Mitt Romney's senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom said President Barack Obama has "lost his credibility" with a series of attacks on his Republican rival.First of all, Eric Fehrnstrom giving lessons on how to take the high road is like Dick Cheney giving lessons on how to shoot straight. Your best move is to do the opposite of whatever he says—and to duck for cover if you're in his line of sight.
"When you start running ads accusing you opponent of killing people, then you have lost your credibility," Fehrnstrom told reporters at a briefing at campaign headquarters today.
"I don't think a world champion limbo dancer could get any lower than the Obama campaign right now," he added.
It's obvious that Fehrnstrom isn't really outraged. Instead, he's scared. He's not indignant—he's freaked out. Fehrnstrom is doing his best to turn two of Mitt Romney's biggest liabilities—his tax return secrecy and his ruthless pursuit of his own self-interest—into assets. He wants people to think of Mitt Romney as the helpless victim of the Obama machine, but it's not going to work, because these are both problems Mitt Romney created.
When it comes to Romney's tax returns, Fehrnstrom can whine all he wants about Harry Reid, but the bottom line is that Romney is the one who is refusing to come clean. Romney is the one who could answer all the questions by releasing his tax returns. It's entirely in his hand. And as long as Romney keeps on hiding the tax returns, the speculation about what he's trying to keep secret will continue to grow. The notion that this is somehow Obama's fault is totally absurd.
It's equally absurd for Fehrnstrom to claim that Obama (or his allies) are "accusing [Romney] of killing people." Fehrnstrom is talking about that Priorities USA ad featuring Bain layoff victim Joe Soptic, who lost his job and health insurance in 2001 and whose wife died of cancer in 2006 after losing her own health insurance. Romney and Bain made millions on the deal and Soptic and his coworkers were left holding the bag. But acknowledging those facts—and pointing out the callous nature of Romney's business practices—is not the same thing as accusing Romney of pulling the trigger on a gun. To claim otherwise is to dodge the issue. Mitt Romney is no George Zimmerman. But he's not George Romney either.
The Soptic story isn't just about Romney's business practices, either. It also is connected with the larger battle over health care reform and Obamacare. Even Romney's own campaign tacitly acknowledged this earlier in the week when they argued that if Soptic had been in Massachusetts, he'd have had health coverage thanks to Romneycare. If Romney supported a universal coverage on a national basis, that would have been a good argument to make on his behalf, but even though he once supported taking Romneycare national, he's now against it—simply because it's now called Obamacare. If he hadn't flip-flopped, he couldn't have won his party's nomination, so instead of standing by his record, he whipped out the Etch A Sketch. And now, if Romney gets his way, the Joe Soptics of the world will once again have to deal with insecurity of health insurance coverage that can be stripped away from them at the drop of a hat.
As I wrote yesterday, the thing that unites all of this is that Romney always does what he calculates to be in his own best interest. Whether its seeking tax shelters, hiding his tax returns, bleeding companies dry, or cynically reversing his position on whether all Americans should have health insurance, Romney does what he thinks is best for himself. He's not worried about others. That's the what Joe Soptic story is about. And if Soptic's story makes Romney's advisers upset, then the person the person they should talk to is Mitt Romney. Not Barack Obama.