Mitt Romney‘s “Believe in America” ad has generated a lot of coverage for its dishonest use of a quote from President Obama, and a great discussion on the absurd lengths the media take to avoid calling a lie a “lie,” but one obvious theme has been missed. The out-of-context tactic that the Romney campaign unapologetically used in the ad is yet another in a series of reactions to Bill Burton‘s sustained offensive on Romney.
In case you missed it, the Romney ad plays a clip of President Obama saying “If we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose,” when what then-Senator Barack Obama really said was, “Senator McCain’s campaign actually said, and I quote, “if we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.”
The Romney campaign defended the ad to CNN, saying they had ““turned Obama’s attack back on him,” a strange variation on the “I’m rubber, you’re glue” defense that seems to place the President in the roles of both rubber and glue.
Some have theorized that the real intent here was for Team Romney to draw the Obama campaign out into a slapfight over the ad, but in reality, it’s Team Romney that has been provoked into an unforced error, by former spokesman for President Obama and current senior strategist for Priorities USA Action Bill Burton.
Burton’s PAC recently released a brutally effective ad that used a similar, if more honest, technique. That ad used an out-of-context clip of Romney saying “There are a lot of reasons not to elect me,” but the key difference here is that the snippet was obviously being used for humorous effect, and the missing context was self-evident. Romney was actually saying those words himself, not quoting someone else.
In fact, given the near-universal knock on Romney that he changes positions like a porn star who’s off his Ritalin, the context doesn’t help him out all that much. He goes on to say, during the Fox News/Google debate, that “One reason to elect me is that I know what I stand for, I’ve written it down, words have meaning…”
Here’s the clip in question, from Fox News:
The Romney campaign’s ad is yet another clear indication that Burton’s Javert-esque pursuit of Romney, against all distractions, is having an effect, and that the former White House Deputy Press Secretary is in full possession of Romney’s goat (which is good, because now the goat won’t have to ride on the roof).
While senior Obama campaign advisers like David Axelrod have taken similar swipes at Romney, it has been Burton’s PAC that has gone the full Tufnel, and taken the attacks to 11. The consistent attack on Romney, that he has “no core,” comes with the disadvantage that it’s then tough to explain to voters what to expect from Romney if he’s elected. Disengaged “independent” voters could see, in Romney, whatever they want to see. It’s Burton’s PAC that has sought to nail down the actual center of the Romney Gobstopper.
The Romney campaign has noticed, producing ads and oppo memos noting the laser-like focus, and accusing the President of being “nervous” and “obsessed” with their candidate. That’s a lot like Chuck Wepner saying that Muhammad Ali‘s fists were “nervous” and “obsessed” with his face.
The Obama campaign, despite early feints at smashmouth campaigning to come, has so far seen fit to sit back and let Burton handle the attack-dog duties. Based on the Romney campaign’s reaction thus far, it looks like Priorities USA Action has taken up residence in Romney’s head, at bargain prices.
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