01/15/2012 08:15 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Both Sides Now : Mitt's Pyrrhic Victories?

By Mark Green

On the only national radio show that's two sides and two women, Arianna Huffington and Mary Matalin debate a resolution about whether Romney has won Pyrrhic victories -- has he "fired" himself?

The two also discuss how donors are becoming more important than candidates because of Super-Pacs. Then, is The Obamas by Jodi Kantor a portrait or a caricature and should Pat Buchanan be fired from MSNBC? (To hear entire show, click below.)

*Is Bain Capital Romney's Rev. Wright? Given his successes in Iowa and New Hampshire, isn't Mitt Romney the overwhelming favorite for the GOP nomination short of the first Morman texting scandal? The women agree with the CW that he is. But.

Citing South Carolina's high unemployment rate and volatility, Arianna notes that "anything's still possible" because of the attacks on vulture capitalism and his role at Bain... which are coming "not from partisan Democrats but Republicans like the conservative governor of Texas." If that job-killing narrative gains traction, it could undermine the GOP economic rationale against the "job killing" Obama.

Mary, however, thinks that the GOP attacks over Bain have hurt Gingrich and Perry among Republican voters and helped Santorum and Paul, who have avoided them. Indeed, the former two have "walked their attacks back" and aren't repeating them. But what about Romney being weakened for the general election, as Carter surely was by Kennedy's attacks in 1980? She acknowledges that Romney hasn't yet shown the "communications skills or empathy to respond well" to charges about Bain and jobs. There's a consensus that this is a, maybe the, crucial test for the governor -- can he rise to a big challenge as, say, Senator Obama did with Rev. Wright in his Philadelphia race speech during that primary season?

Yes, the women also agree that how voters feel about the economy is affecting them and their families will be the litmus issue this Fall. But in a very possible 51-49 race, the narrative of Romney as job-creator could be the margin of difference.

After listening to Romney suggest to an incredulous Matt Lauer on Today that only "envy" motivates his critics and that any discussion of inequality should be done "in quiet rooms," Arianna is asked: "are you personally envious of Mitt Romney and do you now regret publishing a book about the middle class rather than discussing it more 'quietly'?" She answers in hushed tones that these comments were worse than Romney's original language about enjoying "firing service providers. "Quiet rooms implies smoke-filled rooms, where elites can talk among themselves, or as they say in France, 'not in front of the children.'"

*On a Very Divided Republican Party. As the airwaves fill with bitter attacks and as prominent religious right leaders meet in Texas to try to stop Romney (they will later endorse Santorum), the women talk about whether the Mitt and non-Mitt wings of the party will be reconcilable. Is the party divided like Obama-Clinton, who came together easily in the Fall of 2008, or more like Carter-Kennedy in 1980, who didn't? Consensus: the party will likely unite by November since they dislike Obama more than Romney.

Also: while Gingrich's name-calling and Perry's vulture metaphors are unusual, Arianna asks, "What about Hillary's 3 a.m. phone call ad? What could be worse than questioning whether a commander-in-chief will keep America safe?" (host: might President Romney ask Newt Gingrich to be his Secretary of State?)

*On the Ascendancy of Super-Pacs: All laugh at how Stephen Colbert creates a real Super-Pac to consider becoming "the President of South Carolina" and, to maintain its independence, chooses as its head... Jon Stewart. In the real world, Las Vegas casino owner Sheldon Abelson is spending more on behalf of Newt Gingrich in South Carolina than Obama and Clinton spent combined in 2008. Is it a problem for democracy when candidates outsource their campaigns to Super Pacs which are now spending twice as much in South Carolina as all the aspirants themselves?

Mary reiterates her conclusion that liberals "obsess " over this process policy and that the real problem is the money spent to lobby over (excess) federal regulations. Arianna is not sanguine but scandalized. She explains how these groups avoid accountability since campaigns are decided by a tidal wave of commercials without anyone saying "I approve of this ad", as she lauds John McCain for attacking the Citizens United decision that spawned a process of donors mattering more than candidates.

*On The Obamas: The two discuss Jodi Kantor's controversial new book through the lens of being women who have been married to prominent public men... and after hearing Mrs. Obama's own comment that some people probably expected "an angry black woman." How's she doing as the first black first lady?

Mary wonders whether obesity was the best issue for the first lady to invest in but concludes that she, in the book, comes across and is "a strong woman, solid wife, confidante, great mother and a person of authenticity... [unlike] her husband." Arianna also speaks admiringly, especially of "some beautiful book passages" such as when the first lady watched her husband at his widely praised, empathetic sermon at the Gabby Giffords service. But she adds that Mrs. Obama should be more like Eleanor Roosevelt, saying that "she shouldn't go to any fundraiser without also visiting communities where there's pain, poverty and unemployment."

To better understand the kind of caricatures that all prominent women face, she repeats the wisdom of Marlo Thomas: "to be considered ruthless, a man has to be Joe McCarthy, a woman only has to put you on hold."

*Quick Takes: Buchanan. Tebow. Should Pat Buchanan be fired at MSNBC because of his open lament ("The Suicide of White America") that there are too many minorities in the country? Ms. Matalin says that Pat isn't a racist and expresses annoyance when conservatives are attacked as such. Ms. Huffington thinks that Buchanan's views are extreme and that, whether at The Huffington Post or MSNBC, media firms have editorial guidelines, like not printing Truther's opinions. That is, everyone has the right to free speech but not to a position at, say, The Huffington Post.

Then we discuss the most famous football player in the playoffs. Each sympathizes with Tebow's open expressions of his evangelical faith on the turf. Arianna refers to Fran Tarkenton's observation that while he doesn't know if God cares about who wins a football game, at least Tebow is earnestly engaging in his religion rather than the other things college football players engage in. And Arianna recalls how often she would pray to the Virgin Mary and how, of all the things in the world to worry about, Tebowing is not one.

The Radio Mary reminds listeners that Tebow had John 3:16 as his "eye black" before passing last week for 316 yards against the Steelers. "Tebow demonstrates the power of faith, to have humility, to have teamwork. He's inspiring the nation. People who are against him are losing the argument."

*Your Week: Arianna takes her daughter to Qatar for meetings with Al Jeezera and tours of art museums. Mary counters that she took her daughter to Nieman Marcus and took fellow Louisianian Donna Brazile to watch the LSU-Alabama game. Between LSU and the Saints, not a good weekend for the pundit-publisher from New Orleans.

Mark Green is the creator and host of Both Sides Now, which is powered by the American Federation of Teachers.

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