You can’t teach new tricks to an old alpha dog. It’s impossible to keep him quiet, because barking is what he knows.When I heard that Ed Rollins, the cable TV curmudgeon and itinerant political guru, had signed on as a senior adviser to Michele Bachmann’s nascent presidential bid, I figured it was only a matter of time before he chomped on his own foot. Indeed, his fellow Republicans have long been hip to his MO. Nearly 20 years ago, national GOP chairman Rich Bond called Rollins “a totally undisciplined big mouth who, in the end, will be more trouble than he’s worth.”Sure enough, Rollins went on the radio the other day and picked a fight with Sarah Palin – suggesting, in terms that can only be described as sexist, that there is room for only one attractive woman in the Republican race.Relations between the Bachmann and Palin camps are reportedly tense – Team Bachmann views Palin as a superficial celebrity, and Team Palin views Bachmann as an opportunist who rode the wave of ’08 Palinmania – which is precisely why the situation needs to be handled with deft delicacy. Candidate Bachmann would welcome Palin’s endorsement, because she needs Palin’s voters. But Rollins doesn’t do delicacy. On a radio show Tuesday, he said: “Sarah has not been serious over the last couple of years. She got the vice presidential thing handed to her, she didn’t go to work in the sense of trying to gain more substance, she gave up her governorship. Michele Bachmann and others (have) worked hard…she has been an attorney, she has done important things.” Then came the piece de resistance: Bachmann, he said, will “be so much more substantive. People are going to say, ‘I gotta make a choice, and go with the intelligent woman who’s every bit as attractive.'”I doubt that Rollins’ preemptive strike will make the Palin camp any more amenable to helping the Bachmann candidacy. And where did this guy learn politics, at the Playboy Mansion? He essentially argued that there is only one slot open to women at the top of Republican pyramid, that therefore they should be pitted against each other, and that naturally they should be judged in part on their looks. (When he worked in 2008 for Mike Huckabee, he didn’t seem to think that looks were a factor.) In Rollins’ view, there are plenty of male slots in the ’12 Republican race, but he views the two women much like this.Michael Glassner, one of Palin’s lieutenants, responded yesterday, “Beltway political strategist Ed Rollins has a long, long track record of taking high profile jobs and promptly sticking his foot in his mouth.” Glassner was right. Rollins hails from the era of superstar consultants, back when candidates’ advisers were often more visible than the candidates themselves. And Rollins was particularly flagrant, often to the detriment of himself and his clients. When he was working for Ronald Reagan, he publicly dissed the president’s daughter, Maureen, who was trying to launch a Senate bid at the time. Rollins complained that she had “the highest negatives of any candidate I’ve seen.” He said publicly, during the senior George Bush’s 1988 campaign, that Dan Quayle would be a lousy candidate for vice president. He worked for Ross Perot in 1992, quit after a month, then attacked the candidate’s credentials. He almost escaped gaffe-free from his stint as a top adviser to New Jersey gubernatorial candidate Christine Todd Whitman in 1993, but shortly after her election he bragged that his campaign had paid out money to suppress the black vote. Whitman furiously contradicted him, at which point he walked back his remarks, confessing that he had uttered “an exaggeration that turned out to be inaccurate.” Yesterday, a blogger on the website Conservatives4Palin predictably demanded that Michele Bachmann “either affirm her support for the long-time Beltway fossil’s idiotic comments…or refudiate them.” In the end there was no need for Bachmann to intervene, because, right on cue yesterday, Rollins walked back his remarks. He told Politico: “This was my one comment, which I shouldn’t have made, at the end of the day this has nothing to do with Michele, Michele’s campaign, or any of the rest of it. This was my transition from being an analyst to a political strategist, and I missed a step.”All of which prompts the question: Why would Bachmann even want this guy? He hasn’t helmed a winning campaign since 1994, he personifies the old-school Beltway attitude at a time when the Beltway imprimatur is viewed as baggage, and he revels in putting the focus on himself at the expense of his candidate.Even while apologizing yesterday for framing Bachmann’s candidacy as a catfight with Palin, he boasted that, over the years, “I’ve been taken to the woodshed by the big boys.” If Bachmann is really as substantive as Rollins claims, she’ll stack him with the other dead wood. For her own good.
Anthony Weiner’s virtual scandal is chump change when measured against John Edwards’ actual sex scandal. After reading the federal indictment, I wrote today’s newspaper column.