It appears that Mitt Romney’s campaign is now pretending to be outraged by a Politico story quoting some “senior advisers” to Obama who claim that they will paint Romney as “weird” if he is the 2012 GOP nominee.
“It is disgraceful that President Obama’s campaign has launched his re-election with the stated goal to ‘kill’ his opponent with an onslaught of negative and personal attacks,” a Romney spokesman said this morning.
We’ve seen a lot of complaining this cycle from Republicans about how mean and nasty Dem attacks on them have been — see the buckets of crocodile tears shed over Obama’s speeches contrasting the Dem and GOP fiscal visions — but this one is really something.
For one thing, it’s a silly overstatement for the Romney camp to say that the Obama campaign has “launched his reelection” with the goal to “kill” Romney. In the Politico piece, that word is used by a “prominent Democratic strategist aligned with the White House.” If we take that sourcing at face value, that person does not speak for the campaign.
But even if the Obama campaign is privately talking about exploiting Romney’s “weirdness” factor — Ben Smith and Jonathan Martin are very good reporters, so their story likely reflects real insider chatter — it’s deeply absurd for Romney and his advisers to feign outrage over it. After all, they have frequently insinuated in a variety of ways that Obama is vaguely alien, culturally suspect, and potentially harbors ill intentions towards America.
Indeed, Romney’s entire announcement speech was largely aimed at reinforcing the message that Obama isn’t one of us. He questioned Obama’s appreciation of America as “we” understand it, frequently described Obama’s policies as “European,” and suggested Obama has transformed our country into something no longer recognizably American. Romney has also accused Obama of “counterfeit values” that would “change the very character of America.” And Romney has also said: “I believe in the Constitution — and I believe in the greatness of America,” clearly insinuating that Obama doesn’t.
On still other occasions, Romney has explicitly stated that Obama’s American-ness and cultural instincts will be central to the 2012 campaign. “The American people have established a perspective on the President which is going to be lasting — that he has not understood the nature of America,” Romney said in February.
On a separate note, I know that the topsy-turvy rules of our discourse hold that being ”uncivil” or engaging in “personal attacks” is somehow worse than telling outright falsehoods, but Romney also repeated the lies that Obama apologized for America and that Obama made the recession “worse” even after they were exposed as false by independent fact checkers. This record makes the Romney campaign’s feigned concern about the state of our political discourse particularly laughable.
To be clear, I don’t want the Obama campaign to make an issue of Romney’s faith in even the most subtle of ways. But Romney and his advisers are the last people on earth who have any right to complain about out-of-bounds attacks on Romney’s bio and/or identity, and I hope folks covering their current phony outrage will recall their own record on this score.