“It’s just what you expect from a guy who had a Swiss Bank Account.”
– New television ad from President Obama attacking Mitt Romney for, among other things, closing factories while he was CEO of Bain Capital.
A central conceit of the media narrative in Washington is that President Obama and his political advisers are political geniuses.
But if that’s so, how is it possible that they have mucked up what should have been one of the president’s best days of the campaign, the anniversary of the Special Forces raid that killed Usama bin Laden?
Romney is a maddening opponent because he hits hard, stays religiously on message and never, ever winks. While other candidates let reporters and political operatives in on the joke – that they don’t really believe the attacks they are launching – Romney stays straight-faced the whole time. It makes people crazy.
The only thing required to benefit from association with the killing of the most hated man in the nation is to be magnanimous about the whole affair – smile broadly, downplay your own role with a wink and congratulate the brave men who did the job.
Obama almost managed to do that, but his campaign couldn’t resist going negative. In what would have otherwise been a powerful video of former President Bill Clinton marveling at Obama’s cool-headed decision making, the campaign added an attack on the Republican nominee wondering whether he would have had the courage to allow the SEALs to kill the mastermind of 9/11.
Vice President Joe Biden repeated the charge in the same speech that also included his now infamous gaffe about knowing about Obama’s “big stick,” saying that Romney might have let bin Laden live.
This gave Romney a chance to say that, “of course” he would have let the SEALs go in, but also to downplay Obama’s role in the decision. Had Obama resisted the urge to attack, Romney would have had to spend several days praising the president’s decision. But having been called cowardly, Romney is free to push back and degrade Obama’s role. Rather than quietly letting his bin Laden legend grow, Obama prompted unhappy questions.
Worse, making a nakedly partisan attack surrounding the best military moment in a long time looks grubby and un-presidential. It makes the other things Obama is doing to capitalize on the killing – nuzzling Brian Williams in the Situation Room, etc. – go from eyebrow raising to just plain yucky.
If Obama is such a cool character, why is he getting so wee-weed up over Mitt Romney?