Reince Priebus gave an interview to Chris Stigall on CBS radio today, in which he stated that nobody has been invited to speak at the GOP Convention yet. I and others took this to be more spin coming from the Republican Party, in the wake of the Newsweek article published over the weekend. If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen me state that I thought Reince Priebus wasn’t being forthright this morning, with the answer he provided Mr. Stigall. After further examination, I don’t believe Priebus was being dishonest, but I still think there is a lot of spin going on.
So what is really going on here? Let’s do what most in the media won’t do, and lay out the facts with a timeline. Let’s start from the beginning.
The beginning actually starts on page three of the Boyer article, where he states:
The Romney camp will not comment on Palin, or on plans for the convention, but one adviser associated with the campaign suggested that Palin would be prohibited from speaking at the Republican convention by her contract with Fox News. “It’s true I’m prohibited from doing some things,” Palin says, “but this is the first I’ve heard anyone suggest that as an excuse, er, reason to stay away from engaging in the presidential race. I’m quite confident Fox’s top brass would never strip anyone of their First Amendment rights in this regard.” (Fox says her contract would not prohibit speaking at the convention if she sought permission.)
As you can see, Governor Palin responded to the comment that the Romney campaign made about why she wouldn’t be allowed to speak at the convention. Telling us, that Boyer had emailed Governor Palin after he spoke to the Romney people, and that she was merely responding to what they told Boyer.
Back on page one of the Newsweek article, you can see her response:
The Romney campaign prides itself on a slavish adherence to script, and Palin cannot be trusted to avoid the impulse to go rogue. That is why, perhaps, the Romney campaign has not asked Palin to speak at the convention nor contacted her about even attending the party’s marquee event in Tampa. Queries to the Romney camp about any possible Palin role at the convention meet with a stony silence. Palin does not seem surprised. “What can I say?” she responded in an email from Alaska, when asked by Newsweek about the convention, just before heading to Michigan to deliver an Obama-thumping speech. “I’m sure I’m not the only one accepting consequences for calling out both sides of the aisle for spending too much money, putting us on the road to bankruptcy, and engaging in crony capitalism.”
“In accepting those consequences,” she added, “one must remember this isn’t Sadie Hawkins and you don’t invite yourself and a date to the Big Dance.”
For those in the media and on blogs who like to read into things, it’s easy to see that Governor Palin wasn’t trying to position herself to get a speaking role. She was responding to the information Boyer provided her about the situation, and her response shows that she was actually accepting not being asked by the Romney campaign, since that is what their statement to Boyer indicated.
Now, let’s take a look at what Reince Priebus had to say on the matter today, during his interview:
STIGALL: How much of that convention are you involved with, and who calls the shots? And the reason I ask is, there’s this big deal right now about whether Sarah Palin’s been invited by Mitt Romney to speak, that Chris Christie — we haven’t talked about that yet this morning — has been named keynote on Tuesday to speak. Can you talk about people speaking, who’s invited, who’s not, who’s in charge? How’s that work?
PRIEBUS: [laughs] Well, I can tell you how that works. I mean, it’s generally a very cooperative effort between the RNC and Mitt Romney. So, between their campaign and us, most things are like a 50/50 marriage. I mean, that’s how I would describe decisions at the convention. There’s also another component, which is the host committee in Tampa. So both conventions have a group of people who are charged with the responsibility of raising all the money in a 501(c)3 charitable organization that actually raises the money so that the conventions can be put on. We actually are charged with spending the money, and then we put on the program and all of the other things that you see at the convention. Those decisions of programming and putting all of these things together — they’re generally made by both entities.
And so, to your question now, there is no program set by us or the Romney team. So most of these things you hear — although these are great people you’re referring to — all these things are just rumors. I mean, there’s just no truth to the fact that people are getting phone calls and being invited to speak right now, because the program isn’t set. So, when you guys hear things like that, you can generally assume that it’s just talk, and there still is time for –
STIGALL: On that, then there’s also no truth to “Sarah Palin is not welcome at the convention”?
PRIEBUS: Of course not!
STIGALL: Okay. Do you anticipate she’ll be there, if you were to guess?
PRIEBUS: You know, I have no idea. I have no idea based on the schedule, based on what’s going on on programming. I just don’t know what to tell you about it, other than it’s pretty early. I mean, these are not — these are things that people will start making final decisions on probably, you know, in the second week of August.
Ed Morrissey weighed in, after posting this transcript, by stating:
In other words, if your favorite politico hasn’t received a speaking slot yet … relax.
I think it’s important to note that nothing Reince Priebus said contradicts the Newsweek article. In fact, the very end of the article states:
Despite the risks, Team Romney may be well advised to consider bringing Palin inside the tent. Whether she’s in Tampa for the convention or not, she will be out there somewhere, and talking.
Peter Boyer, Governor Palin, and Reince Priebus all agree that the speaking schedule for the 2012 Republican National Convention has not been finalized. As Boyer stated:
Palin is keeping the dates open in late August, just in case. In any event, she says, she plans to be politically active between now and November, starting with a Michigan Tea Party appearance, sponsored by Americans for Prosperity. “No matter the Romney campaign strategy,” she says, “I intend to do all I can to join others in motivating the grassroots made up of independents and constitutional conservatives who can replace Barack Obama at the ballot box.”
Chris Stigall, the man conducting the interview with Priebus, asked:
[T]hen there’s also no truth to “Sarah Palin is not welcome at the convention”?
By doing so, he sort of convoluted the issue. I have no doubt that Governor Palin could get into the GOP Convention if she wanted to. There isn’t going to be guards at the door prohibiting her from entering. I can’t imagine they would bar her from sitting in the stands.
The real issue that Peter Boyer was addressing in his article was whether the Romney campaign would invite Governor Palin to address the GOP Convention, and had she been asked to speak at the GOP Convention. He used that particular question as a way of discussing the larger issue of the Tea Party’s tepid enthusiasm for Romney and what, if any, measures he’s taken to reach out to the Tea Party. In fact, the issue of the base’s enthusiasm and turn out was the bulk of Boyer’s article. All of this this goes back to what we have been saying for awhile now about Mitt Romney’s nearly non-existent efforts to reach out to the base. Someone seeking to unify their party before a very important general election, in which voter turnout will be crucial, should reach out to other leaders in their party — especially those who have major credibility with the grassroots. They should seek a “big tent” convention, to ensure that Barack Obama is removed from the White House.
However, when Peter Boyer asked about Governor Palin’s involvement at the convention, a Romney campaign adviser offered an excuse about her being prohibited because of her Fox contract. If the simple answer was, “Nothing’s been set yet. We’re still working on it,” then why didn’t they just tell that to Boyer? Why the stonewalling and the mystery? Maybe because they don’t want to deal with the issue because they’re not keen on giving her a platform at the convention. That seems to be the impression Boyer got.
This National Journal article from May will give you an idea of the thinking going on with the Romney campaign. As you will see, it seems to confirm the impression Boyer got from team Romney’s attitude to Governor Palin.
Several insiders interviewed for this story said former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin will present a unique challenge to Romney’s team: Will they give her a prime spot to satisfy her fans, or reduce her role because of her polarizing nature?
“You want people to generate interest and passion,” said one Republican who has organized conventions before and who, like others, didn’t want to be named. “Sarah Palin goes to a very small segment, relatively speaking, of the Republican Party. And you’re trying to put together a rainbow coalition.”
Ask yourself, who are the people that this GOP establishment figure calls “a very small segment,” by which he means an insignificant segment? They don’t seem to be insignificant. The fact that Reince Priebus is having to answer questions on this matter proves it.