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“The Company He Keeps”: Tea Party Unloads On ‘Complete Imbecile’ Rick Perry

When Texas Gov. Rick Perry was indicted last month on two felony charges stemming from how he dealt with a misbehaving Democratic state official, the image of the stuttering 2012 Republican primary challenger was replaced with that of a hero-cowboy in the eyes of many conservatives. Perry was under attack from the left wing, and his response was not to apologize but to walk through a hail of blue-hued bullets and emerge laughing, without a mark on him. But some conservative true believers have begun to notice something rather suspicious: The company Perry keeps seems more suited to a mainstream Republican—or a right-of-center Democrat—than to their hero-cowboy.

Perry is associated with three operatives who have concerned some members of the die-hard right wing: lobbyist Henry Barbour, former Bill Clinton aide Mark Fabiani, and McCain-Palin campaign chief and MSNBC pundit Steve Schmidt.

Well, maybe “concerned” is putting it somewhat mildly.

“The only two options are that Rick Perry is a complete imbecile and he has no idea who these people are and what they’ve done and how the conservative base—who votes in primaries—feels about these guys, or he’s doing it on purpose because that’s the kind of message he wants to send,” said Keli Carender, the national grassroots coordinator for the Tea Party Patriots. Either way, she assured: “It will be an issue. We will make it an issue.”

Barbour is already working on Perry’s 2016 bid for the White House. But conservatives know him best for his role running the political action committee Mississippi Conservatives, founded by his uncle, Haley Barbour, the former governor of Mississippi. In this year’s Magnolia State primary fight—and “fight” is an understatement—between U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran and state Sen. Chris McDaniel, Barbour reportedly played an influential and controversial role. According to National Review, his PAC funneled money to produce ads against McDaniel that alleged he would set back “race relationships between blacks and whites and other ethnic groups.” The ads, which seemed intended to drive African-American voters to the polls, enraged McDaniel’s Tea Party supporters.

As reported by Breitbart News, some conservatives loathe Barbour so much that they tried to get the Republican National Committee to censure him, to no avail.

“Republicans should not hire Henry Barbour unless and until he apologizes for the tactics he helped fund in Mississippi…I don’t think [keeping Barbour around] necessarily means Perry is endorsing what he did, but it means he’s certainly not properly condemning it or taking it seriously enough,” Quin Hillyer, a conservative writer and activist, told The Daily Beast. “What he helped finance was so far beyond the pale that he should be blackballed by conservatives, and if Perry wants to be considered a conservative, he should no longer employ Henry Barbour.”

Rick Shaftan, a Republican consultant who involved himself in the Mississippi primary, offered a somewhat different view of Barbour to The Daily Beast: “I don’t like what he did in Mississippi, but you know what? It shows he’s a ruthless, cutthroat operative, and there’s something to be said for that on the Republican side. Because we don’t have enough of them. If the force of evil can be brought to do good, then that’s a good thing.”

Normally, staffers don’t matter much to voters, Carender noted. But Mississippi is different for many on the far right. It’s become the ultimate test of Tea Party fidelity, a measuring stick for whether a conservative will sell out his principles to inside-the-Beltway Washington RINOs or will stay true to the cause and the grassroots activists who are the heart and soul of the movement.

People don’t recognize, Carender said, just “how plugged in the conservative base is to Mississippi…If you’re a man of integrity, you don’t associate with Henry Barbour as far as we’re concerned.”

Perry has associated with Barbour since at least 2012, when Barbour served on his ill-fated but memorable presidential campaign. (Haley Barbour, for his part, supported Newt Gingrich.)

Publicly, Perry may have shrugged at last month’s indictment—but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been taking Lone Star State-size measures to ensure it doesn’t sink him for good.

As part of his legal team, Perry has hired the Harvard-educated Mark Fabiani, best known for his ties to the Democratic Party. From 1994 through 1996, Fabiani worked as special counsel to President Bill Clinton. He then served as Al Gore’s communications director during his 2000 presidential campaign. Fabiani has worked for the Democratic former San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom as well.

Perry also has hired Steve Schmidt, a Republican strategist and former consultant to John McCain in 2008. Schmidt has long enraged Tea Party conservatives with his candor about members of his own party. Schmidt has called McCain’s VP pick, Sarah Palin, “someone [who] was nominated to the vice presidency who was manifestly unprepared to take the oath of office should it become necessary and as it has become necessary many times in American history.” Asked whether Palin would have a future in politics, Schmidt once remarked: “I hope not…And the reason I say that is because if you look at it, over the last four years, all of the deficiencies in knowledge, all of the deficiencies in preparedness, she’s done not one thing to rectify them, to correct them.”

Then Schmidt described Palin’s unflattering qualities, which could, unfortunately for Perry, double as descriptions for most members of the Tea Party: “She has become a person who, I think, is filled with grievance, filled with anger, who has a divisive message for the national stage…”

Conservative radio host Mark Levin wondered of Schmidt, “Why would Perry hire this conservative attacker and Palin hater?”

Schmidt made those comments on MSNBC, where he is employed as a political analyst. Shaftan said of Perry hiring the strategist: “If they have Steve Schmidt working for them, why are they telling people? That I don’t understand.”

Perry has been basking in the glory of the conservative credibility his fight with Texas Democrats has lent him—so much so that his mugshot features a prominent smirk, one you can wear on a T-shirt being sold by his PAC for just $25. Some Republicans made that same image their Facebook profile pictures in a show of support, in the way some do for gay marriage, or to end violence against children. But you’re only as good as the company you keep, according to some members of the far right who have in the past proved themselves to be loud enough to get their way.

Conservative HQ columnist Richard Viguerie wrote of Perry’s team: “When you hire a consultant, you hire his reputation, strategy, and tactics. We doubt that Governor Perry plans to win the Republican presidential nomination by race-baiting, recruiting Democrats to vote in Republican primary elections, and trashing as ‘poisonous’ conservatives such as Rush Limbaugh…”

Hillyer agreed: “A very important law of politics and government, as emphasized again and again by conservative movement leader Morton Blackwell, is that personnel is policy. If somebody wants to get a sense of how a political leader might govern, it certainly is important to see who he hires.”

 

By: Olivia Nuzzi, The Daily Beast, September 4, 2014

September 8, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, Rick Perry, Tea Party | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Loons And Wackos”: In GOP Civil War, It’s Limbaugh vs The Consultants

The last time we checked in with the post-election GOP civil war, Herman Cain was threatening to form a new party to compete with the GOP, Bill Kristol sparked a schism over tax increases, and Grover Norquist, the high priest of anti-tax dogma, was losing his grip on congressional Republicans.

This week, the Republican soul searching and polite recriminations via anonymous quote exploded into an all-out war of words between representatives of two wings of the party that have never gotten along, but largely kept quiet for the good of the conservative cause.

In one corner are the consultants, Steve Schmidt, who managed John McCain’s 2008 campaign, and Mike Murphy, who advised Mitt Romney. In the other corner is Rush Limbaugh, the embodiment of the conservative id in human form. We don’t have a dog in this fight as there’s blood on both of their hands, so just sit back and enjoy.

Schmidt threw the first punch in this battle on “Meet the Press” with a left, left combo strike against the right flank of his party. GOP leaders have “succumbed to the base,” he said last Sunday, arguing that “to too many swing voters in the country, when you hear the word ‘conservative’ now, they think of loons and wackos.” As if that weren’t enough, when host David Gregory played a clip of Limbaugh, Schmidt took the bait. “Our elected leaders are scared to death of the conservative entertainment complex, the shrill and divisive voices that are bombastic and broadcasting out into the homes,” he said in a clear reference to the radio host.

A week later on the same show, Murphy tagged in and continued the pummeling, this time calling out Limbaugh by name. “If we don’t modernize conservatism, we can go extinct … we’ve got to get kind of a party view of America that’s not right out of Rush Limbaugh’s dream journal,” Murphy said. He continued to deliver the blows:

“We alienate young voters because of gay marriage, we have a policy problem. We alienate Latinos — the fastest growing voter group in the country, because of our fetish on so-called amnesty, when we should be for a path to immigration. And we’ve lost our connection to middle-class economics. We also have an operative class and unfortunately a lot of which is incompetent … The biggest problem Mitt Romney had was the Republican primary. That’s what’s driving the Republican brand right now to a disaster.”

It’s a rather stunning rebuke from someone who was a top strategist to the Republican Party’s standard bearer just a few weeks ago. And it’s a surprisingly earnest, clear-eyed diagnosis of the party’s problem — its policy — from a leader in a party that has spent a lot of time after the election talking about superficial fixes that won’t change much. (That said, it’s more than a little ironic for him to attack an operative class that doesn’t know how to win considering that he … is an operative who just lost.)

Limbaugh didn’t hesitate to fire back. “What, folks, did I or any of you have to do with the Republican primary? Did not Murphy get the candidate he wanted?” the radio host said Monday. Indeed, Limbaugh is right, at least in that he was never a fan of Romney during the GOP primary.

“All these consultants, do you realize they get rich no matter who wins or loses? Little-known secret,” Limbaugh said (right again). “We need to get rid of conservatism, is what is he’s saying. We need to get rid of all these people shouting stupid conservative stuff,” the radio host added.

Limbaugh then went after Schmidt personally, saying, “I don’t know where Schmidt has a victory to hang his hat on.”

Yesterday, he also put to bed any rumors that he would support tax increases, as he had hinted at earlier.

Schmidt’s membership card to Limbaugh’s conservative movement was revoked four years ago after McCain’s loss and when Sarah Palin seemed to make it her mission to destroy him. So it’s not particularly surprising that he would tangle with Limbaugh. But the addition of Murphy, and the openness and viciousness of the conflict, illuminates the front lines in the civil war as the party tries to remake itself for future elections.

By: Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, November 21, 2012

November 22, 2012 Posted by | GOP | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Hidden Man”: Mitt Romney’s Tax Returns Don’t Look Like “You People’s” Tax Returns

John McCain’s former top presidential campaign strategist said Sunday that Mitt Romney’s tax returns had nothing to do with the campaign’s pick of Sarah Palin as the GOP’s vice presidential nominee in 2008.

“Mitt Romney went through this process and what I can tell you is that he’s a person of decency with the highest ethical character and background,” Steve Schmidt said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “There was nothing that was disqualifying. That pick in 2008 was not about any deficiency with Mitt Romney. It was a political decision that we made in a very bad political circumstance.”

Schmidt, who said he did not personally view Romney’s tax returns, said Romney is an “extremely wealthy man” and his tax returns “do not look anything like the average American.”

As a chorus of voices have called on the presumptive Republican presidential nominee to release more of his tax returns, Romney has held firm. He told National Review in an interview that the Obama campaign’s hammering him on his taxes to distract voters from the tepid economic recovery and the president’s failure to put more Americans back to work.

However, New York Times columnist David Brooks told NBC’s David Gregory that Romney is a “hidden man” and that releasing his taxes won’t help that perception.

“I don’t care about the issue. Can you think about a president who was qualified or disqualified about taxes? What’s relevant is who the guy is,” Brooks said. “His family had gone across the west, poverty, building an empire, poverty, building an empire. He can’t talk about it because it involves Mormonism. He is a decent guy but he is not willing to talk about it. He’s a hidden man, so one of the turning points in this campaign is when he comes out and if he can come out. and I don’t know why they’re waiting so long.”

Democratic presidential strategist Bob Shrum agreed, saying Romney’s failure to release his tax returns makes him a “punching bag.”

“It does make him a hidden figure and a punching bag,” Shrum said. “…I tell you on this tax issue, Steve [Schmidt] and I have both been there. You sit down with the candidate and you say, ‘Look, we should release these tax returns.’ And either Romney or people in his campaign who have seen it said we’ll take worse damage if we release these returns than if we hold on to them. So I think he’s going to live with this issue all the way through.”

 

By: Juana Summers, Politico, July 22, 2012

July 23, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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