An editorial in last Wednesday’s edition of the Daily Republic, “Success undercut in bin Laden capture,” criticized the Obama campaign’s release of a re-election video reminding viewers that Obama made the tough, politically dangerous decision last year to slip covertly into Pakistan and take out bin Laden and “questioned whether Mitt Romney, the presumptive GOP nominee, would have done the same.”
The editorial continued with, “Obama could have acted more presidential.”
Aside from the editorial, this television ad has generated a huge amount of predictable “outrage” from Republicans and Fox News. Bill O’Reilly said, “I think what the president has done is a huge campaign mistake. Last night on the Factor, Sen. John McCain was furious over the way Mr. Obama attacked Mr. Romney.” Fox entertainer, Monica Crowley, complained: “I think that’s a grossly unfair and political slam against Gov. Romney that was uncalled for.” When I heard that, especially coming from the mouth of a Fox commentator, I had to laugh out loud; uncalled-for, grossly unfair political slams are their bread and butter.
To be completely fair to Mitt Romney, in addition to his statements that many have interpreted to mean that he would not have ordered the Pakistan strike to get bin Laden, he also made statements last week that indicate that he would have.
Therein lies the rub.
Clearly defining Romney is the biggest problem facing the Republican machine. He has multiple stances on nearly every major issue, from the War on Terror to health care. Which Romney are we supposed to believe and vote for today? We can expect the Democrats to highlight Romney’s inconsistencies in the months ahead, but what I’m really looking forward to is the Republican response, touting “flip-flopping” as a positive presidential trait.
Ironically, in the 2004 presidential race, Romney criticized Democratic Sen. John Kerry for his switch on the Iraq War, saying: “I don’t want presidential leadership that comes in 57 varieties.” Also in that race, former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie, now Romney’s top strategist, famously posited: “If Sen. Kerry’s policies were in place today, Saddam Hussein would not only be in Baghdad; he’d still be in Kuwait.”
How is that Republican attack any different from the Democrats’ bin Laden ad? I mean, of course, other than the Republicans creating a fantasy scenario and not using Kerry’s own words to prove their point.
So, is it “unfair” for President Obama to use bin Laden’s death in political ads? Is it somehow un-presidential to point out that Romney probably wouldn’t have taken that chance?
To anyone who has been around for more than one election cycle, none of this stuff is new or unusual. Historical events, real and imaginary, form the raw material from which political campaigns are manufactured. Frankly, Republicans know that Romney is weak on foreign policy and the War on Terror so they want to shift our attention away from those areas. By trying to switch political talk from President Obama’s accomplishment to their orchestrated, artificial outrage, Republicans are shifting the voters’ focus from Obama’s positive achievement to their contrived campaign “mistake.” That tactic, too, is an old-school political tool. I figure this indignation story has legs enough to run another couple of days before it collapses into the dustbin of history.
This year is shaping up to be a presidential election year like no other. With unlimited anonymous campaign contributions and networks eager for stories to be handed to them by political operatives, we can all look forward to a long, hot summer of barbs, zingers and gotchas, followed by histrionics and feigned outrage from both sides.
It should be tons of fun.
Mike Kirchubel grew up in Fairfield and is the author of “Vile Acts of Evil — Banking in America.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.