Monday, March 07, 2011

Matt Continetti: Bad for Palin to Run, But Not for Bachmann

Go figure. Twenty-nine year old Matt Continetti, one of the bright young guns at The Weekly Standard, apparently has different weights and measures in his bag according to which candidate he's talking about. On a Ricochet podcast at about the 1:03:00 mark, Continetti weighs in on presidential prospects for Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann (transcript below).

First there's Continetti's statement that if Chris Christie or Mitch Daniels don't run the Republican presidential field will not be "exciting". Imagine living in an intellectual world in which things can only be exciting if Christie or Daniels are a part of it.

Then there's Continetti's sword of Damocles hanging over Palin's head. If she runs for president she will, wait for it, find "media scrutiny . . . even more intense than it’s been in the past." This from the guy who wrote The Persecution of Sarah Palin: How the Elite Media Tried to Bring Down a Rising Star.

Did Continetti overhype media "persecution"? How much more intense can you get than persecution? It looks like Continetti is either admitting his own flawed judgment in his previous work or trying to say there is something worse than media persecution. What? Torture? Continetti never explains.

But, Continetti apparently sees no real downside for intense media scrutiny for Michele Bachmann--not to mention intense media scrutiny on the really exciting guys like Christie and Daniels. Why intense media scrutiny would be hard for someone like Palin who has gotten it non-stop for more than two years but not for candidates who haven't gotten a real whiff of it yet is hard to explain. And Continetti doesn't try.

Also, according to Continetti, a real downside for Palin is that she will have to debate "serious governors" if she runs for president. Besides the question of what makes one governor "serious" and another not, Continetti never brings up that Bachmann would have the same problem. Maybe worse, since Bachmann, never having been a governor, would presumably find it even more difficult to debate "serious governors".

Then there's Palin's supposedly already great gig in endorsing candidates and energizing conservatives. Running for president would, by Continetti's lights, be a "demotion". That's a head scratcher.

By what standard is the Presidency second to successfully endorsing candidates or energizing one's base? The presidential veto alone is equivalent to electing 2/3rds minus 1 of the Senate and House. The idea of the Presidency being a demotion in terms of any other political position is nothing short of laughable.

How else to interpret "demotion"? Will lose supporters if she runs for president? Nah. Will lose her current status as an elder statesman who is thoughtfully listened to when she opines on candidates and issues? Nah. I can't figure out a way in which Continetti's use of "demotion" makes sense.

Back to Bachmann, about whose possible presidential run Continetti finds no downside. Bachmann has money. There's "political opportunity", and "she's smart" having been a "tax lawyer". She, like Palin, gets conservative audiences "excited". Bachmann is "also older and a little bit more seasoned than Palin."

More seasoned? How? It looks like the only "seasoning" she has over Palin is having spent hours in being interviewed by Continetti. I like Bachmann, but Bachmann hasn't been a governor in a time of recession, hasn't been through a national presidential campaign, and hasn't undergone a fraction of the intense media scrutiny and criticism that Palin has.

Also, why would Bachmann (or anyone else), who also currently does well on energizing the base and campaigning for others, seek the "demotion" of a presidential campaign?

The only answer I can come up with is this all makes sense in Continetti's private universe, but not in American politics.

Here's the transcript:
[Matt Continetti:]“So, a field without Christie or Daniels is not an exciting field, as I think Peter [Robinson] implicitly concedes in his scenario he lays out."
. . .
"I don’t think Palin’s going to run. I don’t see her doing anything to set up a major presidential campaign. I think, it’s Ann Coulter actually had the best line on this where she said if Palin were to run for president it would be a demotion. She’s far more powerful sitting on the sidelines being the king or queen maker. You know, doling out her endorsements, energizing the conservative voters, the conservative grass roots than she would be, as soon as she becomes a candidate the media scrutiny is there even more intense than it’s been in the past. She actually will have to, you know, debate serious governors like, like Pawlenty or Barbour or Daniels if he runs like Peter mentioned. I think she understands that she’s better off not running. And so everything I see right now suggests that’s what she’s going to do--not run.

[James Lileks:] "Do you think Michele Bachmann is going to run?

[Continetti:] "Yeah, I actually think Bachmann, I think Bachmann is moving toward a run. She’s visiting all the primary and caucus states. She has a pretty big PAC. She has money left over from last time, and she also sees political opportunity which is that a field without Palin is a field where Michele Bachmann can make an impact. And, people, I mean, people underestimate Michele Bachmann. I spent quite a bit of time with her for a profile that’s never actually been published, but she, she’s smart, you know. Not only do conservatives love her because she is a energizer bunny, she just gets conservative audiences excited, but she’s smart. This lady was a tax lawyer before she ran for congress. You know, and she’s also older and a little bit more seasoned than Palin. So, I wouldn’t underestimate her either.

[Lileks:] "No, she’s generally regarded here on the left in Minnesota as just an absolute, total idiot. And she’s not. And she’s also . . .

[Continetti:] "But, what conservatives do the left not consider as idiots? . . . ."

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