Mitt’s conspicuous omission

    We were talking here yesterday about the Republican convention speakers. I should also point out that the Tampa lineup is noteworthy not just for who’s on it, but for who is not.For instance, Mitt Romney is giving short shrift to the GOP’s whacko caucus, which means we probably won’t get to see folks like Herman Cain or Michele Bachmann or Newt Gingrich – at least not in prime time. That’s smart politics for Mitt, but it’s sad from an entertainment standpoint, because the satirical possibilities are boundless. Cain might say something like, “With Mitt Romney as president, there will be no Palestinian state in Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan.” Bachmann might say, “When Mitt Romney is president, he will ban the HPV vaccine that has made millions of young people so mentally retarded that they’ve joined the Muslim Brotherhood.” Newt might say, “My appearance here tonight is fundamentally the most consequential American event since Theodore Roosevelt acquired the rights to build the Panama Canal.” But there’s a far more conspicuous omission. Absent from the lineup is the woman who has actually said things like this: “He who warned uh, the British that they weren’t gonna be takin’ away our arms, uh by ringing those bells, and um, makin’ sure as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be sure and we were going to be free, and we were going to be armed.” And this: “I cannot wait to go get my fried butter on a stick, and fried cheesecake on a stick, and Twinkies, especially in honor of those who would rather just be forced to eat our peas.” And this: “Obviously, we’ve got to stand with our North Korean allies.”That, of course, would be Sarah Palin. She has clearly been jonesing for a podium role; she has cleared her schedule for the convention week, and she suggested recently that a nod from Romney could come at any time. It hasn’t.Palin is a big problem for Romney. On the one hand, he’s smart to freeze her out – given the fact that she has come to symbolize the GOP’s ’08 ineptitude; that the party actually nominated, as its vice presidential choice, a minor leaguer who literally didn’t know the difference between North Korea and South Korea; and that most Americans think she’s a joke. Indeed, in a national poll of registered voters last October, her favorability rating was 21 percent; in another poll that same month, 67 percent said she’s not qualified to be president. The last thing Romney needs is to parade Palin and thus give swing-state independents a fresh reason to vote against him.Besides, the Romney camp is miffed at Palin. She was publicly cool to Romney during the primary season – repeatedly questioning his conservative credentials, cheering on the various not-Romney candidates, rooting for an open convention – and as recently as last month, she told Fox News that conservatives want Romney to light his hair on fire (Romney said in February that he would not “light my hair on fire to try to get support”). Most importantly, she has not blessed Romney with an endorsement. So the Romney camp obviously feels that it doesn’t owe her a blessed thing.On the other hand, Palin is still lionized by denizens of the conservative base. (Go figure.) If Romney snubs her, if he keeps her off the convention podium, the base will take that as an insult. The base is already ill-enthused about Romney – it got worse yesterday, after Mitt flak Andrea Saul committed the sin of lauding his Massachusetts health reform law – and his continued dissing of Palin risks souring the base even further.What should Romney do? He probably can’t offer her a speaking slot when nobody at home is watching – say, at 4 p.m. – because she’d take that as an insult. And just imagine what would happen if she’s muzzled entirely. She could wind up raising heck at rallies outside the convention hall, driving a new wedge between her conservative fans and the GOP nominee. Romney can ill afford that story line.So in the end, Romney may need to heed the old Lyndon B. Johnson adage (which I’ll clean up for this family blog) that it’s far preferable to have one’s antagonist inside the tent spitting out than outside the tent spitting in. ——-Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.