of the attacks on all of the candidates take a toll. But some attacks productively push a candidate on policy. Attacks on character, as opposed to positions or ineptitude are a different category of poison-tipped arrow.
The most memorable commentary of this primary season will not blow away and vanish with the winter. It will be back in the spring, summer and fall, recycled by Team Obama and relayed by the Obama-dependent in the mainstream media.
Hewitt is a long-time exponent of the view that political journalism should act as a form of partisan PR. It’s not surprising then that he would upbraid Will for speaking his mind rather than repeating Hewitt’s preferred line-of-the day.
But if PR is what is wanted, Hewitt does a bad job of it himself.
Complaining that a particular criticism of Romney “will help Obama” tacitly concedes the weight of the criticism.
You want to defend Romney? Fine. Defend him.
1) It’s not Romney who is the flip-flopper. It’s the conservative movement. It was only three years ago that Jim DeMint was praising the Massachusetts healthcare plan. Post-2009, conservatives have flip-flopped on individual mandates, they have flip-flopped on monetary policy, in these cases they have adopted ever more extreme positions.
Yes Romney has had to shape-shift to keep pace, and that’s unfortunate. But don’t blame him – blame them.
2) What you want from politicians is not inner agreement, but effective outward action.
The conservative world does itself a great disservice when it rallies to candidates who most noisily mirror its own ideological impulses. Politics is a difficult job, it requires particular skills, and candidates who lack those skills won’t do the job. In the unimaginable contingency whereby a Herman Cain became president, you would not see a conservative presidency – you’d see a trainwreck of a presidency.
3) Politicians change their minds all the time. Look at Rick Perry for example. Five years ago, he was to the left of Larry Summers, directly investing state government funds in preferred industries. Now suddenly he’s Mr Free Market. George HW Bush and Ronald Reagan changed their minds on abortion. The only people who never change their minds are fanatics – the Ron Pauls – who start wrong and stay wrong.
But of course those are arguments. And one of the negative consequences of a career as a radio monologist is that your ability to make arguments atrophies, even assuming you ever possessed such ability in the first place.