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Chris Cillizza on Romney and Perry

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MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough blasted Rick Perry yesterday as a “dime-store Democrat,” which again identifies Politico’s in-house conservative as simply a media figure eager to use every opportunity to raise ratings by attacking his own party.

But Scarborough’s three minute rant against Perry didn’t include the tag “flip-flopper,” even though this is what Scarborough was accusing Perry of being. So I asked the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza about that tag, and also provided my own answer why the MSM deploys it in some places against some Republicans and never against Democrats (complete transcript here):

HH: Okay, Chris, I think that both Rick Perry and Mitt Romney did the same thing. They started center or center-right, and they moved conservative for the next 20 years, from ’94. However, Mitt Romney got hit with flip-flopper, and Rick Perry hasn’t been hit with that. Why is that?

CC: That’s a really good question. I think some of it is that Romney’s was, in people’s mind, more abrupt than Perry’s. Romney also came into the race with less conservative credibility. Now again, Hugh, to your point, I mean, that’s kind of this indistinct thing, conservative credibility. But Perry, when he got into the race, there were no doubts about whether he was conservative enough. Remember from the start of the 2008 race, the issue that Romney had to deal with was this is a guy who ran kind of as a moderate Republican against Ted Kennedy, who had governed, I wouldn’t say this as a conservative, I wouldn’t say as a moderate, but probably not as a conservative, either. He had governed in a very blue state. Why that question existed more for Romney than it does for Perry, I don’t know. But maybe some of it’s just tonal, that Perry looks and sounds more like a movement conservative than Mitt Romney does.

HH: That might be it.

CC: I honestly don’t know the answer.

HH: I believe it’s because of the abortion issue, that if you change on that one, as Romney did…

CC: Because it’s so deeply, supporting Gore is one thing, but…

HH: Yeah, but you could be a pro-life Democrat, as Rick Perry always was. But if you evolve on abortion, then the elite media calls you a flip-flopper, because you changed from the position they hold dearest.

I also brought up to Chris his WaPo colleague Dana Milbank’s outrageous and absurd blanket assertion yesterday that “Rick Perry is a theocrat”:

HH: Last quick question, I don’t ask you to slag on your buddies at the paper, but Dana Milbank today wrote, “Rick Perry is a theocrat.” That’s just astonishing, Chris Cillizza. Have you talked to Dana about this yet?

CC: I haven’t, but he is my friend. But you know, he has very hard and fast opinions, Hugh. You know that.

HH: But do you think, let me ask you. Do you think Rick Perry’s a theocrat?

CC: I guess how do you define that?

HH: I define it as someone who thinks that religious law ought to trump civil law.

CC: I guess I don’t know the answer to that. I mean, I think he and Bachmann both put their, have their religious views inform their political views. They’ve said as much. I don’t know if they put one in front of the other, and I guess I’m not, I don’t know either well enough to say that they do or they don’t. That would be my answer.

HH: Last thought. Barack Obama has clearly said many times his religious views inform his political views, but no one ever calls him a theocrat. It is really a mugging in the public square. Bill Keller did it at the New York Times last week, and dangerous, thin ice for people to throw that stuff around in America.

There is no consistency in the MSM use of labels like “flip flopper” or “theocrat,” and there never will be. These are just blunt instruments with which to try and damage the Republicans who threaten their guy Barack. Milbank and Keller are using religious bigotry to advance their political agendas. It is shameful beyond belief, but to get their hero a second term, they won’t hesitate to use any weapon at hand.

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