Readers expect but still revel in Maureen Dowd’s evisceration of Mitt Romney in the pages of The New York Times. The columnist more than earned her reputation for pulling no punches last week during the Republican National Convention. On the eve of Romney’s long, strange journey to the nomination, Dowd wrote about the candidate’s appeal, “The emotion he evokes is pity. Romney slogged and spent his way to the G.O.P. convention his dad craved for himself only to find that his role is not so much leading man as forgotten man.”
Here in the Red States, such heresy is ignored publicly if it is regarded privately, although Republicans seem uniformly unenthusiastic with their nominee. But what one would not expect to read on the right-side Free Press editorial pages is a wholesale rejection of Romney as a lackluster, transitional candidate who might deserve to lose in order for the New Order to take over the Republican Party.
But that’s exactly what Drew Johnson, the paper’s new conservative editorial page editor, suggested in terms that cannot be confused. On the eve of Romney’s acceptance speech in Tampa, Fla., last week, Johnson wrote in an editorial headlined “The Romney dilemma” that, “By now, the same question has begun to creep in the dark recesses of the mind of many Republicans: ‘Would we be better off if Romney loses in November?’”
While editorials are unsigned, this is clearly Johnson’s voice. Former Free Press editorial page editor Lee Anderson must be seething—this is clearly not your father’s TFP.
“After all,” Johnson wrote, “you have to go pretty far down the list of potential GOP presidential candidates before you find someone who is less conservative, less exciting or less authentic than Romney.”
And those were just his opening salvos. Johnson continued to question his party’s choice, pining for more vigorous potential nominees such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie or Massachusetts Sen. Scott Walker, before positing that Republicans consider giving up the White House in favor of controlling Congress and waiting for 2016. Johnson skillfully lays the proposition at the feet of his readers without a definitive move himself, but his preferred option is hard to ignore.
If his marching orders are to upend traditional conservative bromides and hyperbole emitting from the right-side pages of the TFP, Johnson deserves a raise. It is refreshing to hear a conservative editorial writer for Our Daily question the worthiness of his own party’s nominee so blatantly.
Still, longtime readers in print and online are unused to such rebellious thinking, where voters all but assured its own lackluster, button-down incumbent congressman a return to office.
Nevertheless, these daring words have reignited an editorial page routinely littered with the party-line rants of Anderson’s long reign. Buttressed by the miles of press aimed at Romney’s lack of appeal from much more well-known pundits, Johnson is the local voice of conservatives who doubt Their Man can defeat Obama.
In the midst of the tidal wave of lies, disinformation and fallacies issued forth with little shame from a parade of Republican zombies in Tampa, we at least acknowledge Johnson’s attempt to have his party look inward and acknowledge their inability to cultivate a candidate with the appeal, likability and eloquence of President Obama.
While the president is by no means assured a victory in November, Republicans are coming out of the closet of doubt in their support of Romney. Only the candidate’s choice of adding Paul Ryan to the ticket seems to have “energized the base.” But with Ryan quickly abdicating to his presumptive boss, we wonder if Ryan himself might wind up on Johnson’s list of damaging candidates.
Meantime, we’ll watch with glee as Johnson stirs the pot. After all, come Election Day, he wins either way.