The Washington Post’s Stephanie McCrummen probably didn’t just stumble onto the hollow story of an anonymously painted old rock on a remote West Texas hunting lease by herself. This is the kind of story that comes from oppo research, the question here being, whose? Mickey Kaus asks, and then points to an odd source:
Just when we had Rick Perry on the ropes, WaPo has to go and give his candidacy new life by creating a Perry vs. Liberal MSM controversy. GOP primary voters don’t like being told the have “no heart”–but they don’t like the press trying to take a Republican out with a second-order racial-insensitivity scandal either. … If I had to guess which candidate’s camp leaked this story, I might guess Perry’s. Who benefits?
Love ya Mickey, but I think that’s daft. True, Perry benefits from the true narrative of a Republican beset by hacks in the liberal media, but this isn’t the kind of hit a candidate launches at himself. There are such hits; this just isn’t one of them, because it’s too easily used to tar not just the candidate but his entire party among the crucial but low-information independent vote. Southern Republicans fight this unfair and inaccurate racist image every day, not just from Democrats but also from independents and even establishment Republicans (even though it’s the Southern Democratic parties that carry tons of real racial baggage). Whoever launched this hit had to be unconcerned with or unaware of the collateral damage it might do the GOP in the South.
We have to ask ourselves about motive, resources, and timing on a hit like this. Everyone from President Obama to Gary Johnson has the motive, just because Perry is among the top candidates and still leads in some polls. The president has the resources to turn something like this up and he has allies in the Texas Democratic Party who would help. But the Obama camp would probably time such an attack differently, launching either on the eve of a debate or primary to cause chaos, or just wait and use it after Perry is already the nominee. Bachmann’s serial mischaracterizations of the HPV vaccine put this sort of attack well within her wheelhouse, but she has the problem of resources: How can a candidate who can barely afford to campaign in Iowa fund strong enough oppo research to scour West Texas? I’m not saying it’s impossible, just unlikely. Cain was obviously caught flat-footed and ended up hurting himself in responding to it, so he’s an unlikely source. Plus, this just doesn’t seem like the sort of thing Cain would do. Gingrich, either, for that matter. Ron Paul seems to be too busy fretting over the death of a terrorist, plus he has his own deep issues with race concerning his old newsletter.
There only seems to be one campaign with the motive and resources to pull this off, and to consider the timing worthwhile, and that’s the Romney campaign. They have the money to scour obscure hunting leases in West Texas, and Romney’s repeated hits from the left on Social Security and on the Texas economic record show that he isn’t much concerned with damaging the conservative movement within the party. His campaign is by far the most active in attacking the other candidates. It’s tuned to pounce on every word that Perry utters, and blasts out several attacks on him per day. As for the timing, Perry has sunk in the polls after a couple of weak debate performances, and there’s another debate coming up next week. If you’re the Romney camp, now might be the time to try and put Perry on the defensive and set up that next debate to be another gang-up on Perry. The painted rock story is likely to trigger an overreaction from Bachmann and maybe a doubling down from Cain, with both focused on Perry, not Romney, who gets to stay above it all. Kaus asks who benefits — add it all up, and the Romney camp benefits the most over the next few days leading up to the debate. They may be using this week and the debate to try to finish Perry off.
Whoever launched this smear deserves to find something mean and rattling the next time they go turning over rocks way out in West Texas.