Recap: In Parts 1 & 2, Ron Johnson:
- Demonstrated his lack of any coherent message and political strategy
- Revealed progressive policy leanings
- Admitted he finds the Constitution difficult to read
- Expressed a definition of freedom that conflicts with other stated positions
- Remarked that he hadn’t given a lot of thought to numerous key issues
- Labeled several reasonable questions as either too broad or too specific
- Failed to articulate, when asked, his principles/moral code
Nary a dull moment so far. Let’s see how he does in today’s nail-biting installment. There are so many potholes he could potentially fall into. I’m on the edge of my seat. Which one will be next…?
The Man in the Mirror
Those following along will recall that at the end of the last video segment, RoJo was asked to elaborate on how voters could be sure that he was the right man to send to Washington. He replied he couldn’t offer any guarantees.
At the start of the next video, a member of the Rock River Patriots picks up on a similar thread, noting that he’s as tired of Republicans going to Washington and compromising their principles as he is of Democrats flying in the face of the public will. He corners Johnson, saying he’s afraid that once the candidate gets to the Senate, the People won’t hear from him again, that he won’t fight openly for the principles he ran on.
Since Johnson still doesn’t seem to know what principles he’s running on, this was bound to be a difficult question for him to answer. However, considering the record of most Washington politicians, the concern expressed is perfectly legitimate and deserves a sincere, thoughtful response.
RoJo’s stab: “Have you by any chance been reading any of my speeches?”
[Insert stunned silence and dropping jaw here.]
So entirely off the mark is this response that it’s hard even to know where to begin. But, what the hell, I’ll give it a shot.
First, Johnson needs to stop believing his own campaign hype. He got a lukewarm reception at best for his speech at the Tax Day Rally in Madison. I was there. His effort was trite and unexciting. Heck, his nomination video had a Milwaukee-area radio host (Charlie Sykes) gushing throughout about what wonderful rhetoric the Tax Day speech contained, but ultimately there was only one tiny soundbite used from it at the very end. If the rhetoric was truly so awe-inspiring, why didn't they use more of the real deal? Because, as I'm telling you, it was average at best. At the risk of humoring RoJo, go ahead and read it if you don't believe me. Like Ron says, it's all up on his campaign site.
Second—and far more importantly—as Nancy Pelosi recently noted about President Obama, people say a lot of things when they’re on the campaign trail. But thinking folks realize that words are, well…words. Voters these days want to refer to some sort of concrete record, possibly a signed pledge to which they can hold you accountable. They want to understand something of the ideals and principles that they can expect will guide you in office. They want to know how you plan to mitigate any moments of personal weakness. They want some sort of snapshot of your soul and what, if anything, it’s connected to. Why? Because, however much people have now grown accustomed to underplaying the importance of character these days, people know deep down that it matters.
Bottom line? Pointing someone to a couple of speeches you’ve made provides no proof, no bond, no confidence. In fact, to point to the basic equivalent of a stump speech when a voter wants to know whether they can trust you is simply laughable.
Proof is in the pudding, as the old adage goes. And a nifty speech does not pudding make. Rather, a speech is something that gains true weight only in the combined light of personal record and historical circumstances. Patrick Henry, Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan… Name me any great speechmaker you like. Those men’s words matter today because they proved by their actions that they practiced what they preached. Their record stands up in the light of time and history.
So, hey, if someone wants to hold up RoJo’s speeches twenty years from now as evidence of his intentions and character, I’ll consider at that point that it might be a viable idea. But for now, since Johnson claims to be a Lutheran, I’d counsel him thus: “Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth.” (Proverbs 27:2) Self-referentially pointing to your own speeches is what Emily Post would label bad form.
A Bad “Tea” Leaf Reading
In pointing to his own speeches, Johnson also further exposes the ill-conceived sham of his initial campaign positioning as a “Tea Party candidate.”
There’s a golden rule in communications: Know your audience. In these videos, Johnson’s put himself in front of a local conservative grassroots group—a part of the Tea Party movement. If he were really part of the movement and not an increasingly obvious and under-prepared establishment shill, he would know that a speech isn’t going to mean a dee-doodle to this crowd. They’re utterly determined to ensure that no more business-as-usual candidates get elected to office. They wouldn’t be intent on running Johnson through the ringer otherwise—or did Ronny think all those tough questions the Rock River Patriots were asking were the equivalent of a big ol’ friendly bear hug? Nope. It’s an initiation process. A VETTING. No candidate is getting past them without proving themselves.
A group like this one wants to see how well a candidate can think on his feet. They’re watching for what happens when questions are getting tossed one after another like rapid gunfire, when stress and fatigue creep in. The answers that come back under such circumstances reveal much. Why? Because when human beings grow uncomfortable, it becomes increasingly difficult for them to keep up any masks they might be wearing; they tend to revert to what is most ingrained in them. Stress and pressure in a vetting session yield a better glimpse of a candidate's true foundations—on what exactly he’s built and stands.
If you pay close attention to the segments of this vetting session, from start to finish, you’ll discover that Ron Johnson’s mask begins to fall away quickly. He’s never fully able to re-don it. When uncomfortable, he frequently grows defensive, testy, and…arrogant. Pointing people toward his own speeches demonstrates the degree to which RoJo is dependent on marketing props rather than deep knowledge. It’s intellectually lazy, which is bad enough in a senate candidate. But it’s also the reflexive move of a narcissist…not a man of true humility. Haven’t we seen this sort of thing somewhere before…?
Following up by mentioning his Republican Party endorsement is equally lazy and narcissistic on Johnson’s part. It’s sure not a valid answer to the question. And big news: A party endorsement likewise has zero meaning to a group like the Rock River Patriots or to many of those who’ve now viewed this vetting session online. In fact, a party endorsement these days is no guarantee whatsoever of a candidate’s principles or character. (Even less so in this case...but more on that another day.)
He flounders, little Ronny, trying to navigate his way through this fundamental question, this opportunity to build others’ confidence in him. It’s highly instructive. He lists off a bunch of stuff that aggravates him—including RINOs, which is interesting since he’s shown that he’s got the makings for being one himself. He proclaims he has a “deep reverence” for what we have and how it’s been squandered—which is humorous because he’s flat out acknowledged he doesn’t have a cohesive plan to move back in the right direction . He tells us he’s a big boy and usually the rabble-rouser on the boards he serves on—to which my underwhelmed response is, “Umm, o.k.”
But he doesn’t—in fact, can’t—offer up what’s required: a solid reason to trust him.
When asked by a member of the group how to find his campaign website, Johnson shares the URL, then notes that it’s still under development. He adds, by way of an excuse, that everything has happened “very fast.” In fact, he says it twice for emphasis.
Let’s just stop and think about that for a moment.
Again, Johnson, by his own admission, dickered over a period of months about whether or not to get in the U.S. Senate race. He told people in March that he was waiting to see if Tommy Thompson would get in or out, which already raises eyebrows. If RoJo were a man of true conservative principle, he would have gotten in—if for no other reason—simply to run AGAINST Tommy Thompson, who is a progressive in Republican clothes. But setting that itsy-bitsy matter aside for the time being and staying on point, if Johnson was putting feelers out in March about a “possible” run, little doubt exists that he’d been thinking about it well before then.
Even after Thompson’s April 15th announcement that it was time for “new faces,” (again, more another time) Johnson didn’t jump in right away. He waited another full month, jumping in a mere five days before the state GOP convention. That’s more time a guy with a lot of money to buy campaign staff had to get a campaign squared away. Still, Johnson feels justified in making excuses for the ongoing lack of substance on his campaign website.
That’s incredibly curious considering the fact that Johnson was completely organized and ready in advance to target delegates to Wisconsin's state GOP convention and ask them to vote for his endorsement there. For starters, he deployed, not one but two robo-calls by big-name establishment Republicans in the very few days leading up to the Milwaukee event. And yet, for a full month after his formal announcement, Johnson had zero stated positions on his campaign website—just a run-of-the-mill biography and a donation mechanism.
I’ve pointed out elsewhere the gross irresponsibility of asking delegates to vote for a candidate who they’ve not had a chance to vet properly. But for now, let’s just stick to the issue at hand—RoJo’s claim that everything has happened “very fast.” If he and his campaign staff had time to put together robo calls asking people to vote for him, why didn’t they have time to post issues statements?
Quite simply, it comes down to priorities.
Unfortunately, Johnson and his campaign staff have demonstrated fairly consistently over the last month or so that providing solid information about principles, positions, and character remains pretty low on their list.
Because if you ain’t got it, you can’t successfully flaunt it. For the Johnson campaign, mystery has been deemed far preferable to the truth.
Politics as Usual
Toward the end of this video segment, one of the Rock River Patriots ventures that for the past hundred years, Republicans and Democrats have repeatedly exchanged places while policy has remained largely the same. He asks if Johnson has ever given much thought as to the reason.
“Government has taken so much onto itself,” Johnson asserts, “it has gained so much power, and I was asked the other day, ‘What do you think about lobbyists?’ I think these individuals have a right to petition the government to redress things based on the organization they’re in with. The problem is, the government’s taken on the power that forces people to contact and go sluff off the rules and regulations that they may be imposing on a particular sector. So in my mind, the real culprit here is just the overstepping of the power of government over the decades.”
It’s half an answer. It addresses one of the symptoms—expansion of government control. But It doesn’t address how or why Republicans and Democrats have become virtually interchangeable in contributing to this expansion. That is really what the individual who posed the question was getting at. I know the answer. I suspect that nearly everyone reading this post does. That’s because we’re part of the paradigm shift. But apparently Johnson, yet again, hasn’t thought that deeply about something that actually matters.
For now, I won’t relate my own very detailed thoughts on the reasons policy doesn't change whether it's Dems or Republicans in office, because, frankly, I'm not interested in giving RoJo any easy answers. I'd prefer that he ponder the matter a little more deeply on his own.
What’s clear, however, is that without the answer, Ron Johnson is already guaranteed to make the same mistakes in Washington that the establishment has been making for years—mistakes we can no longer afford.
Final installment coming soon...