After a weekend in which fact checkers across the land denounced the Obama campaign???s scurrilous attempt to use a carefully synchronized Boston Globe article to claim Mitt Romney might be a felon, the Obama team actually decided to double down on this appalling tactic.
Chief Obama flack David Axelrod popped up on CNN to offer a hilariously qualified backpedal: ???I???m not suggesting that based on what we know, that he???s done anything illegal.??? He was talking about the circumstances surrounding Romney???s departure from Bain Capital. Desperate Democrats have been trying to concoct a scandal around technical filings that named Romney as an ???executive??? of the company, up to two years after he left to manage the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
Everyone – including partisan Obama supporters who worked with Romney at Bain – knows that Romney left in 1999, and began a massive, personally draining, and ultimately successful effort to save the Olympics. The intricate relationship between Romney and the enormous, highly successful company he played such an important role in establishing took years to unravel. Many millions of dollars were on the line, and Romney was, after all, leaving the company to take a temporary job.
But President Obama ??? who never held a job that wasn???t a political position, and whose Administration includes over forty known tax cheats, including the Treasury Secretary ??? wants to work this angle because he knows most people don???t understand how large corporations and high-level private-sector positions work, any more than he does. Every minute the Romney campaign can be forced to talk about his departure from a complex organization 13 years ago is another minute they???re not talking about Obama???s grinding unemployment, or the wads of taxpayer cash he stuffed into the pockets of cronies like George Kaiser.
On Sunday, the Obama campaign???s official blog touted a Vanity Fair article about Romney???s offshore investments ??? another suspiciously synchronized bit of politically useful ???journalism??? ??? and asked itself a few laughably loaded ???questions.??? One of the questions was, ???Is any of this actually illegal???? The Obama campaign answered itself by saying: ???It appears not, but it???s impossible to know for sure because Romney refuses to release enough information to let people make their own judgments.
(Emphasis mine.) This is Chicago thug ???community organizer??? politics at its bottom-basement worst. Are we allowed to ask some more questions about Barack Obama???s many relationships with crooks like Tony Rezko now? Because we were sternly lectured in 2008 that making vague insinuations of criminality against Obama by asking such questions was forbidden. Every serious inquiry into Obama???s murky background is shouted down as ???racism??? to this day.
But the Obama campaign team is free to float airy speculations that Romney might be engaged in illegal activities, because they won???t give President Solyndra and his political hacks enough information to make up their minds? Barack Obama wouldn???t understand Mitt Romney???s tax returns if he had a team of lawyers standing by to explain them with puppets and nursery rhymes.
You know who Mitt Romney has disclosed all sorts of information to? The Internal Revenue Service. I???m sure Obama remembers them ??? he???s hiring thousands of new agents to serve as enforcers for ObamaCare. The IRS is not accusing Romney of any crimes. If their judgment is less reliable than David Axelrod???s, then why is Obama hiring an army of new agents, and entrusting these tax enforcers to become the most important players in the American health care system?
Speaking of transparency and disclosure, this is the President who used threadbare executive privilege claims to stonewall investigations into a deadly gun-running program that killed hundreds of people. Other Congressional oversight teams have been fighting for years to penetrate the veil of mystery surrounding those failed ???green energy??? subsidies to Obama cronies. They???re still using subpoenas to unravel the secrets of ObamaCare???s chaotic passage. Before we listen to any more bleating about Mitt Romney???s release of personal information, maybe Obama should finally answer some questions about how he???s been handling our money.
The reason Obama???s political machine is still belching and farting slanderous fumes, even as their media allies nervously back away and remind the public they???ve officially certified the attacks as false, is that they haven???t got anything else, and they see an important window of opportunity closing.
Every incumbent President has a valuable chance to ???define??? his challenger, in the wake of a bruising primary battle that depletes campaign funding. The months between the unofficial conclusion of the primary season, and the challenging party???s convention, can be filled with negative advertising and earned media, funded by the incumbent???s plump war chest. The idea is to pour a thick cement of politically useful popular impressions around the challenger???s feet. This will hopefully reinforce the most effective attacks launched during the primary contest, before the public becomes fully engaged with the challenger???s campaign.
There???s nothing strategically unique about what the Obama campaign is doing ??? any incumbent would exploit his challenger???s post-primary moment of vulnerability. The tactics are disgusting, and even though each individual fraudulent Obama attack is swiftly shot down by fact-checkers, the weight of their hollow corpses is supposed to suffocate Romney. Obama???s surrogates will ask a hundred phony ???questions,??? then run ads pointing out that ???many questions are being asked??? about the ???controversial??? Republican nominee.
And yet Obama???s the one sobbing about ???negative campaigning!??? Given the stunning amount of money he???s poured into these early attacks on Romney ??? over $100 million by some accounts, funding advertising that???s over 75 percent negative ??? Obama might just be running the most negative campaign in modern history, at least since the days when slander was settled with dueling pistols. And he???s using textbook examples of the very worst negative campaign tactics: lies and innuendo, designed to convey a destructive, divisive message with volume rather than clarity. It will be possible to judge whether any future advocate of ???clean politics??? is serious by noting whether the Obama 2012 effort is their primary example of dirty politics.