'It's the Country, Stupid'

There’s a word that often describes too much of the inside-the-Beltway, northeast-corridor “conservative” punditry — snarly.

A notion is afoot in that terrain, in these final days leading up to the November election, that this is just one more silly season during which their punditry role is to judge the political gymnastics and jujitsu that make up the games and hold up score cards… Who’s ahead in the polls? What does that mean? And so on.

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Here are the most recent and noteworthy examples of conservative snarliness.

Bill Kristol — not to be mistaken for the comedian Bill Crystal, who is often funny — is the editor of the conservative magazine The Weekly Standard.

On September 18, 2012, forty-nine days before the election, in the context of commenting on the latest campaign dust-up that has the Beltway pundits of all flavors in a tizzy, wrote:

It remains important for the country that Romney wins in November (unless he chooses to step down and we get the Ryan-Rubio ticket we deserve!). But that shouldn’t blind us to the fact that Romney’s comments, like those of Obama four years ago, are stupid and arrogant.

So what’s up with this suggestion that Romney should step down and let Ryan lead the ticket and Rubio bat second? Really?

Romney is tied today in the (dubious) polling sweepstakes with Obama. Is James Bennet, editor of The Atlantic, suggesting that Obama step down and the Democrats get the Hillary-Biden ticket they deserve? No, because progressive Democrats don’t eat their own.

Kristol equates Romney’s statement about the 47% who don’t pay income taxes with Obama’s long forgotten — by the sycophant liberal media — words in the ’08 campaign. Ancient history.

Bill can now go to this weekend’s cocktail parties in D.C. and tell the liberal Beltway pundits how he’s fair and balanced. And they’ll say that’s why they respect him; he not one of those proletariat conservatives.

Not to be outdone, Peggy Noonan, who occasionally writes for the Wall Street Journal when she’s not the collegial token conservative on ABC and NBC Sunday morning talk shows, pipes in with:

It’s time to admit the Romney campaign is an incompetent one. It’s not big, it’s not brave, it’s not thoughtfully tackling great issues. It’s always been too small for the moment. All the activists, party supporters and big donors should be pushing for change. People want to focus on who at the top is least constructive and most responsible. Fine, but Mitt Romney is no puppet: He chooses who to listen to. An intervention is in order. “Mitt, this isn’t working.”

She added:

This is not how big leaders talk, it’s how shallow campaign operatives talk: They slice and dice the electorate like that, they see everything as determined by this interest or that.

So Romney is, in Noonan’s opinion, not a “big leader” — like Reagan, for whom, as she frequently reminds us, she once worked. Romney is, she implies, “shallow.”

Put aside a judgment on whether or not the advice Noonan offers in her recent column is worthy of Romney’s consideration, and focus on the platform from which she throws it. It comes in a forum that Democrats are likely to read and cite against the man she claims to want to help with an “intervention.” Intervention? So Peggy, now the conservative Dr. Phil, is asking, “So, Mitt, how’s that campaign thing working out for ya?”

Here’s the fault line that runs downs the northeast coast, somewhere east of the Appalachian Mountains, that separates the professional conservative pundits from the rest of us civilian conservatives. For them, this election is just another quadrennial jousting tournament, after which, however it turns out, they’ll thoughtfully pontificate in the context of rendering their analyses of who won, who lost, and why.

For them, it’s a dispassionate endeavor. It’s not an existential struggle, like it is for us street conservatives.

Their magazines and columns will go on after November regardless of the outcome. They’ll be bonhomie losers — hey, in politics you win some, you lose some. They’ll be welcomed on liberal network talk shows as subject matter experts (SMEs) for the losing side, if Romney loses, and tell their “we told him so” stories.

Like opposing lawyers who, after a heated debate in a crowded court room, dismiss to the local watering hole and buy each other rounds of martinis, Noonan will be on the alphabet networks, and Kristol will joust on with Juan Williams. Like nothing happened. It’s entertainment.

By remembering their detachment from existential investment in this election, we civilians can frame their comments in their proper perspective. They each have one vote. Their positive impact is limited, since they’re already recognized as preachers to the conservative choir by all sides.

But when they publicly attack someone who shares their espoused viewpoints — someone who is running against a candidate who does not (see Akin vs. McCaskill for the Missouri Senate seat) — they end up giving aid and comfort to an ideological adversary in order to enhance their own stature in the “journalistic community.”

If Bill or Peggy has a problem with Mitt, he or she should pick up the phone and call him. And if he disregards their advice, they should eat it, and go about their business — which should not include going public with ignored advice. Why? Because it only serves the purposes of the Obama campaign.

Noonan implied that Romney is not a “big leader.” Kristol said he’s “stupid” and “arrogant.” With allies like them, Romney doesn’t need liberal pundits sniping at him from the tree line.

James Carville once said of a past presidential election: “It’s the economy, stupid.”

The operative quip about this one is: “It’s the country, stupid.”

If Peggy and Bill fully understood that, they’d express their discontent through privileged access to the Romney campaign, which they, unlike the rest of us, no doubt have.

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