In The News
Craven Romney reflects desperate blundering of new GOP
By Dominique Paul Noth
Editor, Milwaukee Labor Pres
Posted September 12, 2012
Hours before any attack in Egypt or Libya, the US embassy in Cairo on its own tried to tamp down outrage over an anti-Muslim movie of quite sketchy origin. It sought to uphold the American commitment to free expression and explain how our values condemn attacks on all beliefs and views – this before the violence erupted on the anniversary of 9/11.
This US embassy preemptive statement, while intelligent, failed. The embassy in Cairo was breached, followed by what looks more and more like a terrorist assault using the outrage against the YouTube snippet of the movie as cover to employ rockets and other advanced weapons to kill the ambassador and three other US diplomatic employees in Libya.
As this sequence of events was unfolding, before the victims were identified and the next of kin informed, another enemy of measured American foreign policy, Mitt Romney, struck.
He accused the US embassy in its pre-breach statement of “apologizing” to those who attacked the Cairo embassy, though they hadn’t. It is hard for students of English or even believers in prophecy to see any such thing. Then he doubled down and personally attacked President Obama for “disgraceful” weakness in foreign affairs.
Obama at first ignored his opponent’s desperation politics and focused on American outrage, sadness and resolve, sending troops to Libya to protect Americans and speaking out in personal terms, as did experienced GOP leaders, of how the American diplomats lost had worked so hard to free Libya from a dictator.
Only the most extreme political GOP players, party chair Reince Preibus and wannabe Liz Cheney, tweeted echoes of Romney’s overreach, as did Wisconsin’s abrasive gift to the Tea Party extreme, Rep. Michelle Litjens (who is thankfully departing District 56) who somehow thought the president was abandoning Libya and tweeted “pulling out of Libya showed his true colors. He does not love America. No American runs from terrorists.”
Later, when pressed in interviews, Obama kept his cool, noting Romney’s “tendency to shoot first and aim later” – something he quietly noted a president can’t afford to do -- but saying it was up to the American people to judge irresponsibility.
They have, but with surprising common sense. As even an unrepentantly liberal Democrat pointed out, New York Rep. Charlie Rangel. Romney’s boner was “a great moment for our party but a sad moment for America.” He suggested that most Republicans would be equally offended by inserting politics into a tragedy and simultaneously see their candidate flat-lie about what had been said in the first place and when it was said.
America’s freedom of expression is unique in the world and certainly hard to understand in countries where religious sentiment controls government decisions. It is hard to explain that a stupid inflammatory movie under our Constitution can be made and even promoted on YouTube.
It is even harder to explain that if a major US political party wants to choose stupidity as its flagbearer, as it looks like they’ve done with Romney, the party has a right to go that way, just as the voters have a perfect right to scorn such a loss of basic sensibility.
Romney certainly succumbs without thought and even with enthusiasm to the standard GOP attack on a popular and clearly intellectually superior president, constantly trying to demean Obama as the “other.” How else can you explain Romney’s stump litany that he will keep “God on the US coin,” as if anyone had suggested removing the words, and will be the one to keep “God in my heart,” suggesting of course that Obama has something else in his heart and that the rich white Mormon can be believed but the black Protestant can’t. Who thinks this is the sort of attack the public wants?
The Cairo-Libya episode is worth examining not just for what it tells us can and does happen in the real world but more and more frequently what is happening sadly within the Republican Party’s current system. The Mideast is erupting in change but still quite vulnerable when extremist narrow ideologists take hold and seize the emotions of the crowd. The same thing can still happen in the US to the machinery of a political party.
This is hardly an isolated incident for the GOP. The built-in ferocity of unrepentant dogma has a way of doing that. It may not reflect the behavior of Americans who traditionally labeled themselves GOP and it may not even reflect the original instincts of the candidates. But their advisers who know where the money now comes from are the same trusted insiders who will control power and message if their puppets win office.
Shoot first and aim later would have made Romney a rube in the Old West where ammunition and accuracy counted. But if you have enough money to buy all the ammunition in the world and camouflage your ineptitude with targets, you can still hope the public will follow you over the cliff and not realize you are the stooge of others.
It’s not just Romney. Turn to Wisconsin. In a party machine not taken over by the harsh rich right, could Paul Ryan fabricate facts as he did about the Janesville GM closing? Would he dare put that out front and center before a laughing national media?
And Tommy Thompson. Does he really think the old Tommy can peek out from the new (or rather much older jaded Tommy)? Can he really believe that if he abandons all principles, state voters will respond as they once did to a warts-and-all neighbor? That the Faust who dabbles with his party’s Mephistopheles can still win their souls at the ballot box?
Under his campaign letterhead and email, his top aide on the eve of Tammy Baldwin’s talk to the Democratic Convention released an old video of her dancing at a gay pride event to mock her “heartland values” – clearly attacking her as an openly gay member of Congress.
Baldwin has never hid her preference but she has run only on policy issues. She could have, but didn’t, dip into the YouTube vaults to reveal, in the days when Tommy drank, the clearly smashed governor addressing the crowd at Lambeau Field. She could have discussed how Wisconsin newspapers had entire squads search for his partners in adultery as her own criticism of who should speak for “heartland values.” She didn’t. (I’m an independent who was there and can discuss this.)
What she can talk about and will is how much TT has deteriorated in policy, how he has been bought by D.C. money, opposes tax fairness, defends Walker, ducks the issue of trains and stem cell research once promoted and supports policies once anathema.
The former Tommy did work with public and private unions, Democrats and others of different philosophy. Then he went to D.C. for Bush, became the point-man in refusing to negotiate prescription drug prices with private companies and, as the Baldwin campaign is happy to point out, sat in butter to work as a lobbyist for the very health care and outsourcing industries he had once criticized. Seniors confess they don’t recognize this Tommy since he cut that sweetheart deal with drug companies, making it illegal for Medicare to negotiate lower prescription drug prices and cost taxpayers $156 billion.
Today he denies his past support for unions, for much of what is in Obamacare and backs the Tea Party extremes, even denying his own statements that he is a “moderate conservative” to claim he is a diehard conservative. Underneath there is a wink to the public that despite what he says, the old Tommy is still around, but he has tacked so hard to the money on the right he could never go back. He will always be beholden to the extremes, which makes him like Romney, following his advisers beyond the edge of reality and hoping the public won’t notice.
One example of Tommy’s runaway descent into obedience? Rather than immediately express outrage at what his aide had done to Baldwin, and it was widely publicized, it took almost five days of public pressure before he disagreed. Now, since Romney won’t reveal more than two years of tax returns, neither will Thompson or Ryan.
Something is going on within GOP advisory circles that should scare Americans, because it has changed the behavior of more than wimps seeking office. Recall how such miscalculations under right-wing pressure can affect a non-wimp like John McCain in 2008. Remember when his advisers panicked him so deeply about the impending collapse of big US banks that he “suspended” his campaign to rush to Washington. It didn’t help a darn thing. It took the cool head of winner Obama to start fixing things. But the memory is a reminder of how McCain proclaiming useless toughness was clearly in the thrall of desperate advisers.
It’s time the voters look at who is pulling the strings on these guys and how slow they are to respond and usually avoid even tugging back. This recent debacle was more than about foreign policy. It is about judgment and politicians so desperate to get elected that their camps will attack personal values or murdered diplomats to gain an edge.
Romney continues to lie that Obama has gone around the world “apologizing for America.” He has set it up that the re-elected president will have to spend the next four years going around the world to apologize for Mitt Romney.