Green Room

McDonnell: Romney’s Hatchet Man?

posted at 6:50 pm on February 13, 2012 by

One of Rick Santorum’s campaign slogans is “The Courage to Fight,” and sometimes his supporters might wish the senator would consider that old saying about discretion sometimes being the better part of valor. Any heckler or liberal reporter (but I repeat myself) can throw Santorum the most loaded “gotcha” question and, rather than brushing it aside, Santorum refuses to back down from a fight.

So it was when the subject of women in combat came up last week — the Obama administration wishes to expand the employment of women in such positions — and please observe the predictable response from Team Romney:

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell chided Rick Santorum on Monday for expressing concerns about women serving in military combat roles.
Santorum told CNN last week that having women on the front lines could lead to a “compromising situation where people naturally may do things that may not be in the interest of the mission because of other types of emotions that are involved.”
He later said he was referring to both male and female emotions.
Either way, the remark did not sit well with McDonnell, a leading Mitt Romney supporter whose oldest daughter Jeanine did a tour of duty in Iraq.
“I like Rick Santorum a lot, I just disagree with any inference he might have made that somehow women are incapable of serving in the front lines and serving in combat positions,” McDonnell said in an interview Monday with CNN’s Kyra Phillips.
“And I base that in part on my own daughter’s own experience as a platoon leader in Iraq with 25 men working with her,” he continued. “She did a great job, as in some very risky situations, and yet endured and led and I’m proud of her. So, I just wanted to make sure people didn’t think that women aren’t capable of doing the job. And I’ve got firsthand experience in saying that.”

Governor McDonnell, you’re arguing like a liberal: Taking the conservative argument about a policy and trying to portray it as being an attack upon people.

While no one has asked or authorized me to speak on Senator Santorum’s behalf, does McDonnell wish to suggest that no one can say that deploying women in combat is bad policy without also inferring that women are “incapable of serving” in such a capacity? And I personally happen to agree that it is indeed bad policy, without any such “inference” as McDonnell tries to attribute to Santorum.

McDonnell’s argument is dishonest and, furthermore, why can’t Mitt Romney fight his own fights? Should Mitt Romney wish to pick an argument with Santorum over this issue, by all means let him do so, instead of hiding behind Bob McDonnell’s skirts. Does anyone think it enhances Romney’s reputation to deploy his proxies to make liberal arguments against a conservative rival in a notoriously liberal venue like CNN? Why are Republicans doing the liberals’ work for them?

By the way, what happened to the sense of honor for which Virginians were once so famous? Why, as recently as 15 years ago, Virginians were willing to defend their state’s fine traditions, such as the all-male corps of cadets at VMI, all the way to the Supreme Court? It is rather shocking to see the governor of Virginia thus attacking Rick Santorum in such a despicable way — and on behalf of a Massachusetts liberal!

Far be it from me, as a Maryland resident, to meddle in the internal affairs of the Old Dominion, but if I were a Santorum supporter in Virginia, I’d be outraged by McDonnell’s scurrilous and unseemly attacks on Senator Santorum’s good name. I might even be tempted to contact Governor McDonnell’s office at 804-786-2211, and tell the governor to cease his mendacious campaign of character assassination against Mitt Romney’s conservative rival. If that didn’t get results, I might go so far as to contact the Republican Party of Virginia at 804-780-0111 and ask them why they were supporting McDonnell, who has so obviously hired himself out as Romney’s hatchet man.

Well, as I say, this is the course of action that might seem incumbent upon me if I were a Virginian, concerned about the fair honor of that venerable commonwealth. Were it my privilege to call myself a Virginian, I think my cheeks would blush with shame at the very thought of the dishonorable conduct of Governor McDonnell, who has defamed a fine Christian man like Rick Santorum at the behest of Mitt Romney.

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They all argue like liberals, not just Romney’s crew.

Spliff Menendez on February 13, 2012 at 7:12 PM

vanuatu or bust

newrouter on February 13, 2012 at 8:15 PM

You are splitting hairs. If the policy of women in combat is bad, why? Because it leads to bad results? Because of what? The only difference between that policy and the old one is the addition of the female people to the combat, right?

As to McDonnell, he has every bit as much right to speak as a blogger does, and Romney has every right to quote him and use him as a campaign spokesman. If Santorum objects, why can’t he come out and say so? Why is he hiding behind your fedora? Or are there a different set of rules for your team?

It’s fine that you are in the bag for Santorum – you were the first to call his looming surge in Iowa a couple months back – but at this site, some readers may not realize you are committed in the campaign and, in fact, are actively seeking a patronage position in a certain island paradise (until it erupts and plunges into the sea) from the Santorum Administration.

Adjoran on February 13, 2012 at 11:38 PM

If the policy of women in combat is bad, why? Because it leads to bad results? Because of what? The only difference between that policy and the old one is the addition of the female people to the combat, right?

Men and women are different, and the differences are not inconsequential in terms of various qualities (e.g., upper body strength) that matter in combat situations. The numerous policy problems involved have been the subject of detailed examination in The Kinder, Gentler Military: Can America’s Gender-Neutral Fighting Force Still Win Wars?.

Just think about that phrase, “gender-neutral.” Why would anyone believe it is important for the military to be “gender-neutral”? Isn’t that a legalistic or political concept? Isn’t the purpose of the military to, y’know, win wars? Why should any value other than efficiency in war-fighting capacity be considered by our military leadership? And if gender-neutrality detracts from war-fighting capacity in the slightest degree, isn’t our national security thereby jeopardized?

Just because you have not heard the detailed policy arguments against a gender-neutral military, does not mean that no such arguments exist. And the fact that such arguments might seem unfair, because they contradict the legalistic regime of gender-neutrality enforced in the modern civilian workplace, does not mean that the arguments are wrong.

What McDonnell has done is to begin the argument by framing it falsely: If you are opposed to Obama’s policy of expanded roles for women in combat, you must have a prejudicial attitude toward women’s ability. Thus, instead of arguing about the policy, the argument is, “Santorum is a sexist who is prejudiced against women” — an accusation which, by the way, is utterly irrelevant to whether the policy is wise. (That is to say, a prejudiced sexist may be capable of articulating an entirely sound policy argument.) But the implicit accusation of prejudice is made for the political purpose of pre-emptively discrediting Santorum, which is why I say McDonnell argues like a liberal.

The Other McCain on February 14, 2012 at 4:27 AM

The Other McCain on February 14, 2012 at 4:27 AM

I’m sure there are valid arguments against women in certain combat units but military studies by the DoD in the US, the MoD in the UK and a study conducted by Rand all concluded that women could be trained to be as strong as men and certainly strong enough to do their assigned tasks. A UK MoD study found that mixed units composed of men and women performed military tasks more efficiently than units composed of a single gender and similar results have been noticed in studies of US mixed units. I’m not a fan of recruitment quotas and I think that is a legitimate gripe but if women are able to make the standards for combat and want to fight I can’t think of a good reason why they should not be allowed to.

Disagreeing with Santorum’s absurd response about the subject does not defame him or compromise the honor of Virginia as you suggest.

Don’t get all emotional just because someone criticized your favorite candidate.

lexhamfox on February 14, 2012 at 7:20 AM

I thought Santorum’s point was regarding sexual tension between men and women. But maybe I’m making stuff up in my head.

Spliff Menendez on February 14, 2012 at 9:44 AM

Greetings Homeboy:)

Not feeling the outrage here. This is terribly convoluted argument and I’m not at all clear on the nature of your complaint. Is it that candidates can’t have those who have endorsed them speak out on issues their opponents have become embroiled in? Or is it that it’s wrong to cite from one’s own experience as a father to make a point? I’m not seeing this “policy” v “people” thing.

But you know what would be helpful? A full transcript, not just a few sentences with CNN helpfully filling in the rest of what both Santorum and McDonnell said. I don’t see anything nefarious about the few sentences which are directly attributed to McDonnell (emphasis mine):

“I like Rick Santorum a lot, I just disagree with any inference he might have made that somehow women are incapable of serving in the front lines and serving in combat positions,” McDonnell said in an interview Monday with CNN’s Kyra Phillips.
“And I base that in part on my own daughter’s own experience as a platoon leader in Iraq with 25 men working with her,” he continued. “She did a great job, as in some very risky situations, and yet endured and led and I’m proud of her. So, I just wanted to make sure people didn’t think that women aren’t capable of doing the job. And I’ve got firsthand experience in saying that.”

Putting aside Santorum’s talk about “emotions” (which McDonnell does not refer to here), did McDonnell misrepresent Santorum’s position on women in combat? If so, that’s a legitimate complaint but that’s not what you’ve argued.

We can agree or disagree as to whether women should be in combat positions, but that’s an different topic altogether…

Buy Danish on February 14, 2012 at 10:50 AM

McDonnell’s argument is dishonest and, furthermore, why can’t Mitt Romney fight his own fights?

Um, because Bob McDonnell actually has a daughter who served in combat, and Mitt Romney doesn’t?

And don’t forget, McDonnell is up for reelection in 2013, and he has voters in hos own state to answer to. He was attacked in his first campaign for being anti-woman, so this is an area he needs to constantly shore up.

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

rockmom on February 14, 2012 at 10:56 AM

And don’t forget, McDonnell is up for reelection in 2013, and he has voters in hos own state to answer to. He was attacked in his first campaign for being anti-woman, so this is an area he needs to constantly shore up.
rockmom on February 14, 2012 at 10:56 AM

I thought he was term-limited out of office, and that’s one reason why he’s often mentioned as a potential veep.

But it occurs to me we could ask R.S., “Why can’t Rick Santorum fight his own fights?”.

From the whiny-behiney wing of the GOP I’m getting the clear message we’re supposed to LEAVE SANTY ALONE!

Buy Danish on February 14, 2012 at 11:27 AM

“has defamed a fine Christian man like Rick Santorum at the behest of Mitt Romney.”
Wow. You kind of sound like a sissy. Having a hissy fit.
Ignoring the little girl hysterics shown here, are you not defaming a fine Christian man like Mitt Romney at the behest of Rick Santorum?

drballard on February 14, 2012 at 12:59 PM

Can I weigh in, since I served in the Marines and in a unit with women to boot?

1st: There are exceptions to every rule and I’m only speaking from my experience.

What I saw in my time in the Marine Corps as it related to women was nothing short of appalling. Women who couldn’t pass basic physical fitness standards up to women getting pregnant right before their scheduled deployment date to avoid duty in combat environments. It wasn’t just ‘a couple of women’ either, upward of 40% of the women in our units were rendered ‘combat ineffective’ or non deployable due to their own negligence or an outright effort to avoid their duty. Top that off with Staff NonComms lacking the balls to bring the offenders up on charges and you have a systematic flaw within the military that rewards these women for their lack of integrity.

All that being said, do I think women belong in combat? Generally, no. I understand the Air Combat argument to an extent but I have seen women crumble at a far greater number than their male counterparts when it comes to reacting and acting in the face of mortal danger. I refused to ‘lead’ any women in my teams because I was successfully able to argue their detriment to the safety of my team and their inability to help our mission succeed.

Again this was only in respect to the women I served with directly in my unit so maybe it’s misrepresentative of the whole. I have found very few men who could tell me otherwise though so maybe it’s not.

As for McDonnell, he neglected to state whether his daughter was in a combat role or not(She wasn’t as a Signal Corps Officer). I dare say ‘the risky situations’ he talks about were not daily combat patrols, extended firefights, or breaching doors. She should be proud of her service as I am proud of her for serving but the good Guvna shouldn’t be confusing his daughter’s role with that of a typical combat soldier or Marine.

StompUDead on February 14, 2012 at 1:21 PM

I lean away from women serving in combat for many of the reasons listed above. My whole beef with the article is the obvious hatred the Other McCain has for Romney. He is doing the very thing he accuses Mcdonnel of- yet lacks the honesty or self awareness to admit it. So why the hatred? I don’t hate Santorum. I think he’s a fine man, a good man, but I disagree with his past votes on labor and am very concerned with his interest in my use of contraceptives (see Ace of Spades). I don’t hate him, or call him a coward like McCain (and many Romney opponents) do. Why is that? If Santorum gets the nom,I’ll vote for him- why do Anybody But Romney folks refuse to do the same? I disagree with Santorum, but would never say he’s the same as Obama- yet ABR folks say Romney is just a pale imitation of Obama. Why do ABR folks do that?

drballard on February 14, 2012 at 1:40 PM