If Romney runs as an independent, he could win

It wasn't time for Romney in 2008 (or 2012). But 2016 could be a different story. Photo (cc) by Talk Radio News Service.
Could it finally be time for Mitt Romney? Photo (cc) 2008 by Talk Radio News Service.

Here we go! From Robert Costa in the Washington Post:

In spite of his insistence that he will not run, Mitt Romney is being courted this week by a leading conservative commentator to reconsider and jump into the volatile 2016 presidential race as an independent candidate.

William Kristol, the longtime editor of the Weekly Standard magazine and a leading voice on the right, met privately with the 2012 nominee on Thursday afternoon to discuss the possibility of launching an independent bid, potentially with Romney as its standard-bearer.

I think Romney could win if he got on the ballot in all 50 states. He’s smarter and tougher than Jeb!, and he’s absolutely shameless, which is important. Romney says he won’t run, but that’s only because he hasn’t worked through the math.

Ross Douthat and the politics of self-pity

The Passion of the Douthat

Those of us who are non-Christians would like to apologize to New York Times columnist Ross Douthat for our continued existence.

In a piece remarkable for its self-pity, Douthat declares, “Christmas is hard for everyone. But it’s particularly hard for people who actually believe in it.” Among other things, Douthat declares that Christians feel “embattled” by “Christmukkwanzaa multiculturalism.”

But according to a survey by Trinity College, about 76 percent of Americans identify themselves as Christians, which surely makes them our largest oppressed minority group, both proportionately and by sheer numbers.

Douthat is slick enough to poke fun at bozos on the right who rail about the “war” against Christmas. Yet he’s essentially engaging in the same tactic. Since Barry Goldwater, if not before, the conservative movement has been fueled in large measure by whipping up a sense of resentment. The laughable idea that it’s somehow difficult to be a Christian in this country has become a big part of that.

When Douthat was hired to replace William Kristol on the Times op-ed page, he was supposed to represent something new, different and better: a younger, more analytical thinker who might not persuade liberals but who would at least be worth reading for the strength of his arguments.

Instead, he’s proved to be a hack who offers neither entertainment nor insight.

Michelangelo’s “Martyrdom” via Wikimedia Commons. Click here or on image for a larger view.

Lost Will on Afghanistan

Columnist George Will today calls for the near-total withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, writing:

[F]orces should be substantially reduced to serve a comprehensively revised policy: America should do only what can be done from offshore, using intelligence, drones, cruise missiles, airstrikes and small, potent Special Forces units, concentrating on the porous 1,500-mile border with Pakistan, a nation that actually matters.

Will’s column is not a huge surprise — he’s been offering previews on ABC’s “This Week.” His assessment matters because of his status as a conservative icon, although, as a traditional conservative rather than a neocon, he was never as gung-ho about war in the Middle East as, say, William Kristol.

Giving Will’s views even more resonance is an especially bleak assessment by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the American commander in Afghanistan, who is calling for a far greater commitment of U.S. forces.

President Obama faces an incredibly difficult dilemma. He campaigned on a platform of shifting resources from Iraq to the conflict in Afghanistan and Pakistan, arguing that the move was necessary to deny Al Qaeda a refuge. Yet that’s a dubious proposition, given that Al Qaeda could move anywhere. Indeed, the only reason it’s in Afghanistan is because it was chased out of Sudan.

But before you say we should let Afghanistan go, remember that Pakistan is unstable and armed with nuclear weapons.

Is Will right? I don’t know. I do know that if Obama can meet American security needs without putting American troops in harm’s way, then he should do so as quickly as possible.

Kristol mails it in

Bill Kristol barely rouses himself in his New York Times column today. Simply as a student of opinion journalism, I’m amazed at the extent to which he’s willing to make assertions without even trying to back them up.

Today’s effort isn’t a bad column because he’s a conservative, but because he’s so lazy. Here are three examples:

1. “McCain’s impetuous decision to return to Washington was right. The agreement announced early Sunday morning is better than Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson’s original proposal, and better than the deal the Democrats claimed was close on Thursday. Assuming the legislation passes soon, and assuming it reassures financial markets, McCain will be able to take some credit.”

I have not seen one account of the negotiations that shows John McCain had anything to do with the outcome; I’ve seen quite a few that suggest his parachute jump was a distraction. I make that point not to claim that I’m right, but to explain the conventional wisdom that Kristol, as McCain’s advocate, needs to puncture.

As if. Here was Kristol’s golden opportunity to work those inside connections and tell us why everyone is wrong; to say that McCain did X and Y, and that it’s time he got some credit, damn it. Kristol doesn’t even try.

2. “McCain needs to liberate his running mate from the former Bush aides brought in to handle her — aides who seem to have succeeded in importing to the Palin campaign the trademark defensive crouch of the Bush White House. McCain picked Sarah Palin in part because she’s a talented politician and communicator. He needs to free her to use her political talents and to communicate in her own voice.”

As we have all seen, Sarah Palin can’t answer simple questions about any issues of national and international importance. The reason McCain’s aides have been so parsimonious about her public appearances is that she stumbles every time she opens her mouth. We wouldn’t be talking about how she’s being handled if she could answer the questions.

Again, the columnist’s job is to tell us why everyone is wrong — to explain, on the basis of evidence, that the reason her interviews with Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric were so damaging was because McCain’s handlers have gotten inside her head and made it impossible for her natural wisdom to flow forth. Or whatever. In other words, give us some plausible explanation for us not to believe our own lying eyes and ears.

And again, Kristol doesn’t bother.

3. “On Saturday, Obama criticized McCain for never using in the debate Friday night the words ‘middle class.’ … The McCain campaign might consider responding by calling attention to Chapter 14 of Obama’s eloquent memoir, ‘Dreams From My Father.’ There Obama quotes from the brochure of Reverend [Jeremiah] Wright’s church — a passage entitled ‘A Disavowal of the Pursuit of Middleclassness.'”

Why, yes, the McCain campaign might very well consider doing that. Would it be a good idea? Who knows? Kristol doesn’t make any attempt to try to characterize what the brochure says.

Wright has indulged in some pretty nasty rhetoric. But he is, after all, a minister. If Wright calls on people to disavow “the pursuit of middleclassness,” might he be urging them to eschew materialism in favor of service to one’s fellow men and women? Who knows? What we do know is that, on the basis of no evidence whatsoever, Kristol manages to insinuate that Wright was seeking a race war against bourgeois society.

How much is he getting paid for this?

Hoyt’s mixed bag on Kristol

New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt’s column on the hiring of William Kristol is disappointing, but entertaining nevertheless.

It’s disappointing because he quotes the most unhinged, illiterate e-mails the Times has received so that he can claim that at least some Kristol-bashers are nothing but ignorant haters, and because he blows right past the criticism that Kristol “is an activist with the potential to embarrass The Times with his outside involvements.” Well, yeah. That’s disqualifying, or at least it ought to be.

But Hoyt is right on the money in flogging Kristol for publicly urging that the Times be prosecuted for committing the sin of journalism against the Bush administration. And he’s touchingly naive in saying that Kristol’s refusal to talk to him was “an odd stance for someone who presumably will want others to talk to him for his column.”

Does Hoyt really think Kristol is going to do any reporting?