28 September, 2012
Romney to call out Obama's lies; let's hope it's not too little, too late
I spent quite a bit of time the other day working on a post on how the recent Obama surge in the polls was sparked not only by the outrageous oversupply of Democrats in the samples used this year, but by his having let President Obama define him- the very strategy everybody knew POTUS was going to employ. But it seems that the Romney campaign isn't quite as inept as it has seemed.
Virtually the entire Obama campaign has been based on misrepresenting Romney's positions on everything from Social Security to taxes to outsourcing and even cancer. Backed by the Obama acolytes in the media, who have been quick to point out inaccuracies in Romney ads but virtually silent in the face of the deluge of untruth their man has unleashed, the Democratic lies have come to be at least provisionally believed by the electorate. After all, they haven't been challenged.
While Romney has been wise not to let the president put him on the defensive- the defensive is where the incumbent belongs, and especially an incumbent with as atrocious a record as Barack Obama- the Republican has clearly gone overboard in his determination to stay on-message. Voters in swing states like Iowa have been deluged with a plethora of attack ads telling so many outrageous lies about Romney that some effort to set the record straight was obligatory.
That effort was not really made. True, a couple of ads challenged some of the Obama campaign's more outrageous attacks, like the one accusing Romney of complicity in a woman's death. But even the ad pointing out that, far from advocating a $2000 per head tax increase for the middle class, Romney supports a 20% cut in middle class taxes failed to walk the voters through the complicated maze the president's campaign had to use in order to turn Romney's position inside out. And those rebuttals have run too seldom to have had anything like the effect of the huge number of attack ads- sometimes two or three or four quoting the very same pieces of misinformation- for which the Democrats have been responsible.
Well, now it seems that there has been method in what appeared to me to be Romney's self-destructive madness: the Republican's strategy in the first debate next week is going to be to call Mr. Obama out on all those inaccuracies. It's a strategy whose wisdom I question; lies that are repeated often enough without being challenged have a tendency to harden in people's minds until they become a little like concrete, difficult to chisel loose even by truth and evidence. I think the GOP nominee waited far too long. There should have been a surge of ads questioning Mr. Obama's truthfulness at least as large as the one the Democrats have unleashed misrepresenting Gov. Romney's positions and record.
There's a certain irony here. I've long been of the opinion that it was the Romney campaign's proclivity for just the kind of ads the president has used so heavily against him that cost him the Iowa caucuses, and likely the 2008 Republican nomination. Iowans in particular just don't like attack ads- a fact which doesn't in itself benefit Romney in this campaign because virtually all of the ads for both sides have been negative this time out. But for his comparatively light twisting of the facts against Mr. Obama to prove Romney's own undoing by insulating the president from accountability for his campaign's far more massive dishonesty would have a certain chickens-coming-home-to-roost flavor about it.
And in a debate, it's possible to hem and haw and dodge and weave and obfuscate away an attack like Mr. Romney plans, especially for someone possessing the intelligence and oratorical gifts of Barack Obama. Even if Romney nails him over and over on all the misleading claims and outright falsehoods of which his campaign has been guilty, POTUS has the "game" to blunt the attacks, if not to negate them by citing the comparatively few whoppers Romney's own campaign has told- each of which has, of course, already been thoroughly publicized by the pro-Obama media.
And then, there's another thing. I can fully understand the difficulty of restraining oneself from spilling the beans when one has a plan which one feels certain will turn the tables on a detested opponent. But wouldn't the Romney strategy have been more effective if it had taken Mr. Obama by surprise? As Lee found out at Antietam, having the enemy in possession of your battle plans is not too keen a scene. And yet Romney and his campaign have made no effort to be discrete about the plan. As a result, a talented orator with a positive genius for bobbing and weaving will enter the debate as well prepared as McClellen was- or should have been- at Antietam.
In any event, the debates won't be enough. It may already be too late to challenge the Obama lies in the minds of many voters whom the Romney campaign might have won over. But even a stellar execution of the Romney debate plan needs to be followed up by a truly massive deluge of ads on precisely the subject of the president's truthfulness. The Romney campaign has the money; the only question- and at this point it's a big one- is whether it has the wit.