Books, Pop Culture and Political Humor from J.D. Rhoades, best-selling author, attorney, and award-winning newspaper columnist.
"Like [Lee] Child, Rhoades dishes out one airtight action scene after another, mixing in just enough character-building moments and holding our interest in a full cast of nicely developed supporting players."-Booklist
I really wasn’t going to do another column about Mitt Romney this week. Really. I promise. But I can’t help it. On Wednesday, they served up a pitch that’s so slow and easy, I just have to take a whack at it.
It all started when Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul responded to an ad that was created by one of those SuperPACs that are so thick on the ground this year. The ad, titled “Understands,” features a former steelworker named Joe Soptic.
The plant where Soptic worked was shut down by Romney’s company, Bain Capital. Soptic lost his health insurance. His wife was diagnosed with cancer and died because, the ad implies, she couldn’t afford to go to the doctor until she got too sick to ignore her symptoms, and by then it was too late. Mrs. Soptic died 22 days after being diagnosed.
“I do not think Mitt Romney realizes what he’s done to anyone,” Soptic concludes. “And furthermore, I do not think Mitt Romney is concerned.” Basically, Soptic says, Mitt Romney and his company are responsible for his wife’s death, and the MittBot doesn’t care. Wow. That’s gonna leave a mark.
Now, as it turns out, Soptic’s wife didn’t get sick till several years after Soptic lost his job, and she had health insurance from her own job for part of that time. The aforementioned Ms. Saul pointed that out. But then she stepped in it, big time. “If people had been in Massachusetts, under Governor Romney’s health care plan,” she told Fox News, “they would have had health care.”
This was most likely true, and to any normal candidate, it would have been a major selling point. But Romney is not a normal candidate. He’s a guy who’s trying very hard to distance himself from his biggest achievement as governor: the health plan that was the model for the national health plan he now vows to repeal, because if he didn’t promise that, he wouldn’t get the nomination.
So saying “Governor Romney’s health care plan might have saved this woman’s life” was actually exactly the wrong thing to say. If you needed any more proof that American politics in 2012 is completely insane, you need look no further than that.
I suppose one can’t blame Ms. Saul too much. After all, when you work for a guy who changes his stances on issues more times that most people change positions in their sleep, it must keep getting harder and harder to keep everything straight.
That didn’t stop the right wing from going completely haywire over the statement. Even more than usual, I mean. Rush Limbaugh said that “Andrea Saul’s appearance on Fox was a potential gold mine for Obama supporters.” Ann Coulter demanded that Saul be fired if Romney ever wanted any more contributions from conservatives.
Erick Erickson of CNN and the flagship right wing blog RedState called it “a mind-numbingly bit of spin [sic] that may mark the day the Romney campaign died.” Erickson noted that the right wing had never really trusted or warmed to Romney, and this wasn’t helping: “Consider the scab picked, the wound opened, and the distrust trickling out again.”
Euuuwww. Nice image there, Erick.
The assertion that this “may mark the day the Romney campaign died” is probably as overwrought as the original ad. But Team Romney does seem to be experiencing the Death of a Thousand Cuts, almost all of them self-inflicted. They’re creating an impression that’s worse for them than the perception that they’re flip-floppers or that they don’t tell the truth — they look inept.
People may be willing to overlook a little flip-flopping or even a little mendacity as something that politicians on both sides do. But when one of the overriding themes of your campaign is that your guy is this cool, experienced, uber-competent CEO who can manage us out of the crisis, ineptitude may be the only unforgivable sin.
When your message is “You’re in a hole and our guy can get you out of it,” it doesn’t help if you act like you don’t know which end of the shovel is which.
This is especially true when you’re going up against the guy that ended the Iraq War, got real health care reform done when no one thought he could, gave the orders that killed Osama bin Laden, saved the auto industry, and presided over 29 months of job growth despite an obstructive House determined to keep things bad for political gain.