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Mitt Romney's Fluffer

NewsMax's Ronald Kessler takes his fealty to the Republican presidential candidate to a stunningly creepy extent.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 6/6/2007

With the upcoming end of the Bush administration, NewsMax's Ronald Kessler -- he of the sycophantic fluffing of President Bush and his lieutenants -- was going to need someone new to fluff.

Lo and behold, Kessler has found it in Mitt Romney. Ever since, Kessler has been inspired by the Republican presidential candidate to take his fluffery to surprising -- if not downright creepy -- heights.

The process started by bridging Bush and Romney in a Feb. 21 column, in which he listed a number of "striking similarities between George W. Bush and Mitt Romney." In noting that "[b]oth men's lives have been touched by fatal car accidents," Kessler served up an oddly worded description of Laura Bush's crash:

In November 1963, when she was a senior in high school in Midland, Texas, Laura Bush, then 17, was driving on a dark country road with a high school friend when she missed a stop sign. Her parents' brand-new Chevrolet Impala slammed into a 1962 Corvair sedan driven by Michael D. Douglas, another high school friend, who was thrown from his car. He died at the scene. 

Why not just say that Laura Bush drove the car that killed a friend, instead of weirdly detaching her from the events she was involved in? By stating she "was driving on a dark country road" when "[h]er parents' brand-new Chevrolet Impala" hit another car, nonsensically suggested that it was the car, not the driver, who was to blame for the accident.

This was followed by a lengthy, laudatory profile of Romney in the April issue of NewsMax's magazine. The article led with Romney's efforts to find the teenage daughter of a friend, who "had attended a rave party in New York City and had become high on ecstasy," declaring that Romney's actions "demonstrated leadership, loyalty, and selflessness -- attributes that Americans just might like to see in a president of the United States."

Kessler went on to assert that Romney "is Reaganesque: a man with a sunny, positive disposition." How sunny? Kessler answers:

People say that Mitt Romney lights up a room. But there are all kinds of ways to light up a room - fluorescent, neon, sunlight, strobe. Romney alternates between sparkle and a warm, steady glow. He is not in your face. He is low-key, self-assured, and self-contained.

But that sunniness is just the beginning, Kessler added:

First, he has sensational good looks. People magazine named him one of the 50 most beautiful people in America. Standing 6 feet, 2 inches tall, Romney has jet-black hair, graying naturally at the temples. Women - who will play a critical role in this coming election - have a word for him: hot.

Ruling that the man has no obvious flaws -- "With looks, charisma, money, and family all working for him, can anything hold Romney back?" -- Kessler then spun Romney's potential negatives into either positives or insignificance:

  • Mormonism? "Despite the media fixation on his religion, it's difficult to find national evangelical leaders who openly oppose Romney on religious grounds. Not so liberal pundits."
  • Son of privilege? "[I]f the family was financially set, it had little impact on Mitt's upbringing. Like most other kids, he had summer jobs. His sister Jane, an actress in Beverly Hills, remembers that she was allowed to buy only one new dress a year."
  • Support for gay marriage? "Romney's position is the same one staked out by President Bush."
  • A flip-flopper on the abortion issue? "Romney now says that, like President Reagan, he has changed his views and position on abortion."

It went on: Romney "speaks with the effortless delivery of the best news anchors," he "has had a successful business career that made him a multimillionaire," he has "an eye for identifying future success." Kessler concluded by quoting Romney as saying that "there's nothing wrong with having heroes in positions of prominence," adding, "Having rescued the commonwealth of Massachusetts, the Winter Olympics, Bain & Co., and his partner's daughter, Romney could well be talking about himself."

Related articles on ConWebWatch:

Ronald Kessler's House of Fluff

Scare Tactics and Fluff

Kessler continued the fluffing with a pair of May 14 articles. The first was a heavy defense of Romney against charges he flip-flopped on the abortion issue, asserting that "Romney as governor took pro-life stands, which is far more important than what he said in 1994 during a debate with Sen. Edward M. Kennedy." Again, Kessler presented what might described negatively as cheapskate ways ("Instead of buying popcorn at a movie theater, Romney has been known to pop it in advance and take it with him") as a positive character trait ("Imagine Romney with a veto pen in his hand"), proudly noting that not only "among the leading Republican candidates, Romney is the only one still married to his first wife," and, in a hint of the too-much-information route Kessler was about to take, adding that a friend of Romney's "confided to him before marrying Ann that they planned to consummate their marriage after the ceremony." Kessler also stated:
Still, the media focus on atmospherics, Romney's Mormon religion, and his change in position on abortion, rather his record of accomplishment and character. In the last analysis, character is what voters care about, Karl Rove has told me.

Kessler doesn't explain why a guy known as "Turd Blossom" for his crudely Machiavellian political ways is ay sort of authority on character. 

In the other May 14 article containing a few brief items, Kessler extended his fluff work to the rest of Romney's family, pointing out that Romney's kids have "Gap-ad good looks." and getting in a little dig at the competition: "In contrast to Rudy Giuliani's two children, who are estranged from him, all five of Mitt Romney's sons are campaigning for him."

The coup de gras of Kessler's Romney obsequiousness, though, came in a May 23 profile of Romney's wife, Ann, in which he gets just plain creepy:

Ann is warm and very natural. She has the look of an outdoors woman bred to be an equestrian, which she is — good carriage, rosy complexion, square jaw, and blond mane.

When she is not flashing her truly unbelievable smile, she may lower her eyes demurely. But Ann Romney is not demure — she may be modest, but she isn’t meek. She is unpretentious, but she isn’t shy. She lowers her eyes, thinking, and then looks up directly at her interviewer and dazzles him with that smile.

Even NewsMax was apparently repulsed by that at one point. Sometime after its posting, according to the Carpetbagger Report, that passage was edited to something not quite as, uh, creepy (without telling its readers, though, in line with long-standing NewsMax practice). At last check, though, the article was in its full sycophantic glory. (A copy of the original article is here, in case NewsMax decides to change it permanently.)

NewsMax went on to promote Kessler's article in a May 27 "Insider Report": "In an item headlined 'Talk about a must-read,' Jonathan Martin of writes: "I don't even know where to begin. This Ronald Kessler story about the Romneys has so much to offer. Go read the whole thing now.' " But a closer look at Martin's Politico post shows that Kessler's article is a "must-read" for different reasons than NewsMax claimed:

First off, Kessler is clearly infatuated with Ann Romney.  I'm not even sure what a "good carriage" is, but he says she has that to go with a "rosy complexion, square jaw, and blond mane." Like I said, he's quite taken.

In case you don't believe me...

"When she is not flashing her truly unbelievable smile, she may lower her eyes demurely. But Ann Romney is not demure — she may be modest, but she isn't meek. She is unpretentious, but she isn't shy. She lowers her eyes, thinking, and then looks up directly at her interviewer and dazzles him with that smile."

Ok, at this point the gov may be getting a little worried.  Frankly, I was also.


Kessler goes to lengths to show how influential Ann Romney is with her husband.  She even weighs in on staff hires, he writes.

Which is revealing and fascinating.  But it also makes what Mitt said after the news of his wife's Planned Parenthood contribution broke look even worse.  Recall -- "her positions I don't think are terribly relevant to my campaign."

Ann Romney also says both are pro-life, which evidently means both have switched their stance on the issue.  But she also says that her husband was "always been personally pro-life," but then says on the matter, "Well, you know what?  He did change his mind." Perhaps she meant as it relates to his policy/governmental views and not just personal opinion, but the contradiction don't look good.  

In other words, Martin is not only taken by Kessler's creepy sycophancy of Ann Romney, he's pointing out that Kessler essentially caught Romney in a flip-flop on abortion that Kessler not only won't admit is one, he has expended much effort explaining it away.

(NewsMax ignored completely a post by another Politico blogger, Ben Smith, who wrote, "I think I’ve never seen writing, in a publication apparently written by and for grown-ups, like" Kessler's fluffery about Ann Romney.)

Concurrent with Kessler's fluffing of Romney, meanwhile, is his denigrating of Romney's opponents. ConWebWatch has noted Kessler's regular attacks on John McCain; he has since promoted conservative criticism of McCain (as well as fellow Romney rival Rudy Giuliani) for not attending the annual conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), hyped alleged McCain fundraising shortfalls and highlighted claims by one conservative that McCain is "dying a slow political death."

Kessler also made a pre-emptive strike on Fred Thompson's possible candidacy in an April 26 article, claiming that his entry into the race "will likely be as disorganized an operation as Bill Clinton's White House was." On May 30, the day that Thompson announced that he was officially exploring a presidential campaign, Kessler hit back with an article not only calling him lazy but, even worse, a supporter of the McCain-Feingold campaign reform bill, which Kessler claimed conservatives hate "almost as much as pro-choice measures."

In that article, Kessler also threw in yet another dose of Romney-flufffing:

  • "In contrast to Thompson, looking at the leading presidential candidates from both parties, none comes close to having the accomplishments of Mitt Romney."
  • "As governor, all of Romney's actions fit the conservative mold, even more so than those of Ronald Reagan. "
  • "While all the leading candidates have changed position on a range of issues, Romney has made a clear change on only one issue. "
  • "If Romney's Mormon beliefs make him gullible, Christians and Jews must be equally gullible. After all, they believe that men parted the Red Sea and walked on water, that Jesus paid taxes with coins from a fish's mouth, that a drop of oil burned for eight days, and that Mary gave birth to Jesus as a virgin."

And finally: "As for the claim that Romney is too perfect, that's another misconception: Romney doesn't have a dog."

Wow. Just ... wow.

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