(Same old same old: The deal with the syndicator stipulates that this column appears here a week after its newspaper release)
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THE SORRY CAMPAIGN
BY BOB FRANKEN
Allow me to be the jeerleader at one of the most pitiful political games. It’s the one where the public figure wimps out after saying something provocative. Generally, it’s some variation of, “If my words hurt anyone, I am sorry.” Wouldn’t it be great to hear, “If what I said upset some people, then that’s GREAT.”
Actually, that’s close to what we’re getting from the Barack Obama campaign, saying to Mitt Romney: “Apology? You gotta be kidding.”
Kidding or not, Romney is substituting self-righteous outrage for answers, trying to deflect the shots at his record while he headed venture-capital firm Bain Capital. As we all know, uncomfortable questions swirl around his claims regarding when it was he left the company. Was it before or after it got into the outsourcing game? Romney insists it was before, even though there is documented evidence that he was head honcho years later than when he now claims he had severed the relationship.
His team’s responses have been all over the map, raising more new doubts every step of the way. We’re still scoffing at Republican strategist Ed Gillespie’s assertion that Mitt’s departure from Bain Capital was “retroactive.” Figure that one out. And while you’re at it, explain the campaign’s insistence that it wasn’t “outsourcing” deals at all, but “offshoring.” It’s distinction without a difference. Both relocate jobs that could be filled in the United States.
Since that obfuscation hasn’t worked, Mitt and his peeps are working on Plan C. That, of course, is the personal counterattack. The Obama outsourcing barrage is “beneath the presidency,” sputtered Romney. Therefore, he deserves an apology. Not this time.
So it’s on to the tried-and-false tactic of branding Obama as some sort of unpatriotic, Muslim weirdo outsider -- and worst of all, he hates free markets. Romney: “I’m convinced he wants Americans to be ashamed of success.”
Of course, there is the default position that Barack Hussein Obama really is a foreigner. The latest on that front comes from top Romney surrogate John Sununu, lamenting, “I wish this president could learn how to be an American.” He later expressed regret for his formulation, but Sununu chose those words the exact same day Maricopa County, Ariz., sheriff and federally accused profiler Joe Arpaio claimed that his investigators have proven the president’s birth certificate is fraudulent. Coincidence? Probably. Low blow? Definitely.
There are some issues that won’t be deflected. Foremost is Mitt Romney’s absolute refusal to release several years’ worth of tax returns. It is traditional for presidential candidates to do so, certainly as far back as the one who made 12 years public: George Romney back in 1968.
But this is not his father’s Romney. The progeny Mitt is releasing just two years, insisting any more will provide ammunition for “the opposition research of the Obama campaign.” That begs the obvious question: What would they find? We already know he sheltered some of his millions in foreign accounts in the same hidden overseas banks where so many of history’s unsavory characters have stashed theirs.
Even if it is all legal, as he claims, shouldn’t voters have a clear idea of whether the man who would be our leader is one of those in the uppermost brackets who finagle and manipulate the system to pay far less than us mere mortals? Certainly wife Ann Romney doesn’t think so, declaring on “Good Morning America,” “We’ve given all people need to know.” So there.
As for all the Bain Capital stuff, don’t we really also need a frank discussion about whether he made huge fortunes through the wheeling and dealing that caused widespread misfortune? Even asking such questions is impertinent, say Mitt’s minions. How dare anyone even raise these issues.
These demands for apologies are merely a distraction. For both sides, negative campaigning is the name of the game, and rightly so. There is plenty to be negative about. You want “sorry”? That’s sorry.
© 2012 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.