In the stock market, it’s known as the whisper number. It’s the stock market analysts’ consensus on what earnings a company will report. Because they give their forecasts anonymously, the analysts tend to be more honest. Over time, the whisper number has proven to be more accurate than the figure analysts cite on the record.
In politics, it works the same way. When speaking publicly, conservative leaders usually hedge their bets. They don’t want to be seen as favoring one candidate over another.
In private, it’s a different matter. In those off-the-record conversations, a range of conservative leaders I have chatted with favor Mitt Romney for president.
In public, conservative leaders invariably speak well of Sarah Palin. They cite her loyal following and her ability to whip up crowds and articulate a conservative message. In private, they diss her for her high unfavorability ratings, the fact that she quit as governor of Alaska, and the disorganization of her staff and her chaotic personal scheduling.
An exception to the rule of silence is David Keene, former chairman of the American Conservative Union, who just took over as president of the National Rifle Association. In an interview, Keene says Palin is not ready for a run at the presidency.
Unlike former governors such as Romney, Ronald Reagan, or George W. Bush, Palin did not establish her credentials before leaving office, Keene has told me. Whining about the media is not a winning strategy, Keene noted.
To be sure, each potential candidate has flaws. But conservative leaders I have talked to see Romney as the best bet to win the presidency. He looks and acts presidential. He has the experience and chops to handle the economy. He takes a tough approach to dealing with foreign adversaries. And traditionally, Republicans who win the presidency have run previously for the office.
It Pays to Be Fired by NPR
As we were waiting to board a plane at Reagan National Airport bound for West Palm Beach, my wife Pam and I ran into Juan Williams. As
noted in my story The Juan Williams I Know
, Juan is a former Washington Post colleague who has been a friend since the late 1970s. Over the next half hour, we sat together waiting for the plane to board.
Every couple of minutes, a traveler came over to Williams and shook his hand. The admirers were young and old, black and white, military personnel and civilians. Each expressed gratitude for his commentary on Fox News. Some asked if I would take their photo with him. Each time, Juan graciously obliged, standing up to chat and ask where they were from.
When I commented on his popularity, Juan said people even come up to him in the men’s room to shake his hand.
“Wow,” I said, “that must get rough.”
“No, it’s okay,” he said with his usual aplomb.
NPR fired Williams because it didn’t like what he said. Now Juan has a much bigger audience on Fox News, leading to the inescapable conclusion: It pays to be fired by NPR.
Williams tells the story in his new book "Muzzled: The Assault on Honest Debate," coming out July 26. As Roger Ailes, president of Fox News, describes it, “Muzzled is the compelling story of our Constitution in action and one man’s willingness as an American to speak his mind at any cost.”
JFK the Clean Freak
I thought I had heard everything about John F. Kennedy until I had lunch recently in Sedona, Ariz., with Janet Fontaine. In my book "The Sins of the Father: Joseph P. Kennedy and the Dynasty He Founded," I revealed that Fontaine — then Des Rosiers — was both Joe Kennedy’s secretary in Hyannisport and his mistress for nine years. Later, Fontaine was the flight attendant on JFK’s campaign plane and his secretary in the White House.
Over lunch at Enchantment Resort, Fontaine told me that President Kennedy was a clean freak.
“He never liked to wear a shirt twice without having it washed,” she said. “I was the stewardess on the plane with him beginning in 1959 until his election. I used to iron his flannel pajamas. I knew he liked to have a clean pair every night. I couldn’t wash pajamas every night in a hotel, so I would iron them with my little travel iron in my hotel room, fold them up, and give them to him.”
Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. He is a New York Times best-selling author of books on the Secret Service, FBI, and CIA. His latest, "The Secrets of the FBI," is to be released in August. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via email. Go Here Now.
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