The Kool-Aid-drenched spinners for the Obama campaign insist the president is not negative, is not running on character assassination and is not looking to distract voters. The problems is that virtually no one outside the Obama camp believes this.
Obama’s denial yesterday that he was being negative or that he was responsible for the Joe Soptic ad did not go over well, even with the mainstream media. The GOP is unsurprisingly going to double down on the president’s duplicity.
We know how overwhelmingly negative the Obama ad assault has been. And the public can tell what is going on as well.
But rather embrace their own negativity (Sure, we are tearing down Mitt Romney on whatever we can find!), the Democrats get squeamish and try to insist it’s the other guy who debased the debate. Perhaps their sanctimony compels them to claim the high ground, or maybe they fear the reaction of independent voters. But once Obama chose this course — designed to personally destroy Romney — they were obligated to stick with it or face the charge of hypocrisy (which next to racism is the only sin left in American politics).
So what could Obama do if he really wanted to raise the debate? He could fire Stephanie Cutter. (Throwing overboard aides who merely followed directions is a tried-and-true political tactic.) He could denounce the Soptic ad. He could introduce his own reforms on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. He could even embrace Simpson-Bowles. It’s not too late for that. Certainly this would dispel the notion that he is unserious about the fiscal debt, is unwilling to take on his own party and is interested only in growing the size of government. He could even undo the damage wrought by his welfare maneuver. (Mickey Kaus has some good suggestions including, “Have Obama argue that the new waivers were justified, but regret that they weren’t adopted with the bipartisan consultation he thinks would produce a reasonable consensus around the need for a modest amount of state-by-state flexibility and experimentation. In keeping with this sentiment, have HHS secretary Sebelius withdraw the rules until they can be negotiated in 2013 with Congressional Republicans, which (Obama can say) will certainly insure that the work requirements are not, in fact, eroded.”)
But I don’t think Obama wants to or is capable of doing any of that. He has spent no time developing farsighted policies, and he is determined to prove that he can turn out his base with fire and brimstone speeches and attack ads. His sycophantic spinners will have to live with that reality. This is precisely the sort of pol whom Obama warned us about in 2008.