With Friends Like These: That’s Going to Leave a Mark ...
I haven’t until now bought into the deliciously cheap line that John McCain took one look at Mitt Romney’s 20-odd years of tax returns and immediately felt driven into the arms of Sarah Palin (which I think I first saw James Carville gleefully come out with on Up With Chris Hayes, though he probably borrowed it), but when it spurs a headline and lede like this from Politico, I’m glad it gained currency:
Mitt Romney’s tax returns had nothing to do with Sen. John McCain’s decision to choose Sarah Palin as his running mate in 2008, according to the Arizona Republican, saying he chose the former Alaska governor because she was a “better candidate.”
Woah! Be still my snark gland, such headlines and scare-quoted hitlines often don’t pan out in the story they herald. But no, read on:
McCain received more than two decades worth of Romney’s tax returns as the former Massachusetts governor was undergoing the vetting process four years ago, far more than Romney has released publicly in the 2012 campaign. Democrats have questioned whether McCain saw something untoward in those tax returns and decided to choose Palin instead.
But on Tuesday, McCain flatly rejected that assertion and grew angry at questions over his decision to choose Palin over Romney.
“Of course not,” McCain told POLITICO when asked if the contents of Romney’s tax returns disqualified him from the selection process. “I don’t know what depths these people won’t reach. Obviously, it’s just outrageous. That’s just outrageous. It shows the – it’s so disgraceful for them to allege something that they have absolutely no knowledge of.”
Asked why he chose not to go with Romney, McCain said: “Oh come on, because we thought that Sarah Palin was the better candidate. Why did we not take [Tim] Pawlenty, why did we not take any of the other 10 other people. Why didn’t I? Because we had a better candidate, the same way with all the others. ... Come on, why? That’s a stupid question.”
McCain makes an awkward surrogate and defender of Romney at the best of times. According to John Heilemann and Mark Halperin in Game Change, as scotterb over at World in Motion reminds me, during the 2008 Republican primaries:
The candidates lined up at the urinals, Guiliani next to McCain next to Huckabee, the rest all in a row. The debate was soon to start, so they were taking care of business — and laughing merrily at the one guy who wasn’t there. Poking fun at him, mocking him, agreeing how much they disliked him. Then Willard Mitt Romney walked into the bathroom and overheard them, bringing on a crashing silence.
Unlike Guiliani, Romney had no reticence about slashing at his rivals. But the perception of him as a man without convictions made him a less than effective delivery system for policy contrasts. The combination of the vitriol of his attacks and his apparent corelessness explained the antipathy the other candidates had towards him. McCain routinely called Romney an ‘asshole’ and a ‘fucking phoney.’ Guiliani opined, ‘that guy will say anything.’ Huckabee complained, ‘I don’t think Romney has a soul.’
Any predictions about the next Romney adversary-turned-defender who’ll, er, “inadvertently” put his or her foot in it?
More too also: Guess where this development’s causing a hefty frisson. Go on. Guess.