“[I]f you don’t have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare the voters,” he proclaimed, “If you don’t have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from.” – Barack Obama in 2008
That’s true. Which is why Obama is running the most negative campaign in American history when he is the failed president who has no ideas and offers only a completely failed record.
Say whatever the hell you want, you slandering, lying Democrats. But YOU’RE the ones who are making this the most negative campaign we’ve ever seen.
As Politico – which is hardly right leaning by any measure – has pointed out, “the verdict is in”:
Verdict is in: Obama levels more personal attacks
By: John F. Harris and Alexander Burns
September 6, 2012 04:33 AM EDT
A crabby, negative campaign that has been more about misleading and marginal controversies than the major challenges facing the country? Barack Obama and Mitt Romney can both claim parenthood of this ugly child.
But there is a particular category of the 2012 race to the low road in which the two sides are not competing on equal terms: Obama and his top campaign aides have engaged far more frequently in character attacks and personal insults than the Romney campaign.
With a few exceptions, Romney has maintained that Obama is a bad president who has turned to desperate tactics to try to save himself. But Romney has not made the case that Obama is a bad person, nor made a sustained critique of his morality a central feature of his campaign.
Obama, who first sprang to national attention with an appeal to civility, has made these kind of attacks central to his strategy. The argument, by implication from Obama and directly from his surrogates, is not merely that Romney is the wrong choice for president but that there is something fundamentally wrong with him.
To make the case, Obama and his aides have used an arsenal of techniques — personal ridicule, suggestions of ethical misdeeds and aspersions against Romney’s patriotism — that many voters and commentators claim to abhor, even as the tactics have regularly proved effective.
The unequal distribution of personal putdowns — Obama and his team indulging in them far more frequently than Romney — has been largely obscured by two factors.
One is the general negativity of the campaign, buffeted by charge and countercharge on an hourly basis, in which both sides have participated with abandon.
The other is the fact that Obama, over four years, has been subjected to so many personal assaults from the right, on issues such as whether he is lying about his place of birth or the content of his college transcripts. Lost in the smoke is the fact that few of the personal assaults — as opposed to political or policy criticisms — have come from Romney or his official representatives. The Romney campaign has leveled charges — on welfare reform, for instance — that take liberties with the truth, but few attacks on Obama as a person.
The imbalance is notable in the context of recent history. For more than a generation — since Michael Dukakis got savaged in 1988 and Bill Clinton decried the “politics of personal destruction” in the 1990s — it has been woven into the self-image of many Democrats that they are victims rather than victimizers when it comes to personal attacks.
Some Democrats in 2012 say this is exactly the point, and that Obama therefore is within his rights to try to turn Romney into a figure of ridicule or even contempt in the way that George W. Bush and his campaign succeeded in doing to John Kerry in 2004.
Asked to address the personally negative nature of the campaign, Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith said the Democratic convention this week represented the party’s positive vision for America.
“Americans are hearing every day at the Democratic convention about the President’s plans to move America forward by continuing to create more jobs, improve education and strengthen the middle class. And they also are learning about Mitt Romney’s plans to take us back with tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans paid for by the middle class, deep cuts to critical investments like education and commitment to letting Wall Street write its own rules again,” she said.
It is not that the Obama-led attacks on Romney’s character have been especially vicious by historical standards. But they have been both relentless and remorseless, designed to portray Romney as too flawed personally to be a viable political alternative :
— Obama senior adviser David Axelrod early in the campaign called Romney “a charlatan.” Senior White House adviser David Plouffe made the same hollow-man argument during the GOP primaries: “You get the sense with Mitt Romney that if he thought it was good to say the sky was green and the grass was blue to win an election, he’d say it.”
— Obama’s campaign has suggested Romney is deceitful or corrupt. Deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter, highlighting inconsistencies in Romney’s explanation of his departure from Bain Capital, suggested that Romney is “misrepresenting his position at Bain to the SEC, which is a felony.” The alternative, she said, is Romney was lying to the American people. Last weekend, Cutter said that Romney and Paul Ryan think “lying is a virtue,” judging from the factual misrepresentations of the GOP convention.
— Obama’s campaign and surrogates say Romney’s business decisions and his personal finances call his patriotism into question.
Speaking Tuesday night at the convention here, former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland said “Mitt Romney has so little economic patriotism that even his money needs a passport. It summers on the beaches of the Cayman Islands and winters on the slopes of the Swiss Alps.”
A little later, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley pummeled Romney over his offshore funds: “Swiss bank accounts never built an American bridge. Swiss bank accounts don’t put cops on the beat or teachers in our classrooms.”
An Obama campaign ad criticizing Romney’s tenure as a “corporate CEO” who outsourced jobs concluded with the observation, “It’s just what you expect from a guy who had a Swiss bank account.”
And then there was the infamous ad from the pro-Obama group Priorities USA Action, featuring a laid-off steelworker, Joe Soptic, recounting how he lost his job and health insurance when Bain closed a factory. Years later, Soptic’s wife died and the man pins Romney with some responsibility: “I do not think Mitt Romney realizes what he’s done to anyone. And furthermore, I do not think Mitt Romney is concerned.”
— Obama and his aides have portrayed Romney as a figure of ridicule, a kind of modern-day Thurston Howell III. The president mocked Romney’s use of the word “marvelous,” saying, “It’s a word you don’t often hear.” In Iowa last month, he made jeering references at three stops in a row to a story from the early ’80s about how Romney’s dog, Seamus, was put in a crate atop the car on Romney family vacations.
These remarks on the surface count as good-natured ribbing. But Obama aides have made clear that they have studied how similar images — a helmeted Dukakis looking like Rocky the Flying Squirrel while riding a tank in 1988, or Kerry wind-surfing in a wetsuit in 2004 — can be used to devastating effect.
Romney is hardly the most sympathetic victim. While he and his campaign have not made an attack on Obama’s character central to his general election strategy, he is hardly averse to such tactics.
During the Republican primaries, the Romney campaign and its surrogates tarred Newt Gingrich as a “grandiose” and “not stable” politician and called Rick Santorum “angry and unhinged.”
The president himself pointed to Romney’s track record of slash-and-burn tactics in an interview with USA Today this week, shrugging off the charge that his campaign in Chicago has been too negative.
“I would say that it’s a little ironic for a candidate who won the primaries telling his opponents not to whine, who just had a convention that was primarily devoted to going after me in ways that every media outlet has said bend the truth, and whose entire campaign has been built around assertions that don’t jibe with the facts — that he would want to spend most of his time talking about how tough we have been on him,” Obama said.
And while Romney hasn’t attacked Obama’s personal character, he has been biting, dismissing the president’s time as law professor and legislator as evidence he never really “had a job.” He has accused Obama of wanting to turn the United States into a European socialist state and even dropped a birth certificate joke last month in Michigan, although he made clear he believes it is beyond doubt that Obama was born in the United States.
But he hasn’t exactly kept a wide berth from people who have tried to challenge Obama’s legitimacy on this score. He has appeared repeatedly with Donald Trump, the bombastic New York real estate developer who nearly ran for president on a single-issue, birth certificate-themed campaign.
Perhaps most aggravating to Democrats, Romney has woven throughout his campaign the charge that Obama simply doesn’t understand American values. Romney has called Obama’s vision “extraordinarily foreign” and accused him of believing the United States is “just another nation with a flag.” A prominent Romney surrogate, former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu, said on a conference call that Obama should “learn how to be an American.” In a Fox News appearance, Sununu said that Obama “spent his early years in Hawaii smoking something [and] spent the next set of years in Indonesia.”
Among Democrats, there’s a range of responses to the tone of the campaign — but few reservations about the total-war approach of the president’s operation.
Democratic strategist Paul Begala, who advises the pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA, freely acknowledged that 2012 is a very different race from Obama’s first national campaign: “’08 was hope and change and the president won on a largely positive message. This is much more a choice than a referendum, and a choice is A and not B.”
As long as Democratic attacks are accurate and avoid the most sensitive areas of Romney’s life — his faith and his family — Begala argued that they are in bounds.
“The PAC I advise has never and will never attack Romney’s faith or his family, or attack him personally. We have shined a bright light of truth on his business record,” said Begala, who had this to say to the Romney camp’s complaints: “Come on, toughen up.”
Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern called the 2012 race a reaction against the election of 2004, when Kerry lost control of his public image. He saw what he had expected to be a major asset — his Vietnam service — become the subject of attacks on his character in the same way that Romney is seeing what had been a primary life achievement, his record at Bain, become a vulnerability.
“When Swift Boat Veterans turned that issue on us, I think perhaps we didn’t respond as aggressively as we should have. This time, watch out because we’re going to knock you on your chin — rhetorically, of course,” Redfern said. “I think the base, I think Democratic activists, hunger for that response.”
To the charge that Democrats are battering the GOP ticket with unusual fervor, Redfern responded: “What we’re responding to are statements that they, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, have actually uttered — and not weeks and months and years ago, but last Tuesday.”
Markos Moulitsas, the Daily Kos blogger who has reveled in the apparent success of the Democratic campaign against Romney, said there was nothing wrong with branding Romney — accurately, in his view — as an “unlikable buffoon.”
“None of what the Obama campaign is doing is false. Mitt Romney is a terrible human being, and it’s not hard to make that case with the available facts. What kind of human being tortures his dog? What kind of person has Swiss bank accounts?” Moulitsas wrote in an email. “Every presidential campaign is negative. Including 2008. (How many houses did McCain own?)”
Even Democrats who otherwise lament the negativity of professional politics throw up their hands at the tenor of the race. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who says proudly that he has never run a negative ad in his career, said there’d be no point in pulling back at this point in the campaign.
“It’s just like the Hatfields-McCoys, right?” Hickenlooper said. “Who cast the first stone? I can’t remember. Before Romney was ever there, there were many stones being thrown at the president.”
That line from the article, “… it has been woven into the self-image of many Democrats that they are victims rather than victimizers when it comes to personal attacks,” comes down to this: Democrats ALWAYS MAKE THEMSELVES VICTIMS.
I can’t tell you how many times in my own blogging I’ve been viciously attacked by a liberal who then used what I call “rhetorical judo” to make himself the victim the moment I respond to his attack. It is the nature of Democrats to crave the label of “victim.” They are NOT decent or courageous people who stand up and accept responsibility for their own lives. No, they are victims and they are failures because somebody is picking on them or somebody isn’t redistributing his wealth to them or whatever.
Fortunately, as Barack Obama reveals himself for the cynical, vicious thug that he is – and as I’ve repeatedly said, he is a truly evil man - independents and women are turning away from this bitter messiah of failed “hope and change.”