Adam Serwer, on the subtext lurking underneath Mitt Romney’s claim that the Obama administration “sympathized" with the attackers:
Romney’s remarks suggest that Obama has very specific personal motivations: When violent religious radicals slaughter Americans, Obama is on the side of the radicals. As it happens, Romney’s statement isn’t coming out of nowhere: It comes out of a very well-developed narrative, popular on the fever swamps of the right where questions about Obama’s citizenship or faith linger. The idea that Obama is driven chiefly by hatred of America and the West and harbors a desire to make America pay for its transgressions is the thesis of Dinesh D’Souza’s recently released film, 2016: Obama’s America.. ..
If the Obama envisioned by D’Souza is real, then of course he sympathizes with those who assaulted a U.S. consulate over an internet video offensive to Muslims, because that Obama believes America needs to be taken down a peg or two.
D’Souza and Romney’s Obama is about as real as the one sitting in the empty chair Clint Eastwood yelled at for 12 minutes at the Republican National Convention. Nevertheless, when the Romney campaign chose to express the conflict in these terms, with the president on the side of those who murdered Americans in Benghazi, his supporters knew he was invoking their imaginary, Kenyan anti-colonialist Obama.
I continue to wonder: Who are the voters that the Romney campaign sees as their intended audience for this stuff? A reasonably good way to measure whether people are open to the idea that Obama is secretly sympathetic with America’s enemies might be his ratings when it comes to handling terrorism.
On this front, as Post polling guru Peyton Craighill notes, the current state of play represents a dramatic shift in the political landscape from previous campaigns. Both John McCain and George W. Bush held wide advantages on terrorism in the last two presidential races. That is now reversed — in favor of a Democrat. The new Washington Post poll finds that Obama holds a wide lead among registered voters of 51-40. Independents pick Obama by 46-42. The gap is even wider among moderates, at 55-33.
The only groups that favor Romney over Obama on terrorism are Republicans (74-13) and conservatives (65-24). So it stands to reason that most of the true undecided voters who remain probably favor Obama on terrorism. What will they think when they hear Romney tell them that the Obama administration sympathized with attacks on Americans? My bet is that it doesn’t end up resonating with their perceptions at all.
What is the Romney campaign trying to accomplish here? Is this all about letting the base know that Romney isn’t afraid to “get tough” with Obama? If so, why is Romney still playing to the base? Or does the Romney camp believe there is a small segment of true undecided voters who — after living with Obama as president for four years — still are open to doubting Obama’s intentions and sympathies towards America?