Outsourced to Michael Tomasky:
At the NAACP, Mitt crossed an ugly line. No longer simply spineless and disingenuous, he’s now become a race-mongering pyromaniac: Until yesterday, I thought of Mitt Romney as a spineless, disingenuous, and supercilious but more or less decently intentioned person who at least wasn’t the race-mongering pyromaniac that some other Republican candidates of my lifetime have been. Then he gave his speech to the NAACP, and now I think of him as a spineless, disingenuous, supercilious, race-mongering pyromaniac who is very poorly intentioned indeed, and woe to us if this man sets foot in the White House as anything but a tourist.
Let’s bat the easy charges out of the way first. Spineless? Please. He’s taken every position the Tea Party base has asked and a few they didn’t. Disingenuous? Easy. Either he’s lying now about health care, abortion rights, his support for Ronald Reagan, and his posture toward Grover Norquist’s no-tax pledge, or he was lying then. Supercilious? Seems appropriate and perhaps even a bit mild for a man who made fun of NASCAR fans’ rain ponchos and a working-class family’s cookie service.
But he wasn’t a race-baiter until yesterday. That speech wasn’t to the NAACP. It was to Rush Limbaugh….
Let’s imagine that in 2008 Barack Obama had spoken, oh, to the American Legion—that is, a strongly Republican assemblage—and had spoken of being anxious to get to Pennsylvania Avenue so he could end “Bush and Cheney’s wars.” In fact he did speak (via video) to the American Legion in 2008, and he talked about needing to end the wars, but he sure didn’t use any loaded phrases that he and his speechwriters knew would piss his audience off. Part of the difference is a clear difference in character between the two men. And part of it, of course, is that in our political discourse, pissing off veterans is as bad a mistake as you can make, while pissing off black people usually adds value.
Did I earlier give Romney a point for going to the NAACP at all? I hereby withdraw it.
In 2008, Obama made other appearances to tough crowds. Recall, as the writer Rich Yeselson reminded me yesterday, that he walked into a similar sort of lion’s den that year when he appeared at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church alongside John McCain. Obama may have been deluding himself in thinking that he could win over Warren’s flock, and he stated his positions on abortion rights and other matters clearly. But he somehow managed to walk out of the place without having hurled any gratuitous broadsides at his hosts.
We learned a great deal about Mitt Romney yesterday, and what we learned only adds to the picture of this little, plastic fellow who thinks he can get points from white moderates (as explained by an aide to BuzzFeed) by appearing at the NAACP while generating high-fives on the white right for rubbing dirt in the faces of its members while there. Did I earlier give him a point for going there at all? I hereby withdraw it. He went only to send “signals” to other constituencies entirely. I hope those swing voters he was partly aiming for become aware of just how badly he swung and missed on this one.