As the week begins, two stories have developed quickly. One is the rather bizarre Newsweek cover (left) that declares Obama to be the first gay president, and the other is how Romney could be challenged and put under pressure over what has happened at JPMorgan Chase.
The Newsweek cover reminds one of an October 1987 cover, also for Newsweek, that we dealt with when I was Lee Atwater’s deputy during George H.W. Bush’s campaign in 1987. That cover suggested Vice President Bush was a “wimp.” There was no good answer to the cover, and reciting proof of his manliness — from his service as an underage Navy aircraft carrier-based fighter pilot to amateur cigarette boat racer — did not help. The more we explained, the more we drew attention to the story, which only enhanced the notion that he was a wimp.
There was never a period at the end of this sentence. Comedians and critics continued throughout the course of the campaign what Newsweek had started. It was an irritant, but to make a long story short, Bush won the election and went on to become our 41st president.
Newsweek appears to be trying a similar formula with this cover. But instead of being mean, it’s just strange. It features a picture of President Obama that Newsweek has probably had on file and wanted to run anyway. A substantial component on the left still believe Obama is underserved by just being a Nobel Peace Prize winner. They believe he should be considered more of a saint, or at least as some type of deity.
But then the headline, “The First Gay President”, hits like a thud. What do they mean? Well, he’s not gay. Obviously, Newsweek wants to celebrate Obama’s enlightened position on gay marriage, but the headline is more puzzling than flattering. Will it sell magazines? Time will tell. In the meantime, the headline is not a political plus for the president.
The second story, a debacle at a big bank, refreshes what voters both suspect and don’t like about big banks. With a little help from the Obama campaign and others in the media, Americans are reminded that Romney has some sort of financial/banking background, and it’s more likely to be a reason to be against him than to be for him. Carter highlights this line of attack, which Obama is using in his latest ad. If the Obama forces are clever, they will try to cast Obama as the knight who slays big banks and Romney as the one who will make excuses for them.
The reality probably is that some good bankers made a bad trade and lost a lot of money. But we are six months away from a presidential election, where one candidate is trying to taint the other as a heartless, out-of-touch wealthy banker. Somehow, the left must try to thrust Romney into this evolving story. Danger danger, Mitt Romney. This is no time to appear sympathetic to mega-banks. But as with the suggestion of Bush as a wimp, the more you protest, the more you draw attention to the Democrats’ unflattering portrayal of your business history.
P.S.: Regarding the grossly premature discussion about the potential GOP vice presidential nominees that I refuse to write about: Another model for vice president would be for Romney to have a partner-in-government, an adult who does no harm and who instantly adds gravitas, such as Sen. Lamar Alexander from Tennessee.