Former Republican strategist: GOP needs to ‘de-kookify’ itself to be taken seriously

By David Ferguson
Friday, July 12, 2013 9:16 EDT
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Steve Schmidt via screencap
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Thursday night on “The Rachel Maddow Show,” host Rachel Maddow discussed the Republican Party’s bizarre intransigence when it comes to embracing the kookier elements within itself, including birthers, conspiracy theorists and zealots of all persuasions. She welcomed former campaign strategist from Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)’s 2008 presidential run, Steve Schmidt, who said that the GOP hasn’t grasped that associating with kooks gives the whole party the “patina of a kook.”

She introduced the segment by playing a clip of birther Wayne Allyn Root, who has made a name for himself insisting that President Barack Obama is, if not Kenyan, definitely a foreign national and therefore unqualified to serve as president of the U.S.. Root is appearing in Las Vegas this weekend alongside Nevada’s Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R) and Sen. Dean Heller (R) at a gala fundraiser and conference for conservatives.

Maddow then welcomed Steve Schmidt to the show and asked him if there was some “magical upside” to appearing alongside conspiracy nuts for Republican politicians that she isn’t seeing.

“Look,” Schmidt replied, “Dean Heller should know who this nut is and he shouldn’t be attending. I think Kevin McCarthy had no idea who he was, he is not from the state.” But now, given that event organizers have had time to do due diligence, McCarthy should “cancel the appearance,” he said.

Schmidt said that Republicans have established that in Nevada, at least, cozying up to fringe right-wing elements has not done the party any favors. The failed Senate run of Sharron Angle should serve as an object lesson to Republicans about the dangers of veering too far right.

However, “the lessons have not been learned,” he said. “There should be a total disassociation with the nuts in the party,” but the Republicans have clung to those elements anyway.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), said Schmidt, is “clearly running for president.” But, he said, “self-awareness, though, is an under-appreciated virtue in a presidential campaign,” a quality that Paul sorely lacks. If the man is going to be a serious figure in the party and the U.S., his “chief strategic imperative” will have to be to “de-kookify” himself and step out of the shadow of his father, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), who has made a career for himself pandering to the libertarian, isolationist wing of the right.

“He is not doing that,” Schmidt said. “He is going in the wrong direction. So, when you associate with these kooks, you take on the patina of a kook, and Rand Paul, if he goes down the kooky route, as opposed to trying to moderate himself, he’s not going to be a credible candidate for president in the Republican nomination process. He just won’t.”

Watch the clip, embedded below via MSNBC:

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David Ferguson
David Ferguson
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
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