Raines Rants About 2012: Bill Clinton Convention Speech Was 'Spellbinding,' Clint Eastwood Was... Monty Python?

August 5th, 2013 10:39 PM

Former New York Times executive editor Howell Raines (sacked in the 2003 Jayson Blair debacle) provided a positive review Sunday of Washington Post political reporter Dan Balz’s 2012-campaign book “Collision.” Raines claimed Balz was “a fair-minded reporter” in the mold of the late David Broder.

You can’t say the same for Raines, who insists Mitt Romney is “excruciatingly delusional” in assessing what happened last year. Bill Clinton’s convention speech gets “deservedly heroic treatment” from Balz, but somehow, Raines saw Clint Eastwood’s erratic convention speech as a “Monty Python moment,” perhaps one of few times anyone’s ever tried to put Dirty Harry next to Eric Idle in the cultural realm:

Then there are the Monty Python moments. Balz informs us that when Stuart Stevens, Romney’s chief strategist, saw Clint Eastwood on live television at the Republican National Convention speaking off-script to an imaginary Obama in an empty chair, “he walked out of the room and threw up.”

Bill Clinton’s speech at the Democratic convention gets deservedly heroic treatment. By any measure, his 50-minute defense of Obama’s economic record earns him a place alongside FDR and JFK in the annals of presidential political oratory. Spellbinding and politically crafty, the address exacted a high emotional cost from its author, according to Clinton buddy Terry McAuliffe. “He was obsessed,” McAuliffe said. “He knew how important this was.”

Raines began by describing how after the election, Romney led "Balz, line by line, through an excruciatingly delusional exegesis of the ["47 percent"] speech that crippled his campaign.”

The Republican nominee just didn’t understand, then or now, what happened last fall, particularly voters’ mystifying insistence on verbal precision. Like his father, George, whose Republican presidential candidacy in 1968 flamed out when he said he had been “ ‘brainwashed’ by the generals and others about the Vietnam War,” Mitt Romney is a master of the self-immolating quote. The Republican Party, if it’s lucky, will not see his like again.

Raines did like Chris Christie over Paul Ryan for the veep spot, another check mark against Christie’s future as a national contender, who's emerging as a nominee of the Media Party:

Christie gets a lot of attention from Balz, and rightly so. If Romney had picked him for his running mate instead of Rep. Paul Ryan, he might have won. Balz reports that at one point Romney said, “Governor, are you prepared to resign to be my running mate?,” leading Christie to believe, embarrassingly, that he had the nod. But that was before Romney and Ryan conceived what aides called a “bromance,” in which two budget nerds fell into each other’s arms. It was folie a deux, as Balz tells it. The theory was that Ryan was such a good salesman, he could make sacking Medicare look like a reasoned response to debt apocalypse.