Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Mitt Romney: A Man Without the Instincts or Moral Fiber to Do What’s Right

In several posts over the last few months, I’ve taken Mitt Romney to task for his tepid responses to over-the-top rhetoric from Rush Limbaugh’s “slut” and “prostitute” accusations (and lies) to Ted Nugent’s violent fantasies to the attacks against Romney’s chosen spokesperson who just happened to be gay to his failure to really accept responsibility for or demonstrate that he learned anything from being a high school bully (see Insults, Apologies, and the False Equivalency in the War of Words, Mitt Romney, Ted Nugent, Dana Loesch, the Politics of Hate, and the Fear of the Voting Base, Bullying and the Lessons Learned (Mitt Romney Edition)). The genie that Sarah Palin let out of the bottle in the 2008 campaign and which John McCain tried unsuccessfully to tamp down is now in full swing. And Mitt Romney has demonstrated that he has either no interest in preventing hate-filled or racist rhetoric or that he simply doesn’t have the spine to do so. In either case, that is neither a winning formula for a presidential candidate nor the hallmark of a man who would be a successful occupant of the Oval Office.

Several new incidents have occurred that offered Romney further chances to demonstrate that he understands the importance of using the bully pulpit to call out that which is wrong … but following each of those incidents he has settled for the role of the coward, willing to allow others to engage in hate speech while he simply looks around as if to say, “Who, me?” while washing his hands of any sort of responsibility or need to call intolerable behavior just that.

The most well-known of these recent incidents is Donald Trump’s return to spouting birther nonsense and claiming that President Obama is a liar (on the basis of … well … nothing, really). And all of this came just a few days before Romney shared a stage with Trump for a major fundraiser. So what did Romney say in response to Trump’s birther comments?

You know, I don't agree with all the people who support me and my guess is they don't all agree with everything I believe in. But I need to get 50.1 percent or more and I'm appreciative to have the help of a lot of good people.

Now let me be clear about one thing: I don’t hold a candidate responsible for everything that every supporter of that candidate has to say. That’s foolish. But

You see, there are supporters and then there are supporters. There is a difference between someone who believes in the candidate’s position and maybe even offers a few dollars of support and a billionaire that the campaign actively sought an endorsement from. There is a difference between someone who attends a campaign rally and someone who hosts a high dollar campaign fundraiser. There is a difference between an “average Joe” and a egotistical television personality with a name and hairdo recognizable to virtually everyone. It isn’t a case of “guilt by association” to ask Romney about the statements of someone that Romney has gone out of his way to work with and from whom Romney expects aid in raising millions of dollars because that association is one of Romney’s own choosing and one that he could set aside if it was the right thing to do and if he had the moral fiber to recognize and act upon that.

Romney hasn’t rejected Trump’s endorsement (or money) any more than he’s rejected Ted Nugent’s endorsement. Compare that to the actions of Sen. McCain in 2008 when he rejected Rev. John Hagee’s endorsement because of things that Hagee had said about the Catholic Church and the Holocaust. Sen. McCain understood that doing what’s right was more important than an endorsement and that integrity was more important than winning. Romney, who has already proven that he will do or say (or even “believe”) anything to get the nomination, is also proving that there is nothing too low for him allow his supporters or surrogates to say or do.

Moreover, Trump isn’t the only Romney supporter who has been engaging in birtherism in recent weeks. You’ve probably heard about the efforts of Arizona’s Secretary of State Ken Bennett to get Hawaii to certify President Obama’s birth certificate. Bennett went so far as to tell an Arizona radio station that he might keep President Obama off of the November ballot. While Hawaii has now certified the birth certificate and Bennett has “apologized” saying “if I embarrassed the state, I apologize” (emphasis added, and note that the apology is for embarrassing the state, not for the harm to the political process or President Obama), Romney has said nothing about the matter. And why should he, you ask? Again, Romney isn’t responsible for the idiotic statements or actions of other Republican office holders. However, in addition to being the Arizona Secretary of State … Bennett is the co-chair of Romney’s campaign in Arizona. So, while Romney may not be responsible for the statements of just anyone, he certainly should be held accountable for the statements of his surrogates and his chosen campaign officials.

And it’s not just how Romney has responded (or not…) to Trump and birtherism. For example, consider the following exchanges between Sen. McCain and voters back in 2008.

Now compare Sen. McCain’s reaction above to how Mitt Romney responds when a woman suggests that President Obama should be tried for treason.

Quite a striking difference, no? To be fair, when asked by reporters after the event, Romney did say that he did not agree with the woman’s comments that President Obama should be tried for treason. But he didn’t have the spine or moral instincts to tell her (and the audience who cheered her) that she was wrong. And he didn’t volunteer that opinion until asked by reporters. Hard to get that 50.1% if you tell people something that they don’t want to hear I guess.

There is yet one more recent example that I want to touch on, one that has gotten very little attention. A few weeks ago, Romney held a “secret” meeting with a group of conservative (right-wing?) online writers and bloggers. Included in that meeting was blogger Dan Riehl of RiehlWorldView (I’m not going to provide a link because … well, because I don’t want to give him any traffic and some of the views that he offers are just … well, keep reading). Without going into too many specifics, I can safely say that Riehl doesn’t seem to have any sort of internal filter on the things that come out of his mouth (or, fingers, I suppose). I’ve had my own run-in with him on Twitter and seen how he responds to those with whom he disagrees. Riehl is the sort of character who, rather than discussing facts or issues, throws ad hominem attacks and seems to have a fixation on using sexual references and innuendo as his favorite form of attack. So a few days ago, following an appearance on MSNBC by Joan Walsh (the editor-at-large of Salon.com), Riehl went on the (sexual) offensive again, with, among other things, the following tweets:

I don’t mind Joan Walsh getting low, but if she’s going to open her mouth, wish she’d do something I might actually enjoy for once!

And

I think I may have just discovered the most polite way of telling Joan Walsh to suck on this. lol

And

&, please, no indignant protestations of any alleged sexist attack. The woman is a pox, not a woman as ive evr considered sum1 2 B 1

Nice guy, huh?

Moreover, as Mediate notes, Riehl has a history of this sort of incendiary, sexually charged attack:

The Romney campaign could not have known that Dan Riehl was going to make this particular attack on Joan Walsh, but Riehl’s history includes sexist attacks on Meghan McCain, publishing photos of a rival blogger’s 4 year-old niece under the headline “Is Jeff Poor A Pedophile?,” and publishing another article wondering, as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s wife lay in the hospital after a serious car accident, “Isn’t It Time To Euthanize Reid’s Wife?”

This isn’t even his first foray into speculative oral sex fiction. Riehl previously targeted The Daily Caller’s Tucker Carlson with his fellatio fantasies, publishing an article entitled “Breaking: Tucker Carlson To Give Head On Pennsylvania Avenue.”

This is the sort of person that Romney is inviting to secret meetings to help him win the White House. Again, Romney isn’t responsible for what every blogger has to say any more than President Obama is responsible for what I have to say; Romney isn’t even responsible for what every blogger who supports him has to say. But when one of his chosen bloggers engages in hyper-sexualized attacks of the sort that Riehl has a history of making and when he makes such an attack after being invited into Romney’s secret cabal of bloggers, then doesn’t Romney have an obligation to stand up and say “this is wrong” or “I appreciate Dan Riehl’s help but his attack on Joan Walsh was over-the-top and unacceptable”?

Recall, of course, that when Hillary Rosen, a pundit not affiliated with the Obama campaign made far less offensive statements, leading members of the Obama campaign called out those statements literally within hours and President Obama did so the following day. And none of those statements minced words; they tackled her comments head on with strong rejections.

But when prominent Romney supporters dabble in birtherism (well, in the case of Trump, “dabble” is probably a total understatement), when supporters accuse President Obama of treason, when hand-picked bloggers engage in sexual verbal attacks, what we hear from the Romney campaign is barely a hint of criticism which serves only to register his implicit support for those statements.

Based on his conduct in incident after incident, Romney has demonstrated over and over and over that he has neither the spine nor moral fiber to be President.

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