- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 22, 2011

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The meek may indeed inherit the earth, but the Republican presidential nominee won’t inherit the White House in 2012 if he or she heeds the weak-kneed advice of at least one GOP consultant in what is becoming a deja vu of 2008.

While President Obama was busy in Osawatomie, Kan., on Dec. 6, declaring class warfare, the Tarrance Group, a Republican polling firm, was counseling something akin to unilateral disarmament in a Republican conference.

Republicans on the private call with allies warned that party surrogates should refrain from personal attacks against Mr. Obama because such a strategy is too hazardous to the GOP.

“We’re hesitant to jump on board with heavy attacks” personally against Mr. Obama, said Nicholas Thompson, vice president of the polling firm the Tarrance Group, on the call.

How did that timidity work out for Sen. John McCain, who treated Mr. Obama with kid gloves in 2008, going so far as to excoriate a talk-radio host emceeing a campaign event for him in Cincinnati - merely for using the then-Illinois senator’s middle name, Hussein, in a derisive manner? “Whatever suggestion that was made that was any way disparaging to the integrity, character, honesty of Sen. Obama was wrong,” Mr. McCain said in the February 2008 incident. “I condemn it, and if I have any responsibility, I will take the responsibility, and I apologize for it.”

Mr. McCain called Mr. Obama a “man of integrity” and said the Illinois senator was someone he had come to know “pretty well, and I admire.”

Following his boss’ lead three months later, Mr. McCain’s chief advertising strategist, Mark McKinnon, announced that he was resigning, following through on a vow he had made months earlier not to work against an Obama candidacy because of its “historic” nature.

In an interview with Cox News Service, Mr. McKinnon had said of Mr. Obama: “I think he has a deep character and good judgment. I also think he’s wrong on some fundamental issues. But I believe he is honest and independent.”

That hopelessly naive view was embraced by the McCain campaign despite the fact that Obama consigliere David Axelrod - whom the New York Times dubbed Mr. Obama’s “hired muscle” - had plumbed and utilized divorce records, first against Mr. Obama’s 2004 Democratic primary opponent and then against his Republican opponent, to get his man into the Senate. Does anyone at the RNC really think Mr. Axelrod won’t again stop at nothing to get him re-elected in 2012?

That GOP obsequiousness continues to this day, even as Democrats continue to blame former President George W. Bush, now three years on, for all of the economy’s ills in seeking to exculpate themselves of any responsibility. Mr. Bush is legitimately to blame, at least in one respect - he has allowed them to get away with doing so unchallenged.

The problem with Mr. Bush’s laissez-faire indifference about his presidential legacy is the collateral damage sustained by other Republicans in allowing the Democrats’ narrative of how Mr. Obama “inherited” the recessionary economy to take root in the public consciousness. As Democrats and liberals have taught us, albeit in another context, “Silence equals assent.”

Such timidity continues apace for Republican presidential hopefuls when, for example, at Dec. 10’s GOP debate on ABC, Mitt Romney averred that he is “not a bomb-thrower, rhetorically or literally.” While it’s understandable that he doesn’t want to get down in the gutter with his opponent if he’s the nominee, he will need to learn - and learn quickly - that you don’t abide by the Marquis of Queensberry rules when you’re in the ring with Ultimate Fighting Championship brawlers like Mr. Obama and Mr. Axelrod. Or when House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi telegraphs Democrats’ intentions regarding the upcoming campaign when she claims to be in possession of confidential ethics committee material on Newt Gingrich to be deployed, if he’s the GOP nominee, “when the time is right.”

Simply put, Republicans cannot allow their nominee to again bring the proverbial knife to the gunfight in 2012, as Mr. McCain did in 2008. If anything, the knife/gun paradigm understates the problem ahead, when you consider that Mr. Obama is expected to bring a $1 billion war chest to his re-election campaign, to say nothing of the additional hundreds of millions of dollars his Big Labor allies are likely to spend on his behalf. The better analogy might well be: Don’t bring a BB gun to a bazooka fight.

If any of the would-be nominees is not willing to use every weapon at their disposal against “the Chicago way,” he has no business seeking the GOP nomination. It won’t be asked in one of the debates, but that’s a question that needs to be put to the candidates sooner rather than later.

Peter Parisi is an editor at The Washington Times.

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