It’s no surprise that Romney is picking up where McCain left off, but “on steroids,” to use Bill Clinton’s recent phrasing. McCain, if you recall, was a flip-flopper who outrageously and hypocritically lied about his opponent as well. Romney, fresh out of the gate, apparently feels it necessary to go even further.
A few of his opening shots? Well, they certainly seem to understand their problem points, as they are going straight for Obama’s big strengths: he is popular with women, he helped save the auto industry, and he killed bin Laden. Knowing that these are tremendous pluses for Obama, showing him to be strong on social issues, jobs, business, and foreign policy, they feel the need to relentlessly attack him on these points; it is no mistake that these three points came first, and have no doubt that conservatives will, barring some huge embarrassment, continue to hammer Obama’s achievements in these areas. If they cannot deprive him of credit for these, then they hope to at least mire them in criticism and question enough to blur and weaken them.
s for Detroit, the Romney campaign is now claiming that not only was Romney not against the Detroit bailout, but that Obama was just “following Mitt Romney’s advice.”
This goes beyond Mitt’s trying to save face by pointing out that he was for saving the auto industry, but differed in how to do it. Romney wanted Detroit to go through a managed bankruptcy, and not receive any government funds–i.e., a Bain-style restructuring. At the time, he specifically contrasted his plan to Obama’s.
At the time, there was also not so much doubt about one big reason why not just Romney, but conservatives in general, wanted the bankruptcy: it would have broken the unions, and allowed the industry to strip workers of pay and benefits. Romney left no doubt about this, citing what he called “excessive union contract obligations.” (An excellent rundown of Romney’s positions here.)
Obama, in contrast, bailed out the industry, saved it without bankruptcy, saved tens or possibly hundreds of thousands of jobs while not wrecking the unions or the hard-won pay and benefits the workers enjoy, helped the industry not just recover but thrive… and now Romney, after disagreeing with and then criticizing Obama for what he did, is trying to take credit for it.
hen there is Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden was ignored for years by conservatives, embarrassed by their inability to capture him. After basing their entire mideast strategy on how much of a threat he was, they dismissed him as unimportant and stopped even trying.
During the 2008 election, Obama vowed to cross Pakistani borders and take bin Laden out, if there was actionable intelligence and Pakistan did not appear cooperative. He was referring to Bush’s grave error in Tora Bora, of course. At the time, Romney and most other conservatives came down on Obama as reckless and naive, and opposed any such move.
As it turned out, of course, Obama was dead right. Ever since then, conservatives have been trying to ignore something which, had it only been accomplished by a Republican, they would have celebrated as the ultimate act of a courageous leader.
Their first strategy was to act like Obama had nothing to do with it. They thanked the soldiers, they thanked the military in general, they even thanked our allies, some of whom they savagely attacked in the past. They also thanked President… Bush. They credited the capture to Bush, to torture, to Gitmo, to everyone and everything… except Obama. He was a braggart trying to take credit for everyone else’s hard work.
Then they started nipping at Obama like a bunch of ducks, attacking Obama for how he did it, for not showing the video, for not putting the body on display, for the burial at sea, or for even announcing that bin Laden had been killed at all. No detail was too small to claim that Obama somehow “blew it” and made things worse.
Then they tried to claim that “any” president would have done the same thing–ignoring the fact that Bush did not. “Even Jimmy Carter would have given that order,” Romney himself claimed. Of course, Carter gave the order to send helicopters into Iran–a mission which failed, and Republicans had no problem giving Carter full blame while never once suggesting that the soldiers or the military were in any way responsible. Which was appropriate–but now stands out as hypocritically inconsistent in regards to their reaction to Obama’s actions. Like it or not, Obama made a call, and had the mission failed, the blame would have been 100% his, and probably would have sunk his chances for re-election. Do you think, had the mission failed and soldiers died, that Romney would hesitate for a microsecond to politicize that? Hell, no.
Then there’s the question of whether Romney would have done it; after all, when Obama said he’d go after bin Laden if he were in Pakistan, Romney disagreed:
“I do not concur in the words of Barack Obama in a plan to enter an ally of ours… I don’t think those kinds of comments help in this effort to draw more friends to our effort,” Romney told reporters on the campaign trail.
Recently, has has attempted to pivot that statement, acting as if it were only Obama’s statement of intent, not his actual intent:
“It was a very, if you will, fragile and flammable time in Pakistan,” Mr. Romney said during an appearance with Rudolph W. Giuliani at Engine 24, Ladder 5 in SoHo. “And I thought it was a mistake of him as a candidate for the presidency of the United States to announce he would go in–rather than to say, as I did, we reserve the right to go wherever we feel is appropriate to secure the interests of the United States of America, and certainly to track Osama bin Laden anywhere he could be found.”
The problem? That statement contradicts what else Romney said when he criticized Obama in 2008:
Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who is one of the Republican front-runners, said U.S. troops “shouldn’t be sent all over the world.” He called Obama’s comments “ill-timed” and “ill-considered.”
“There is a war being waged by terrorists of different types and nature across the world,” Romney said. “We want, as a civilized world, to participate with other nations in this civilized effort to help those nations reject the extreme with them.”
So, in 2008, he felt that we should “participate” with other nations, and disapproved of sending troops “all over the world.” But in 2012, he said he meant to “reserve the right to go wherever we feel is appropriate to secure the interests of the United States of America, and certainly to track Osama bin Laden anywhere he could be found.” How can you criticize Obama for sending troops everywhere and at the same time mean that you would send troops “wherever … appropriate” and “anywhere [bin Laden] could be found”?
Finally, there is criticism that Obama is politicizing getting bin Laden. This, of course, is laughable on its face. Of course he’s using it in his campaign; that’s what any politician would do, what every politician does. If Romney had done it, he sure as hell would have mentioned it. And why not?
How about this by Bush in 2004:
“In Iraq, we saw a threat, and we realized that after September the 11th, we must take threats seriously, before they fully materialize. Saddam Hussein now sits in a prison cell,” the president said. “America and the world are safer for it.”
Was that inappropriate? Certainly Romney would not have thought so. Not to mention that Romney just appeared in New York near Ground Zero with Rudy “noun, a verb, and 9-11” Giuliani, making hay of the War on Terror and politicizing exactly what they criticized Obama for touting–how he performed in the war on terror.
McCain, a Romney surrogate, has also blasted Obama, saying “heroes don’t brag.” Alas, he didn’t seem to be aware of this when he was running in 2008, when he bragged about what his team and his party claimed were his own acts of heroism.
In the end, what we have is massive hypocrisy on the part of Romney and the GOP and all of their surrogates; no surprises there. But it is telling; to attack Obama on women, Detroit, and bin Laden betrays the fact that Republicans know that Obama is very strong in those three areas.
The question is, can Romney and the GOP successfully pull of the Etch-a-Sketch strategy, hoping voters forgot everything they said and did in past years, believe all the lies they now claim are true, and deny Obama credit where credit is due?