By Dana Milbank and Charles Babington
Sunday, June 12, 2005
For a Republican presidential hopeful, it was better than appearing on the cover of Time and Newsweek in the same week. Mitt Romney, the (Republican) governor of (mostly Democratic) Massachusetts, was a June cover boy for the two leading conservative magazines, National Review and the Weekly Standard.
The June 6 Weekly Standard showed Romney against a background of donkeys and asked: "Can a Republican governor of a Democratic state become America's first Mormon president?" Yes, the lengthy article suggested. Romney "has a record on economic and social issues that should appeal to conservatives. . . . He just might be 'the right guy at the right time.' Even though he is a Mormon."
National Review's June 20 issue shows a smiling Romney at the foot of a marble staircase. "Matinee Mitt" is the cover line. "Charming. Smart. Conservative." The article concludes that Romney "deserves a fair hearing" from conservatives. "They may come to like the guy." It continues: "Romney looks like he could play quarterback -- he's tall and trim -- except that he's not nearly mean enough for the gridiron. The man exudes niceness, which is one of the qualities that make him an unusually good retail politician."
Alas, it was too good to end there. The National Review article, by John J. Miller, also noted that Romneysaid during his gubernatorial campaign that he would "fully protect a woman's right to choose" abortion but now says his "political philosophy is pro-life." And it quoted Romney adviser Michael Murphy as saying: "He's been a pro-life Mormon faking it as a pro-choice friendly."
The Boston Globe ran a front-page headline saying "Adviser Says Governor Faked Stance on Abortion." With a political nor'easter in Massachusetts, Murphy backpedaled, saying he "was discussing a characterization the governor's critics use." Romney told reporters: "While I've said time and again that I oppose abortion, I've also indicated that I would not change in any way the abortion laws of Massachusetts, and I've honored my promises."
That may be a tough line to maintain in a GOP primary, even for a double-cover boy.Fun With Personal Accounts
With polls showing little public appetite for President Bush's proposal to divert some Social Security payroll taxes into personal accounts, Democrats are having fun reminding GOP lawmakers of past statements supporting such plans -- especially if the Republicans are up for reelection next year.
For instance, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has circulated newspaper accounts of a 2000 debate in which Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) said younger workers "should have a choice of using a portion of their payroll taxes to invest outside the [government] retirement system." And a Cincinnati Enquirer article from 2000 said Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) "favors a plan that would let taxpayers pick one of several government-approved funds to invest their payroll taxes."
The two senators appear much less committed now. "While personal accounts may end up being a part of that solution [to Social Security's long-term challenges], I don't see it as the silver bullet to fix what ails us," Burns said recently. DeWine spokesman Mike Dawson said his boss "hasn't decided on the president's proposal, but he does agree that we need to do something to increase personal savings," either within Social Security or by other means.Pelosi's Complaint
The House's top Democrat is none too happy with the mainstream press, it seems, and she is counting on opinionated blogs to help spread her party's message.
"If you depend on the print press, they will either leave you out of the story, or mischaracterize what you are saying, or you get two sentences in a 25-paragraph story which doesn't give weight to the argument that you have," Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told Rawstory.com last week. But liberal-leaning blogs and online media, she said, can help Democrats attack Republicans on issues such as Social Security.
"The Social Security fight has driven home to our members [that] you first have to take them down," Pelosi told Raw Story. "So we're going after them, we have to destroy their brand."
She said some reporters for traditional media outlets spurn Democrats in hopes of getting better access -- and scoops -- from the GOP. "I've had reporters say to me, 'I have orthodontia, I have tuition, I have mortgage, I need access, I'm not writing your story,' " Pelosi was quoted as saying. Asked Friday to name a journalist who made such comments, her office said it was "a younger reporter just starting out," but it declined to name the scribe.Kerry's 'Kids First' Ad
Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) will run a political ad in five states, but it doesn't mention his name. Starting Monday, Kerry's political action committee, Keeping America's Promise, will air a 30-second TV spot urging lawmakers to back his "Kids First" legislation, which would provide health coverage to millions of children from low-income families.
"Tell Washington to put our kids first," says the ad's narrator. It will air in states with two Republican senators each: Maine, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas. The PAC declined to say how much money will be spent on the effort.