Michael Corleone said to "keep your friends close, but your enemies closer." But what, pray tell, do we do with our frenemies? This is the awful election-year quandary of movement conservatives. And everything you need to know about our heartache can be summed up in one image: 2008 presidential election loser John McCain and Mitt Romney together on the campaign trail.
When they're together, they look like they're holding each other (and the rest of us) hostage. Their toxic chemistry makes seething, ex-newlyweds Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries look like Fred and Ginger. In New Hampshire last week, after Romney's Iowa caucus squeaker, an overly giddy McCain mocked his endorsee for his "landslide victory." Awkward.
Then in South Carolina on Friday, McCain mistakenly referred to Romney as "President Obama" — as Romney and South Carolina GOP Gov. Nikki Haley rushed to correct the gaffe. Freudian slip? Senior moment? Sabotage? All of the above?
Of course, if you choose to pal around with a double-talking, big government barnacle, you get what you deserve.
McCain is the entrenched incumbent Arizona senator/war hero who lost to a neophyte, radical leftist community organizer from Chicago. The "straight-talk" GOP candidate flip-flopped on everything from illegal immigration to global warming to offshore drilling to closing Gitmo. He pandered to minority grievance-mongers and the liberal media. He proposed massive government interventions bigger than Obama's.
This Beltway fossil who now poses as a tea party hero proudly teamed with Big Government liberals Teddy Kennedy and Russ Feingold. He's the "maverick" who supported the $700 billion TARP bailout, the $25 billion auto bailout, the first $85 billion AIG bailout and a $300 billion mortgage bailout — yet he now carps about "record deficits and debt."
A career politician for the past 30 years, McCain set the stage for the suicidal anti-capitalist rhetoric now polluting the GOP primary. Four years ago this month, during a GOP primary debate held at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, it was McCain up on stage denigrating Romney's private-sector experience. Asked whether he thought Romney's record as CEO made him qualified to lead, McCain snarked: "I know how to lead. I led the largest squadron in the United States Navy. And I did it out of patriotism, not for profit."
Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry and Jon Huntsman have all followed suit, bashing Romney's venture-capitalist past at Bain Capital with Occupy Wall Street-style zeal.
It's one thing to carefully dissect Romney's investments, as the Wall Street Journal did, and weigh his wins against his losses. (The paper found that "in total, Bain produced about $2.5 billion in gains for its investors in the 77 deals, on about $1.1 billion invested. Overall, Bain recorded roughly 50 percent to 80 percent annual gains in this period, which experts said was among the best track records for buyout firms in that era.")
It's quite another to shamelessly disparage those who work in private equities as immoral corporate raiders and avaricious job-killers, as the three aforementioned GOP Occupiers have done. If they keep it up, they'll soon be chaining themselves together with bike locks, performing "mic checks" and "down twinkles" at the next GOP debate.
Gingrich has pushed McCain's profit-bashing line the furthest. Backed by a super-PAC (the very campaign finance vehicle he was whining about last week) flush with $5 million from casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, the vendetta-driven former House speaker accused Romney and a "handful of rich people" of "looting" companies. Channeling left-wing propagandist Michael Moore, Gingrich railed that Bain "manipulate(d) the lives of thousands of other people." Gingrich — who raked in millions consulting for the taxpayer-subsidized Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac racket — also served on the advisory board of private equities firm and leveraged buyout experts Forstmann Little.
But, hey, it's only "looting" if it doesn't line your own pockets.
Romney's chronic flip-flopping political career is teeming with reasons for grass-roots conservatives to oppose his nomination — from his support for racial preferences and government funding of abortion, liberal judges, global warming enviro-nitwittery, TARP, auto bailouts, the Obama stimulus, gun control and, of course, the Massachusetts individual health insurance mandates that presaged Obamacare. But instead of focusing on his long political record of expedience, incompetent non-Romneys have borrowed from McCain's 2008 playbook and thrown wealth creators of all kinds who take risks in the private marketplace under the bus.
With frenemies like these, who needs Democrats?
Michelle Malkin is the author of "Culture of Corruption: Obama and his Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks & Cronies" (Regnery 2010). Her e-mail address is [email protected]