Hot potato.

Notes from the political sidelines.
Aug. 31 2007 5:57 PM

Hot Potato

Republicans can't drop Larry Craig fast enough.

80_thehasbeen
(Continued from Page 24)

Stranger in a Strange Land: For someone who suddenly likes to pick on foreigners, Mitt Romney is an awfully recent immigrant himself. If you want to know just how foreign Romney is to the conservative circles he now frequents, read the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's account of his fund-raiser last week during the Georgia Republican Convention:

Romney gestured to Ralph Reed and said, "Why it's good to see Gary Bauer here." Romney then caught himself. "Oh, I'm a little mixed up here," he said. But Romney still couldn't place Reed's face—and had to move on.

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It's bad enough that in his rush to convert to conservatism, Romney forgot he was pro-choice, had hired illegal immigrants, and never hunted. Now the man can't even keep track of his religious-right has-beens.

The Christian right was built in large part on resentment that Eastern elites think all evangelicals are alike. This confirms their worst fears—that even the Republicans from Harvard are in on the conspiracy.

To be sure, politicians shouldn't be expected to remember every person they meet. For example, here's a photograph of another Georgia Republican, Rep. Phil Gingrey, who appears to have put on a fake mustache simply to confuse Romney.

But mistaking Ralph Reed for Gary Bauer at your own fund-raiser is like going to a Star Wars convention and mixing up Luke Skywalker and Yoda. Bauer is short, bug-eyed, and tight-lipped. No one noticed his 2000 primary bid until he fell off the stage at a pancake-flipping event in New Hampshire. Reed is lanky, with narrow, shifty eyes and a big, plastic grin. In fact, Reed's eye/grin ratio bears a much stronger resemblance to Romney's own features. At first glance, you'd think Romney and Reed would know each other well from their time together as cyborgs taking orders from the distant, politically ambitious planet that sent them.

Anybody can confuse two people who look alike. Confusing two people who look different but think alike is a far more revealing error. First, it tells us Romney hasn't spent much time around either Ralph Reed or Gary Bauer. That's the good news. The bad news is that it increases the chance that Romney might be a cyborg, after all.

Politics is a people business, so most politicians file people in their minds by face, name, and place. None of those apply in this case (what would Bauer, who lives in Virginia, be doing at a Romney fund-raiser in Georgia?). That means Romney must use a different, bloodless classification system. When he studies his conservative flashcards, Romney files people by type. Bauer is a true believer, while Reed is a shameless opportunist—but to Romney, they're interchangeable evangelicals with the same carbon dating.

Of course, the episode raises other questions, like what was Ralph Reed doing at a Romney fund-raiser? Giuliani helped him in his losing race for lieutenant governor, a career move that worked out less well for Ralph than for Rudy. Yet the day before Romney forgot his name last week, Ralph went on the Christian Broadcasting Network to shill for Romney and Giuliani in equal measure. Reed dodged a question about whether his phone was ringing off the hook, but said, "I have friends who are running for president, and I talk to my friends."

I've come to terms with being mistaken for Ralph Reed. But I draw the line when the same person who gets confused with me starts being confused with Gary Bauer. I could live with Jack Bauer, or even Eddie.

Ralph Reed should know a phony when he sees one. Friends don't let friends call them Gary. ... 2:15 P.M. ( link)

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