Politico today tells us that there’s an “unmistakable consensus” among Republican Beltway operatives that the choice of Paul Ryan as Mitt Romney’s running mate “has only a modest chance of going right — and a huge chance of going horribly wrong.”
This “unmistakable consensus,” however, goes only so far, as a caveat in the beginning of the Politico story notes:
No one is asserting that Washington operatives in either party are oracles or seers. What’s more, it is not as if there is anything like unanimity in GOP circles about the merits of the Ryan pick, though the mood of anxiety and skepticism is overwhelming.
Most of all, if you are one of those people who thinks if someone has something negative to say, they should have the guts to put their name on it, you won’t find much to impress you in this article. Nearly all the Republican professionals interviewed for this story said they would share their unfiltered views only “on background” rules of attribution.
So: Does Politico get credit for putting up a “Please Stop Reading This Story” sign? I say yes. Such notification, after all, is more honest than the staid language that we see, for example, in a similar story from The Hill:
A number of senior Republican House and Senate strategists, speaking anonymously so they could be candid about their party’s vice presidential pick, acknowledged Ryan was good for presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney but expressed concern about his effect on congressional races.
That candor-enabling line has reached cliché status in American journalism, to the point that it now promotes cowardice. The practice is so commonplace that people default to anonymity when they contemplate speaking the truth. Well, at least many people.
In the Politico piece, former George W. Bush operative Mark McKinnon is quoted this way:
“I think it’s a very bold choice. And an exciting and interesting pick. It’s going to elevate the campaign into a debate over big ideas. It means Romney-Ryan can run on principles and provide some real direction and vision for the Republican Party. And probably lose. Maybe big.”
Why would McKinnon extend himself in such a fashion, when so many of his peers enjoy the lack of consequences given by anonymity? Here’s his on-the-record response: “I’m off the leash. I’m on no one’s payroll. I’m a free and liberated man able to simply speak my mind. And man is it refreshing.”