TWO OF A KIND
Former senior White House adviser Dan Bartlett is joining forces with former Bush media campaign consultant Mark McKinnon, which is raising lots of eyebrows around town. Not that two old Bush hands would work together, but that Bartlett would sign on with McKinnon, who is increasingly becoming an embarrassment to the Bush Administration he helped put in power.
McKinnon signed on early with the McCain campaign in 2007 as a media consultant, but has announced publicly his intention to leave the McCain camp if Democrat Barack Obama wins the Democratic nomination. McKinnon has never hidden the fact that he was a lifelong Democrat before working for George W. Bush in Texas. McKinnon may also have been a facilitator in getting one of Sen. Harry Reid's closest advisers nominated by the White House to an influential job with the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors. Susan McCue, Reid's longtime chief of staff in the Senate, was nominated on Friday to the BBG. She currently serves as CEO of the global anti-AIDs ONE Campaign, where McKinnon also serves in a senior capacity.
Bartlett's signing on with McKinnon isn't as surprising to others, however, who have worked with both men. "Dan Bartlett wasn't a conservative, not in the sense of what most of us think is a conservative," says a longtime White House staffer who worked with Bartlett. "But more important, he wasn't very good at what he tried to do. Perhaps both of them will go to work for Obama and it will end up helping Republicans win the White House."
Mitt Romney's paid-for social conservative adviser James Bopp has been posting on conservative websites attempting to clarify his attacks on Sen. Sam Brownback after Brownback held a courtesy meeting with pro-choice Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani.
Giuliani had requested the meeting and Brownback agreed, according to Brownback sources.
Bopp, however, attacked Brownback for betraying his pro-life values for taking the meeting and then saying nice things about Giuliani. "Part of what may be driving some of the Romney guys nuts is that they know Senator Brownback simply would not endorse Romney because of his pro-choice history," says a long-time pro-life activist in Washington. "Romney expected guys like Bopp to make things easier for him with social conservatives and it hasn't worked out."
Bopp attacked Brownback with the support of the Romney campaign, even though the campaign had already requested a similar meeting between their candidate and Brownback last week. The meeting was canceled after Bopp's comments to a left-wing blog were spread across the Internet. Further, Bopp's remarks were repudiated by the National Right to Life Committee in a letter sent to Brownback late last week. "We reject most emphatically anyone's suggestion that you have sacrificed or would sacrifice the interests of the unborn in order to garner some 'personal political benefit," the letter emphasized.
Bopp has disputed that the NRLC repudiated the remarks, but the letter is clearly a distancing of the organization from its longtime legal adviser. "Mr. Bopp has served as NRLC's general counsel for many years, but he is not an in-house general counsel; he has many other clients," the letter, signed by NRLC's president, executive director, and legislative director, noted. "Mr. Bopp is also involved in political activities in his personal capacity. It is in his personal capacity that he has endorsed Mr. Romney's candidacy, and it is in his personal capacity that he gives interviews on such matters...."
In the wake of Bopp's public criticism of Brownback, some other Romney supporters inside the social conservative movement are now taking heat and backing away from Romney. Romney supporters inside the Family Research Council, who for months have been exerting pressure on FRC head Tony Perkins to endorse the long time pro-abortion candidate, yesterday were distancing themselves from Bopp and the Romney campaign, saying they respected Brownback too much to get into the ugly political spat.
"If it were a one-time thing, you could understand, but Romney's people have been attacking Brownback for months," says the longtime pro-lifer. "And we kept hearing over the weekend that Jim [Bopp] and Brownback people were still going at it in private email exchanges. He should have just apologized to Brownback and moved on."
Bopp's blowup may also have the effect of putting an unpleasant spotlight on another Romney supporter, Prof. Mary Ann Glendon, who is expected to be nominated by President Bush as the next U.S. ambassador to the Holy See.
Glendon, who is currently the Learned Hand Professor of Law at Harvard University, serves as a legal adviser to Romney. She has long been considered one of the nation's most impressive legal minds on life and scientific and medical ethics issues, as well as a high-profile pro-life feminist. She was appointed head of the Vatican's Pontifical Academy for the Sciences in 2004, a post she might have to step away from if she were confirmed.
However, Bopp's attacks on Brownback have now raised questions about Glendon, her role with the Romney campaign and whether Glendon's own bishop in Boston, Cardinal Sean O'Malley, would be wholly supportive of her nomination.
Glendon was conspicuously absent from O'Malley's Red Mass earlier this month, where Brownback was the keynote speaker, and where O'Malley announced, "There is no other presidential candidate in the U.S. today that more reflects Catholic social doctrine as you do."
All of the infighting and ugliness has some wondering if there isn't more at play here than mere politics. "The divisiveness and the way people are acting make you think there is something much darker afoot. Christians should not be doing this to each other, yet it seems that they will ruin decade-old friendships and tear people down," says the longtime pro-life activist. "It's almost Biblical."
Several experienced Republican political hands are pushing former U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson to run for the U.S. Senate seat in Virginia being vacated by Sen. John Warner. Former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner is seeking the Democrat nomination for the seat and is the prohibitive favorite to gain the seat.
Former Gov.Jim Gilmore, coming off of his mediocre management of the Republican National Committee and a failed presidential campaign, is the only Republican now thinking about seeking the seat. Rep. Tom Davis, whom many believed would run, announced recently, amid speculation that he will retire from Congress, that he will not seek the new job.
Olson, who is in private practice and is serving as a key adviser to former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, had no knowledge that his name was being floated or that Republicans were looking to him as a potential candidate.
"Olson is one of those guys who you'd love to see just tee off on Warner during a debate and on the stump," says a conservative Republican operative in Virginia. "We need guys like him in the race."
Given Olson's political connections and high profile, some Republicans in Virginia believe he could be more than competitive in the fundraising arena, particularly in Northern Virginia, which has increasingly become a Democrat stronghold.
"His political background and high profile in conservative circles would actually make him a national candidate from a fundraising perspective," says a New York-based fundraiser. "He could actually go toe to toe with Warner on the donor front if he were interested in getting into this thing."