Once upon a time, about eight years ago, the Republican Party was seen as perfectly disciplined unified organism, responding in concert to its nerve-center's wishes and whims. Squabbling Democrats cowered before its discipline. Today, Rove is certainly not gone -- he's running a well-financed Super PAC that will surely be influential this election. But the sense of order in the GOP is. The idea of a perfectly monolithic power in the G.O.P. was mostly a fixation on the left, and subject of liberal books and documentaries like Bush's Brain, The Architect, Outfoxed. Explaining Fox News' message discipline in 2006, Dan Rather said, "somebody in the hierarchy, whether this is Roger Ailes who runs the place or not, we know that they get talking points from the White House, and they can say, 'Well, we don’t always take those talking points.'" But to give you a sense of how pervasive the sense of order in the Republican ranks was, this past June, Rove himself tweeted a link to a Wall Street Journal story about Obama adviser's firm making ads for the pharmaceutical lobby in support of Obamacare, and he included the comment, "Yeah, what if I'd tried to pull this stunt -- what would Dems have said?"
The political news today is full of examples of how the many factions of the GOP can't seem to get on the same page. Rupert Murdoch and Jack Welch -- powerful conservative businessmen -- think Romney's campaign is being run by amateurs. "Met Romney last week. Tough O Chicago pros will be hard to beat unless he drops old friends from team and hires some real pros. Doubtful," Murdoch tweeted Sunday. "Hope Mitt Romney is listening to Murdoch advice ont campaign staff..playing in league with Chicago pols..No room for amateurs," Jack Welch tweeted the day after.
Some Fox News commentators want to see Romney aides fired, too. The Five co-host Eric Bolling said Monday that Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom should "Do us all a favor – take a vacation, come back November 7." Co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle added, "How about don’t come back." But Murdoch and his employees are annoyed about different things. Murdoch wants Romney to get more liberal on immigration. Two of The Five wanted him to get more conservative on Obamacare.
So, to review: the guy who owns Fox News, the guy who is running for president, and the guys who talk about guys running for president on Fox News are all having trouble seeing eye-to-eye.
Romney did not take Murdoch's advice to compete for the Latino vote, according to Politico's Maggie Haberman:
"I know I took some positions in the primary that are" hard to contend with in a general, Romney said, according to two sources.
"I am not going to be a flip-flopper," he added, according to one guest.
The Fox talking heads were furious that Romney's adviser said that Obamacare isn't a tax -- probably because Romneycare also included an individual mandate, and he doesn't want to be called a tax-raiser. But that screwed up several days of Republican talking points. Just as the party is promising to campaign on Obamacare, Romney's demanding a health care ceasefire, National Journal's Josh Kraushaar writes.
Florida Rep. David Rivera wants a clearer immigration policy from Romney, too, telling BuzzFeed's McKay Coppins, "I think Hispanic voters expect more details as to what that 'permanent solution' might be that he keeps talking about." Rivera then diagnosed the campaign's problem in terms the Obama campaign would surely appreciate:
"I think they're probably worried about wading into a quagmire where whatever he does he will be criticized from the right, and have it not be satisfactory to those for whom the issue matters... So they may not want to wade into that debate. But that's what presidential campaigns are for. To put out your proposals and let voters judge them on their merits."
It's not just Republicans rebelling against the Romney campaign. They're rebelling against their congressional leaders. House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor both reportedly were reluctant to allow House Oversight Committee chair Darrell Issa's investigation into the Fast and Furious operation to end in a vote to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt. It took a year of pleading and Republican lawmakers insisting a contempt vote was the only way out. Even so, the House scheduled the contempt vote to happen just as the Supreme Court was handing down its ruling on Obamacare in an obvious attempt to keep it from being big news.
But the Obamacare ruling ended up being yet another moment of intra-party war. The decision to uphold Obamacare was written by Chief Justice John Roberts, who was appointed by George W. Bush and had been for conservatives "the one we want," according to former Bush spokeswoman Dana Perino. "And now the level of disappointment amongst a lot of people, including myself, is really high," she said. She's not the only former Bush aide disappointed with his appointee. Former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen complained in The Washington Post that Republican Supreme Court nominees often betrayed those that nominated them. Fellow Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson agreed, comparing Roberts to one of the great conservative enemies of all time:
Roberts has been praised for striking a grand political compromise that the political class could not achieve — for cooling tempers, for granting each side a useful measure of victory and defeat. But who died and left Roberts the job of Daniel Webster? It is the specter of Earl Warren that stirs.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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