A One-woman Wrecking Crew, Revisited

A long-time reader comments on one of our “picks” from last week – a Politico piece about Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin’s relentless attacks on Rick Perry:

Ben Smith’s Politico story about Jennifer Rubin reminded me of several Power Line posts from the last presidential cycle. Back then, a former blogger on this site, noting Rubin’s attacks on three major Republican contenders, called her “a one-woman wrecking crew.”

What amused me is that in the last cycle Rubin’s main target was Mitt Romney – the primary, and presumably intended, beneficiary of her attacks on Perry this time around. Her other targets were Mike Huckabee and Fred Thompson.

All three of these candidates were eminently attackable, and Romney remains so today. But, as the former Power Line blogger argued, some of Rubin’s attacks were cheap and/or over-the-top.

For example, she attacked Romney for kicking off his presidential campaign at the Henry Ford Museum. Romney chose this location because of his family’s connection to the automobile industry, his own theme of innovation, and his desire to win votes in Michigan where he was born and raised. Noting, however, that Ford was an anti-Semite, Rubin argued that Romney’s selection of this venue wais indicative of “a lack of sensitivity to the concerns many Jews have about their place in American society.” She then projected this alleged insensitivity upon Republicans as a whole, and claimed that until Republicans overcome this perception, Jews will continue to vote Democratic.

But, as the Republican Jewish Coalition pointed out at the time, Bill Clinton also praised Henry Ford. Yet Jews had no hesitation about voting for him. A catalogue of the flaws in Rubin’s hit-piece can be found in this takedown by the late Dean Barnett.

Rubin’s attacks on Huckabee and Thompson exhibited the same overeagerness to knock down rivals of her favored candidate, Rudy Giuliani. Power Line found much in Huckabee to criticize, but never tried to read him out of the conservative movement. By contrast, Rubin denied Huckabee’s authenticity as a conservative. Ironically, many of Rubin’s critics in this cycle level the same misguided charge against her.

To attack Thompson, Rubin relied on Alan Greenspan’s criticism of then-President Bush. Thompson, it seems, was too similar to Bush when it came to the things Greenspan didn’t like about the president. Or something like that.

This time around, Rubin apparently finds little fault to fault in Romney. According to Politico, Rubin has “warmed” to him “fully.” Meanwhile, Perry has been the target of 60 columns and nearly 40,000 words, some of which exhibit the same brand of over-the-top animus that Rubin aimed at Romney and others the last time.

There is nothing wrong with strong advocacy against a candidate one thinks will lead one’s party to defeat and/or make a poor president. In my view, it is premature to conclude that Perry cannot defeat Obama, and plainly wrong to believe that, having been a successful conservative governor of one of our biggest states for a decade, he would make a poor president. But this is a matter of opinion.

What I don’t think can be disputed is that advocacy loses credibility when it becomes petty, illogical, and patently one-sided. And the advocate loses credibility when she fails to hold all candidates to the same standards. For example, Rubin told Politico that, given the importance of the economy in this year’s election, Romney’s “proficiency” in that area enabled her to “get over the RomneyCare hurdle.” If this rather considerable hurdle can so readily be overcome, why wouldn’t Perry’s successful job creation record buy him a little slack in an election where jobs are the number one issue? And, since the economy is a huge issue in any election, why didn’t Romney’s proficiency in this area count for more with Rubin in 2008?

In the end, I think the most credible political analysis comes from folks (like Scott Johnson right here at Power Line) who view all candidates objectively through the same prism. It’s okay to be a one-man (or woman) wrecking crew. But it’s better if the wrecking isn’t done for the benefit of one man.

JOHN adds: Jennifer is, of course, a friend and ally. But, given how relentlessly we pundits critique our own party’s candidates, it is a good thing for a little light to be shown on our own foibles and inconsistencies.

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