Michelle Malkin v. Rick Perry

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
Font Size:

Earlier this week, Michelle Malkin went after Rick Perry over the human papillomavirus vaccine mandates he authorized as governor. Two days later, she followed up with a second scorching post, this time saying Perry was “soft on illegal immigration” and “prone to crony capitalism” — and that he “demonstrated Nanny State tendencies that are anathema to Tea Party core principles.”

(By the way, two months ago, I predicted Perry would face many of the questions that Malkin is now raising.)

Some conservatives, of course, weren’t happy with Malkin’s criticism. When it comes to covering conservative primary candidates, some people think conservative writers should just turn a blind eye — or  solely focus on attacking Obama.  (A common criticism is: “You’re doing the left’s work for them!”).

On this, I side with Malkin. It is healthy for center-right journalists and conservative bloggers (there is a major distinction between the two — but time doesn’t allow one to address every nuance) to vet candidates. Skepticism is good. As The Jim Antle Doctrine advises conservatives: “A political alliance isn’t a marriage. You don’t have to take a presidential candidate for better or worse. Only when they’re right.”

Others, however, like Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin, seem to believe center-right media should function simply as “team players” or cheerleaders for conservative politicians. (Note: They get to decide who is “conservative” at the given moment).

For this reason, my well-documented column about Rep. Michele Bachmann’s penchant for earmarks (and farm subsidies, etc.), led Limbaugh and Levin to attack me. Limbaugh actually accused me of being too concerned about purity. He then defended Bachmann’s earmarks, saying: “I have never been one to base my entire view of a politician on whether or not they supported earmarks — ’cause it’s not that much money.”

Levin also had some choice words for me.

(No word yet on whether or not Limbaugh or Levin will attack Michelle Malkin for her criticism of Rick Perry …)

Conservative activists are understandably annoyed when journalists and bloggers (again, I’m conflating the two) begin to remove the facade of perfection carefully crafted by Republican politicians and their handlers. This is understandable, but the truth is that, in the long run, center-right journalists and bloggers don’t do the conservative movement any favors when they give Republican politicians a pass. Nor is it Malkin’s job (or mine) to help Republican politicians get elected. Conservative activists must sooner or later understand that.

While I am 100 percent in agreement with Malkin that it is appropriate (and indeed necessary) for conservative writers to raise questions about GOP presidential candidates, I am still curious about the intensity with which she has gone after Perry. After all, the lingering questions about Perry are no more concerning than the questions about Bachmann’s record — and they are certainly no more concerning than questions about Mitt Romney’s. Until or unless more information comes forward about Perry, my take is that his past peccadilloes shouldn’t be a deal breaker for conservatives.

At the moment, Perry is well positioned to be the candidate who can combine Bachmann’s charismatic conservatism with Romney’s experience and organization. Of course, at the end of the day, it is Perry’s record of job creation may be what puts him in the White House.

At this point, job creation may cover a multitude of sins. As one conservative blogger recently told me (regarding the allegations of crony capitalism): “I don’t like state slush funds at all, but if a $200 Million fund was all it took to create 4 out of 5 net new private sector jobs in the past three years, every state would look like Texas.”

And so, having established the background, and considering the high stakes, it is probably not surprising that the rhetoric has become heated.

RedState co-founder Joshua Treviño, who currently serves as vice president for communications at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, led the charge against Malkin’s criticism of Perry on Thursday night, when he tweeted this:

“For years, [Malkin] has walked up to the line between hardcore and fringe. Today she crossed it.”

Malkin, of course, is an incredibly popular conservative blogger and author. Calling her “fringe” is a serious charge to level.

Still, those who agree with Treviño’s characterization will take solace in the fact that Malkin’s allegation that Perry is “soft on illegal immigration” was linked to a Politico column written by Tom Tancredo, whom many consider to be an anti-immigration fringe character. Her worries about a “Trans Texas Corridor” also echoes the rantings of Jerome Corsi (whom most serious conservatives definitely regard as a fringe gadfly). And lastly, the “fringe” charge is reinforced by the fact that professional anti-sharia law activist Pam Geller is now convinced that Rick Perry is pushing Texas classrooms “to reflect a sharia compliant version of Islam.”

Malkin laughed off Treviño’s last tweet, writing: “[Treviño] has … proclaimed me ‘fringe.’ Curtains for me!”

Treviño then responded, writing: “Sorry, but if you’re charging RICK PERRY with being an Obamaesque, Latino-racialist, Islamist-friendly non-conservative …. you’re nuts.”

Matt K. Lewis