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So here we are, hours away from the great debate, and Mitt Romney has announced his determination . . . to cheat.
The presidential debate in Denver this evening is supposed to be exclusively about domestic policy. But in today’s New York Times, we read that “advisers said he would try to broaden the argument against Obama’s job performance by raising questions about how his administration handled the attack on a diplomatic mission last month in Libya that killed four Americans.”
In other words, he intends to cheat, by bringing a foreign-policy issue into a domestic-policy debate.
Mitt and fellow Republicans such as Darrell Issa and Donald Rumsfeld have been trying for days now to exploit the tragic death of Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans in Libya, concocting the story that the administration is guilty at least of gross negligence in their deaths, and suggesting that an attempt was made to “cover up” the details of the attack in order to protect what they see as President Obama’s policy of weakness and appeasement.
This is contemptible, of course, but, worse, it isn’t working. Sure, some of the usual magic-bean buyers in the mainstream media have run with it—I’m looking at you, Maureen Dowd—just as they believed all the Republican talking points about WMDs in Iraq or the Whitewater non-scandal. But the public just doesn’t care.
So, Romney and his advisers hatched a little scheme to get them to care, by suddenly throwing this foreign-policy issue into tonight’s debate on domestic policy. No doubt, they were hoping that the president would be caught flatfooted and give some feeble response along the lines of, “But this is supposed to be about domestic issues!”
Whereupon, Mr. Romney would pounce, replying, “It’s never the wrong time to talk about the murder of American citizens, Mr. President!”
No doubt, this is one of the “zingers” Romney’s campaign has also told us in advance that it has planned. The only trouble with dropping in a little bombshell like this—besides the fact that it’s cheating—is that you’ve now let the other side know you’re going to do it by announcing it in the New York Times. Like zingers, surprise cheating is no surprise if you’re going to tell everyone beforehand.
Romney’s penchant for tactical blunders like this one are the sort of thing that makes it all the more inexplicable that he ever became such a titan of the financial world. I mean, how do you negotiate anything, or plot the sorts of corporate financial takeovers Romney’s Bain Capital firm specialized in, if you announce your strategy in advance? It makes me wonder if there wasn’t some eminence gris who was the real brains of the operation over at Bain, plotting strategy while Mitt provided the contacts and the seed capital.
Tellingly, in the same Times piece in which Romney’s aides broadcast his surprise, we were told that the candidate “has practiced being ‘respectfully aggressive’ . . . with a goal of pleasing Republicans who believe he has been too passive.”
Here we are, just about a month before the general election, and Mitt Romney is still trying desperately to pander to what should be his own electoral base. Even with the campaign and his entire political life on the line, he does not dare stray too far from the party line—or even the party posture.
I don’t know who the guiding voice in Mitt Romney’s ear may have been at Bain Capital, but I can be sure who it would be in the White House.
More from Kevin Baker:
Appreciation — June 26, 2014, 8:00 am
From Johnny Cash to “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad”
New York Revisited — June 19, 2014, 8:00 am
And how it foretold the 2008 financial crisis
On a Friday evening in January, a thousand people at the annual California Native Plant Society conference in San Jose settled down to a banquet and a keynote speech delivered by an environmental historian named Jared Farmer. His chosen topic was the eucalyptus tree and its role in California’s ecology and history. The address did not go well. Eucalyptus is not a native plant but a Victorian import from Australia. In the eyes of those gathered at the San Jose DoubleTree, it qualified as “invasive,” “exotic,” “alien” — all dirty words to this crowd, who were therefore convinced that the tree was dangerously combustible, unfriendly to birds, and excessively greedy in competing for water with honest native species.
In his speech, Farmer dutifully highlighted these ugly attributes, but also quoted a few more positive remarks made by others over the years. This was a reckless move. A reference to the tree as “indigenously Californian” elicited an abusive roar, as did an observation that without the aromatic import, the state would be like a “home without its mother.” Thereafter, the mild-mannered speaker was continually interrupted by boos, groans, and exasperated gasps. Only when he mentioned the longhorn beetle, a species imported (illegally) from Australia during the 1990s with the specific aim of killing the eucalyptus, did he earn a resounding cheer.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A tourism company in Australia announced a service that will allow users to take the “world’s biggest selfies,” and a Texas man accidentally killed himself while trying to pose for a selfie with a handgun.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”