February 21, 2007


Tribal Warfare: Mitt Romney's symbolic appeals to conservative Republicans. (Rick Perlstein, 2/21/07, TNR Online)

As the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) immediately observed, its location, the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, is a "testament to the life of ... a notorious anti-Semite and xenophobe." Some observers wondered if perhaps this wasn't intentional: If you want to prove to conservatives you're no liberal, what better way than to announce on the former estate of a man who, as the NJDC also pointed out, was "bestowed with the Grand Service Cross of the Supreme Order of the German Eagle by Adolf Hitler"?

The campaign denies such calculations outright of course. "I think most people, no matter what your ideology," spokesman Kevin Madden says, "saw that as a somewhat absurd criticism, given that it's a museum, a place of learning, a Michigan landmark. Thousands of schoolchildren go through this place." And he's right: Thus framed, the charge is an absurdity. Praise the Lord, there is no electoral payoff in appealing to heartland memories of the Henry Ford whose Dearborn Independent reached a circulation of 900,000 featuring articles like "Jewish Jazz--Moron Music--Becomes Our National Music."

Those memories no longer exist--except to the hair-trigger sensitivities of the likes of the NJDC, which put out their press release and garnered an AP article on the flap. But here's something to consider: The Romney campaign has harvested benefits from that flap, whether it was intentional or not. Consider the sarcastic reflection of this denizen of the right-wing website Free Republic:

Allright, an AP hit piece! The MSM has more acute RINOdar than we. Real RINO's don't get rinky-dink MSM hit pieces such as this. This proves that the MSM believes Romney is a conservative, and therefore must be roughed up.

Translation: I used to suspect that Romney was only a "Republican in Name Only." But now I realize: He bugs the liberal media. By the tribal logic of right-wing identity politics, that is enough--Mitt Romney now can be called a conservative.

Despite our best efforts to dissuade him, Friend Perlstein continues to believe that the commentors at Free Republic are representative of the GOP base, rather than wingnuts. Of course, he also thinks the Kosmmunists are the mainstream of the Democratic party....

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 21, 2007 6:13 PM

That Freeper comment is a bit goofy, but there's nothing per se incorrect about it. The media makes a big deal out of stuff like this when it hurts Republicans.

Surely Mr. Perlstein understands that, since his excellent book on the Goldwater campaign astutely noted how Walter Cronkite and Daniel Schorr attacked Goldwater for supposedly opening his campaign at "Hitler's stamping ground" of Berchtesgaden. The next story was about the burning of a black church in Mississippi.

The preferred media storyline is so hilariously predictable that you could write out a prototype series of paragraphs to be used in news stories about GOP candidates, with empty spaces only for names and specific details. Why shouldn't we poke fun at the press for constantly using this approach and then piously denying any bias? We like to irritate these guys because they're so full of it.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at February 21, 2007 6:59 PM

That Freeper comment makes more sense than assuming Romney is anti-Semitic because he spoke at the Ford museum, or that he was trying to appeal to anti-Semites by speaking there.

In other words, the wingnuts at Free Republic seem more sane than liberals.

Posted by: pj at February 21, 2007 7:02 PM

So the Right should support him as a demonstration of anti-anti-anti-Semitism?

Posted by: oj at February 21, 2007 9:08 PM


Huh? The point is there is no reason to think he meant anything antisemitic by it.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at February 21, 2007 9:20 PM

Not Rick's.

Posted by: oj at February 21, 2007 11:45 PM

... and we care about what Perlstein thinks because ... ?

Posted by: erp at February 22, 2007 7:46 AM