There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned October Surprise... even when the surprises erupt in September and just keep on coming. And even when they’re not really surprising at all.
I mean, I can’t say I was surprised that Mitt Romney’s reaction, on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks of all times, to the mob violence that descended on American embassies in Egypt and Libya. Romney might have offered a sober and sincere message of reassurance; instead, he fell over himself in a rush to blame President Obama of... of...
Well, what, exactly? What mud can you sling at a sitting president when some guy creates an obscene and offensive porn video depicting the prophet of a religion that includes murderous extremists amongst its adherents? The filmmaker had nothing to do with Obama; if it comes down to it, under American law he has the freedom of speech to make an obscene and offensive film if he wants, even if it’s pretty stupid of him to go out of his way to antagonize people who are willing to kill, as they have done in the past, over political cartoons, let alone porn movies.
But Romney found something to blame Obama for: Apologizing. Not that Obama had actually apologized for anything. The state department personnel who were under siege issued a statement that they did not condone the porn movie, which was posted at YouTube. That didn’t matter to the killers who took the life of an American ambassador. But it also didn’t matter to Romney, who mischaracterized and politicized the tragedy in a way that seems as senseless, and insensitive, as it does unpardonable. But, give him credit for his convictions (of the moment): Romney has refused to apologize for his asinine and utterly inappropriate attack on the president.
No, it doesn’t surprise me at all that Romney failed what was, in essence, a pre-election test of statesmanship. Not after his disgraceful performance overseas; and not given his lack of any coherent foreign policy. Romney’s botched response to the terroristic mob violence sparked by the YouTube video might have come to a surprise to his Tea Party supporters, if they bothered about such things or thought them important.
For more traditional Republicans, though, I suppose it was a big surprise--though not necessarily an unwelcome one. After all, the time to know that a candidate is incompetent at little things like dealing with the rest of the world is before the election, not afterwards. As GOP political operative Steve Schmidt, John McCain’s campaign manager from four years ago, noted in remarks to the press, "For people who are running for president, this is a test where people evaluate their mettle as commander in chief, and the Romney campaign put out a statement before the facts were in that politicized the matter and gratuitously attacked the administration for something they did not do."
Added Schmidt, "During a foreign policy crisis, you can’t build a position on a foundation of politics."
It’s the kind of thing that voters who rely on facts care about--as opposed to the flights of fancy that the Romney campaign trades in, proudly soaring as it does free of fact checkers and troublesome things like... oh, what’s that thing that the little people have to worry about? Reality?
But I am surprised by the torrential nature of Romney’s grave missteps, which have been coming along one after the next at a breathtaking clip. Missteps, did I say? Hell, the guy is practically break dancing. Just how many blunders, bloopers, and oafish miscalculations can a single politician, even one as jellyfish-like as Romney, fit into a single week?
Consider his latest farrago: Romney’s airy, and yet also abrasive, dismissal of nearly half of the electorate. At a private fundraiser from last May, Romney essentially declared himself uninterested in 47% of voters--the 47% who, he said, support Obama and, therefore, are by definition "dependent" on government to take care of them:
"All right, there are 47 percent who are with [Obama]," Romney said, "who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what."
With those words, Romney wrote off nearly half the electorate, saying he would not be able to "convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."
For someone so eager to point to his private sector business success as proof that he can run a nation, Romney seems to have little grasp of mathematics. Throwing 47% of the voters overboard means you’re relying on the remaining 53% to get you into office--all 53%, because that’s a mighty slim margin to rely on. If, say, 4% (which is, by the way, the percentage of voters who are thought to be GLBT) should abandon you, well, you’re kinda sunk.