A low blow? Tough noogies
- Last Updated: 12:42 AM, July 17, 2012
- Posted: 10:58 PM, July 16, 2012
Odd that a man who wrote a book titled “No Apology” would spend days and days demanding an apology from his rival. Yet that’s just what Mitt Romney has been doing, in a spectacularly wrongheaded approach to the attacks on his tenure at Bain Capital by President Obama and his campaign.
The problem with demanding an apology is that the most effective response is a pretty simple one, and Obama gave it: “No.”
Once the “no” is delivered, then what can Romney do? Keep demanding one?
It was pure rope-a-dope. Obama’s surrogates attacked unfairly and thereby drew an irate Romney demand for an apology. Then Obama threw him by refusing.
So, instead of just being attacked, Romney was attacked and dissed for good measure.
The tactic here is hard to understand — if, that is, there is a tactic here and not just an outraged candidate losing his cool over the undeniable effrontery of having an unprincipled Obama campaign hit-woman call him a “liar” and a “felon.”
Perhaps Romney and his team expect his supporters, who don’t seem especially passionate about him, to view the Obama team’s attacks as a personal affront to them.
That may happen if their admiration for Romney deepens, especially if he appears to have taken some serious risks on matters of principle they share. But he really hasn’t made that sale yet.
Perhaps the Romneyites think independents, who always say they are turned off by negative campaigning, will hew more closely to Romney when he calls out Obama’s unfairness and says it requires an apology.
Problem is, the “he’s being mean to me” line is the oldest and least effective whine in the cellar. Campaigns uncork it all the time to no effect. And there’s precious little evidence that negative attacks ever really harm those who engage in them, even when voters profess to dislike them.
Perhaps the Romney camp is trying to establish a predicate for the accusation in the fall that Obama has nothing to say for himself and can only attack Romney. But they don’t need to establish such a precedent. That case is the best one Romney has, and it will dominate his approach in October, as it should.
The conflation of two different matters — Romney’s refusal to release his tax returns and the date he walked away from Bain Capital — has confused this whole business, to Romney’s detriment.
There’s nothing wrong with, or offensive about, the Obama campaign calling on Romney to release his tax returns. It’s a gimmick, sure, and Romney doesn’t want to do it, but that’s just tough noogies.
And Romney left himself open to the idea that he’s hiding something in his past by behaving as though it’s an outrage to suggest he ended all managerial connections to Bain Capital in 2002, rather than in 1999.
It’s not like Romney is above low blows. He ran an ad completely misrepresenting an Obama clip from 2008, when Obama was quoting a McCain strategist who’d said “if we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.”
The ad made it sound as though Obama were talking in the present about his own re-election. When he was called on it, Romney defended the ad by saying what was sauce for the gander was sauce for the goose.
OK: He can dish it out. So he’d better learn to take it, because it’s going to keep coming — even more so with the latest economic news, which makes like Obama will have to pull a rabbit the size of Cleveland out of his hat to misdirect enough Americans into voting for him in November.
Retail sales last month plunged to their lowest level since 2008. Several forecasters immediately cut their estimates of national economic growth for this year to below 2 percent.
Simply put, the conditions aren’t favorable for the president’s re-election. If he wins, it will be because Romney lost. And this whole I-demand-an-apology business made Romney look like a loser for the first time.
But it might be the last — if Romney gets his head screwed on straight again, and stops complaining about rough-and-tumble campaign tactics (which, incidentally, he’s now freer to use himself).
It is almost impossible to look at the macroeconomic disaster in which Obama is so directly implicated and honestly think the president has the better hand to play between now and Election Day.Follow @NYPostOpinion