A sign of panic, or incompetence?

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Team Obama has rushed out an unintentionally hilarious ad attacking Mitt Romney for quoting the president verbatim. It is revealing in multiple ways:

The ad charges, falsely, that Mr. Romney distorted what President Barack Obama said in Roanoke, Va., last Friday: "If you've got a business -- you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen."

There's nothing new about the mendacity. Since May, Team Obama has spent about $100 million on ads attacking Mr. Romney for jobs cut at firms acquired by Bain Capital. The jobs were cut after Mr. Romney left to head up the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. Jonathan Lavine, the Bain executive who made the cuts the ads decry, is a major Obama fundraiser.

But this new ad is so poorly edited it is self-refuting. Included in it is footage that shows Mr. Obama saying exactly the words Mr. Romney said he said.

A boo-boo this big is a sign of panic, incompetence, or both.

Chief campaign strategist David Axelrod is notorious in Chicago for slash-and-burn tactics. But Mr. Romney isn't an underfunded putz running in a Democratic primary, and America isn't (yet) the cesspool Chicago is, where everything is politicized, and no blow is too low. Mr. Axelrod is out of his depth. He isn't alone.

"There's no specific reason, except the president has obviously got a lot on his plate," White House press secretary Jay Carney said Thursday as he struggled to explain why Mr. Obama hasn't met with his Jobs Council in six months.

Yeah. Mr. Obama is on pace to attend more fundraisers than the five presidents before him combined, and he's played more golf in his first term than any predecessor. A review of the White House calendar by the Government Accountability Institute indicates Mr. Obama has spent an average of two hours and 18 minutes a week in meetings and briefings on the economy. He's spent half again as much time playing golf.

The sloppiness of the self-refuting attack ad indicates it was rushed out in haste. Team Obama felt it must respond immediately to Mr. Romney's criticism of the president's slam of business owners.

They're right about that. Columnist Charles Krauthammer calls it "the gaffe of the year."

Harsh comments about the president's remark burned up Twitter. Parodies flood the Web. T-shirts mocking the remark are selling briskly. And it's lit a fire under Mr. Romney.

"His speech in Irwin [Pennsylvania, Thursday] was stunning," wrote Andrew Wilson in the American Spectator. "Romney socked it to the president as someone who wanted to 'crush economic liberty' and 'make Americans feel ashamed of success.'"

"This is Romney as you have never seen him before," said Jack Wheeler of To the Point News. "He is alive, he is gunning for bear."

Team Romney, husbanding its resources for the fall, did not respond to the outsourcing attacks. But he's spending lots on this ad hammering the president for what he said in Roanoke.

Mr. Obama's remark is so devastating to his campaign, Mr. Romney's animated criticism of it so effective, because it reveals what the president truly thinks. And what he really thinks about entrepreneurs and free enterprise is -- as Mr. Romney delicately put it -- "foreign" to the American experience.

Mr. Obama and his friends in the news media have tried hard to conceal his radical past, his radical associations, his apparently unrenounced radical views. But the mask slipped in Roanoke, as it did before, when the president said the private sector "is doing fine."

The mask almost certainly will slip again. Which is why panic is supplanting arrogance at Team Obama.


Jack Kelly is a columnist for The Press and The Blade of Toledo, Ohio. jkelly@post-gazette.com, 412 263-1476. This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To log in or subscribe, go to: http://press.post-gazette.com/


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