“It’s just what you expect from a guy who had a Swiss Bank Account.”
-- New television ad from President Obama attacking Mitt Romney for, among other things, closing factories while he was CEO of Bain Capital.
A central conceit of the media narrative in Washington is that President Obama and his political advisers are political geniuses.
But if that’s so, how is it possible that they have mucked up what should have been one of the president’s best days of the campaign, the anniversary of the Special Forces raid that killed Usama bin Laden?
The only thing required to benefit from association with the killing of the most hated man in the nation is to be magnanimous about the whole affair – smile broadly, downplay your own role with a wink and congratulate the brave men who did the job.
Obama almost managed to do that, but his campaign couldn’t resist going negative. In what would have otherwise been a powerful video of former President Bill Clinton marveling at Obama’s cool-headed decision making, the campaign added an attack on the Republican nominee wondering whether he would have had the courage to allow the SEALs to kill the mastermind of 9/11.
Vice President Joe Biden repeated the charge in the same speech that also included his now infamous gaffe about knowing about Obama’s “big stick,” saying that Romney might have let bin Laden live.
This gave Romney a chance to say that, “of course” he would have let the SEALs go in, but also to downplay Obama’s role in the decision. Had Obama resisted the urge to attack, Romney would have had to spend several days praising the president’s decision. But having been called cowardly, Romney is free to push back and degrade Obama’s role. Rather than quietly letting his bin Laden legend grow, Obama prompted unhappy questions.
Worse, making a nakedly partisan attack surrounding the best military moment in a long time looks grubby and un-presidential. It makes the other things Obama is doing to capitalize on the killing – nuzzling Brian Williams in the Situation Room, etc. – go from eyebrow raising to just plain yucky.
If Obama is such a cool character, why is he getting so wee-weed up over Mitt Romney?
Romney has driven several of his political opponents to distraction over the years. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich acknowledged that he lost his head when he launched heavy-handed attacks on Romney ahead of the Florida Republican primary. The same thing was true of all of the other Not Romneys of this cycle. Romney made them mad with his swipes on them, and then they flailed in their attacks on him. It was true of Romney’s 2008 rivals, too.
Romney is a maddening opponent because he hits hard, stays religiously on message and never, ever winks. While other candidates let reporters and political operatives in on the joke – that they don’t really believe the attacks they are launching – Romney stays straight-faced the whole time. It makes people crazy.
Add Obama to that list. Not only did he soil the bin Laden anniversary, but his campaign has already turned into a negative, paranoid-sounding operation. Granted, Romney is doing better than previous challengers to incumbent presidents by already being in a dead heat with Obama, but there are two dozen weeks to go. Now is not the time to lose one’s cool.
When Obama snapped back at Romney in a bilateral press conference with the prime minister of Japan you got a sense of just how much Romney annoys Obama.
But it’s also evident in the new ad the president’s campaign has launched in swing state Virginia ahead of campaign visits by both Romney and Obama this week. The spot revisits all of the same attacks Gingrich launched against Romney ahead of the former speaker’s Florida implosion.
The spot, which opens with Obama’s voice, is the kind of blast that you would expect to see post-convention, a kitchen-sink attack on Romney’s business record and the outsourcing of jobs. Obama may believe that he is going to render Romney unelectable, but such attacks always hurt the attacker too. In such a close race, Obama is taking a risk to swing so hard, so early.
The ad also continues Obama’s fixation on Romney’s well-heel supporters, saying that Big Oil is behind ads critical of the president’s record on energy. This echoes an effort by Obama to single out Romney’s political donors by name, thereby raising their target value to enthusiastic federal regulators.
It’s never a strong move for the most powerful man in the world to be talking about a conspiracy against him. Obama surely believes it is true, but it looks small and scared, not big and confident.
While one might expect Obama to eventually succumb to the same Romney Derangement Syndrome that has afflicted so many before, Democrats should worry that the disease has taken hold so early in the process. If Romney is under Obama’s skin now, just think what it will be like in August.
Clinton, Biden Shared Romney’s Worries About Candidate Obama’s Naivety on Pakistan Threat
“Of course. Even Jimmy Carter would have given that order.”
-- Mitt Romney, campaigning in New Hampshire Monday, responding to a reporter’s question about whether he would have authorized the mission to kill Usama bin Laden in light of an accusation by Vice President Biden and the Obama campaign that Romney might have lacked the courage to do so.
“As far as my personal role and what other folks would do, I’d just recommend that everybody take a look at people’s previous statements in terms of whether they thought it was appropriate to go into Pakistan and take out bin Laden. I assume that people meant what they said when they said it. That's been at least my practice. I said that I’d go after bin Laden if we had a clear shot at him, and I did. If there are others who have said one thing and now suggest they’d do something else, then I’d go ahead and let them explain it.”
-- President Obama during a Tuesday press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda challenging Mitt Romney’s response to the accusations by Biden and the Obama campaign.
“If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act, we will.”
-- Then-Sen. Barack Obama in a Aug. 1, 2007 speech at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
“I am concerned about talking about it. I think everyone agrees that our goal should be to capture or kill bin Laden and his lieutenants, but how we do it should not be telegraphed and discussed for obvious reasons."
-- Then-Sen. Hillary Clinton talking to ABC News about Obama’ threat of unilateral strikes inside Pakistan.
“In order to look tough, [Barack Obama has] undermined his ability to be tough were he president, because if you’re going to go in to Pakistan – which is already our policy, by the way, if there’s actionable intelligence – you need actual intelligence from moderates in Pakistan working with you. Now, if you’re already going to say ‘I’m going to disregard whatever the country thinks and going to invade,’ the likelihood of you getting the cooperation you’re going to need evaporates. It’s a well-intended notion that he has, but it’s a very naïve way of figuring out how you’re going to conduct foreign policy.”
-- Then-Sen. Joe Biden, chairman at that time of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, reacting to Obama’s speech in an Aug. 2, 2007 interview on National Public Radio.
"I do not concur in the words of Barack Obama in a plan to enter an ally of ours... I don't think those kinds of comments help in this effort to draw more friends to our effort.”
-- Then Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, when asked by reporters on the campaign trail on Aug. 2, 2007 about Obama’s comments.
The Day in Quotes
“But the more [President Obama] tries to take the credit for it, the more the ground operators are saying, ‘Come on, man!’ It really didn’t matter who was president. At the end of the day, they were going to go.”
-- An unidentified Navy SEAL talking to Toby Harnden, U.S. editor of the Daily Mail of London.
"I do worry a great deal that this time of year that somehow [the anniversary of the killing of Usama bin Laden] gets spun into election politics. I can assure you that those individuals who risk their lives--the last thing in the world that they want is to be spun into that. So I'm hoping that that doesn't happen."
-- Retired Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 2007 to 2011, in an interview with NBC News.
"His resignation in no way solves the problem of President Obama and his EPA's crucifixion philosophy. Armendariz was just being honest. His choice of words revealed the truth about the war that EPA has been waging on American energy producers under President Obama.”
-- Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., in a statement on the resignation of Al Armendariz, appointed by President Obama in 2009 as the top environmental regulator for the region covering Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. Armendariz quit after a video surfaced in which he likened his enforcement philosophy on oil and natural gas producers to the torture and killing of innocent residents of Asia Minor by the Roman army.
"I mean, if you ask [Republicans], what’s their big economic plan in addition to tax cuts for rich folks, it’s dismantling your unions.”
-- President Obama in a campaign speech to the AFL-CIO’s Building and Construction Trades Department.
“Regulators [are] just multiplying like proverbial rabbits and making it harder and harder for enterprises to grow and to understand what their future might be.”
-- Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney campaigning in Portsmouth, N.H.
-- President Obama’s advantage over Mitt Romney among Jewish voters in a poll conducted for the American Jewish Committee. This is a big improvement from last fall when Obama’s lead was only 18 points among this key demographic group in swing states Florida and Pennsylvania, but remains far behind his 2008 performance when exit polls showed Obama winning Jewish voters by 57 points.
And Now, A Word From Charles
“It's unseemly because the killing of bin Laden is a moment of solemnity, catharsis for the United States. Obama has every right to say, I did it, as a way to immunize himself against the traditional charges of being week. Be to taunt his opponent and saying, I did it and you wouldn't, is unseemly and partisan. I think it's a big political mistake.”
-- Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”
Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News, and his POWER PLAY column appears Monday-Friday on FoxNews.com.