Quote of the day--the problem with Bain edition

>> Friday, September 14, 2012

Romney has managed, in a couple of short vignettes, to showcase so many of the qualities that make people doubt him: the eager opportunism; the indifference to the truth; a certain arrogance; his clumsiness and near-incompetence as a diplomat; the sense that he doesn’t understand what it means for a person to be in hard circumstances, or even danger. The stakes here though, unlike with Bain, are not just people who are losing their pensions—-though that is bad enough-—but wars that could start, governments that could fall. What compass would he have if he had to manage a major crisis? In addition to Yemen, there were reports of demonstrations in Sudan, Tunisia, Morocco (where Ambassdor Chris Stevens, who died in Benghazi, taught English thirty years ago), and Iraq. And as Romney was babbling about apologies, two navy ships, armed with Tomahawk missiles, had sailed away from Norfolk, Virginia, headed for the Libyan coast.
- Amy Davidson, "Treating Benghazi Like Bain";
The New Yorker, September 13th, 2012.

Davidson's piece is short, to-the-point and very good, and I suggest you check the whole thing out. Romney, of course, having faced nearly as much criticism from within his own party for his comments earlier this week, has been trying to temper his comments at subsequent campaign stops. A little late; I don't want anyone to think I'm criticizing him no matter what he says, it's just the problem is that expressing sympathy for the fallen and resolution and national unity, etc., was not just before he made an ass of himself, but in lieu of it.

One of the things about being President--you'd think this was obvious--is that you don't always get do-overs. Sometimes, maybe, but the President is in a special position to do irrevocable things like, f'r'instance, starting a war in the Middle East. That may sound like some kind of under-the-table George W. Bush slam, but that's really not (entirely) what I mean: I mean that one response to American citizens being murdered in an assault on one of our consulates might be to send in the Marines, or at least the drones, but these are things you can't take back and might be horrifically bad ideas, especially if there's confusion and conflicting details about who is actually responsible for the attack. I still think it was underhanded of the Administration to initially distance itself from the early tweets issued by the Egyptian Embassy prior to the Libyan attack--especially since those 140-character comments paralleled Secretary Of State Clinton's thoughtful and eloquent comments on the situation--but it's more important, I think, to notice that the Administration's overall response has been deliberate, considered, measured, thoughtful.

I think, ultimately, the worst thing about Romney's Benghazi comments may not be the way he disparaged the dead, insulted civil servants in a dire situation, mauled the few facts he had available and unintentionally put himself on record for supporting bigoted douchebaggery as an American value by omitting all the wholly appropriate disclaimers regarding the ways a free society can allow hate speech without condoning it; the worst thing may be that he just didn't know what he was saying and he didn't care and he didn't take five minutes to think about it, either. I think I said this the other day. And closely related to that is that he didn't think about what he was doing when he said all those stupid things, either: it doesn't appear he spent any time asking himself if his comments were a good idea before he made them, as evinced by the fact he made them at all. Much like the way he insulted the British when all he had to say was, "I like the Olympics," this was an unforced error on Romney's part: all he had to say was, "I'm appalled by this violence directed at Americans" and, after the news of the deaths, "I stand with my fellow Americans at mourning the loss of lives in Benghazi."

I think it has to be admitted, there are ways a competent politician could have capitalized on the tragedy, whether we like or condone that kind of thing or not. A competent politician might have used the opportunity to express compassion, confidence, and comprehension; a display all the easier if he actually possesses any of those qualities in even meagre measure. An incompetent politician might demonstrate naked opportunism, an inability to go off a stale script, and a general cluelessness about the complexities of foreign relations.

Then the question you want to ask yourself is what kind of politician, if you have to have a politician, talking to foreign leaders and giving instructions regarding the deployment of ships with cruise missiles. If he can't handle the basics of holding even a banally empathic press conference, why would you trust him with the bomb-squaddish job of dealing with complicated, failing petrocracies?

UPDATED TO ADD: Or maybe I'm kinda wrong and it's worse than that:

Obama's subsequent jibe that Romney "shoots first and aims later" hit home. But perhaps the most disturbing thing about this whole incident is that it wasn't simply a spontaneous gaffe on the part of the G.O.P. candidate. It was debated and thought through. According to the same report in today's Washington Post, Romney acted on the "unanimous recommendation of his foreign policy and political advisers."

Think about that for a moment. Sometime on Tuesday evening, presumably, the best minds that Romney has gathered around him, convened by conference call, or offered their thoughts individually, and all of them thought it was a capital idea, solely on the basis of statements from the Embassy in Cairo, to accuse Obama and his Administration of expressing sympathy "with those who waged the attacks." Not only that, but there's no suggestion that the following morning--as Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, and others were busy paying tribute to Ambassador Stevens--any of these sages thought to call Romney up and persuade him to zip it.

This is my head. This is my head hitting my desk. Hear my head make a thumping sound. My head sounds like a cantaloup! Thump! Thump! Thump!

But seriously--if this is the kind of thing that happens when they're thinking it through... well, no, I'm still lost for words, frankly. Cassidy goes on to point out that Romney's foreign policy inner circle includes such rocket scientists and boy geniuses as Dan Senor and John Bolton; there's no level on which that can be described as "good," whether it's the fact these men are obvious idiots or that, even if you somehow miss that salient point, it should also be obvious that these guys reek of the Bush Administration's foreign policy blunders and need to spend more time in the wilderness--even a number of Republicans keep their distance, if not for ideological reasons, at least because they value their own political fortunes. What kind of man wants to be seen with "Moustache" Bolton these days?

A man who doesn't want to be President, one might've thought.


sibusisodan,  Friday, September 14, 2012 at 12:21:00 PM EDT  

I think it has to be admitted, there are ways a competent politician could have capitalized on the tragedy, whether we like or condone that kind of thing or not.

Bingo (you're on quite the roll in terms of nail-head conjunctions these past couple of weeks).

There's been an interesting response in some quarters to Romney's foot-in-mouth disease: posting a link to Obama critiquing Bush/McCain in '08, and somehow assuming that means any criticism of Romney's criticism is out of bounds.

Which is odd, because when you watch the footage of Obama, it's clear he's measured, thoughtful, reasonably even-handed and has actually considered his position and those of his opponents - he's being a competent pol. Exactly what Romney should be doing.

Obama, for all the things one may wish he'd done otherwise, has, in my view, handled these kind of national crisis moments very well as President.

Romney doesn't even seem to be aware that this is part of the role he's auditioning for, and that he's failing that audition quite badly.

Leanright,  Saturday, September 15, 2012 at 1:26:00 PM EDT  

The MSM has done an amazing job of demonizing a Presidential CANDIDATE; focusing on HIS words. I think its disgusting, but also shows that the MSM is very worried that Mr. Obama will lose in November.

The President has failed tremendously on this front. I'm sorry if you disagree with me.

Eric Saturday, September 15, 2012 at 3:30:00 PM EDT  

Dave? Good grief? Seriously?

I think you've been around here long enough, I don't think you're writing satire. Maybe I'm wrong, and you've developed an unbelievably dry sense of humor, or had one all along I somehow never noticed.

Assuming you're serious, I have no idea how "focusing on [a candidate's] words" does anything to demonize a candidate the candidate didn't do to himself. Someone says something stupid, it isn't a reporter's fault he repeated the stupid statement. Someone says something wicked, it isn't the fault of someone who quotes him later if the original declarant comes off as a choad. How on Earth is it the media's fault dumb things keep coming out of Mitt Romney's mouth? How is it the media's fault that the technology exists to take a broadcast of Mitt Romney's own press conference and pop it up on YouTube for so long as the Internet exists to echo it?

You know who's done the most boffo job in the history of boffo jobs demonizing Mitt Romney? Mitt Romney, that's who.

Sorry he keeps making a jackass of himself and people keep pointing it out, Dave. You know who gets to make a jackass of themselves and it doesn't end up on national television? Private citizens. Well. Even that's changing, actually, thanks to YouTube and Facebook and Twitter and the rest of social media. But nobody would give a crap if Joe Schmoe on Mulberry Lane in Anytown said something totally retarded at a party, nobody except Joe Schmoe's friends and maybe his embarrassed wife and kids. If he was running for President, on the other hand--well, I guess that might make him quotable when he says things that make him sound like a dick, even if he didn't mean them, even if he isn't a dick, just a guy who repeatedly says dumb shit of his own volition, and maybe that's relevant to the national politic because, you know, just maybe you don't want the President to meet with the other G8 leaders, let's say, and act like a stupid, clueless, smug, snotty asshole who was born on third base and thought that meant he won the World-Fucking-Series.


Finally, and I don't know how many times I could say this: I don't know about the media, but I'm sure as shit scared Obama will lose in November. His numbers--the Electoral College numbers, the ones that actually matter--are looking alright, but he could totally lose. He might lose. There's not a half-bad chance he'll lose. And then we get that dick, Romney, with his dumb mouth in the White House and I have to go through the whole crap of respecting the office while thinking the man's a dumb asshole. So, yeah. I totally cop to being worried. If by "worried" you mean "mildly terrified," that is.

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