Desperation politics

Politics brings out the worst in people. That’s no surprise. In the struggle to get elected candidates will stretch the truth. That’s also no surprise. But I have to admit I’m saddened by the depths to which some appear willing to sink in the Republican presidential primaries. Mitt Romney, speaking to the Nashua Chamber of Commerce about Obamacare, had this to say:

“I want individuals to have their own insurance,” he said. “That means the insurance company will have an incentive to keep you healthy. It also means if you don’t like what they do, you can fire them. I like being able to fire people who provide services to me.

“You know, if someone doesn’t give me a good service that I need, I want to say I’m going to go get someone else to provide that service to me.”

His opponents on both sides of the aisle have siezed on one half of one sentence out of that to paint Romney as someone who finds it enjoyable to fire employees. Jon Hunstman turned it into this:

“It’s clear is he likes firing people, I like creating jobs.”

Not only is Huntsman taking the comment out of context, he’s transplanting it into a completely different context. And I’m pretty sure he knows full well he’s doing it. It would much, much less a stretch for Romney to turn this around and claim, “Huntsman thinks you should have no choices as a consumer, that if you don’t like the service you’re paying for that’s just too bad.”

It’s also interesting to see the Republican candidates pounding Romney on his record at Bain Capital. The attacks seem to be saying that Romney is too successful, and that he did his job too well; that his success in business makes him heartless and out of touch.

They’re even picking on Romney’s statements that he knows what it is like to worry about losing your job. Sure, Romney hasn’t had to worry about losing his job for quite a long time. But does that mean he can’t remember when he was just starting out in life? Does success automatically mean you forget your past? If so, the NONE of these jokers asking for our vote actually deserve it. Not one. I don’t see any of them as being poor, unsuccessful average joes who can completely identify with you and me.

So really, all they’re doing in their attacks on Romney is making the case that none of them deserve office. I’m sure they’re hoping you won’t notice and make that connection, but in trying to kick the props out from under Romney’s main qualification–his strong and successful business sense–they’re disqualifying themselves in the process. Instead, they’re making a case for re-electing Barack Obama, whose only real world success seems to be getting elected.

Or, as someone else pointed out, in Romney we’ve got a candidate who is supposedly a RINO being the only Republican in the race actually defending free enterprise and business success. On the other hand, if Romney survives and gets the nomination he should have little trouble dealing with the Democrats’ election playbook–the Republicans got an advance copy. You can bet the Obama team will be paying careful attention to how well this tactic works.

Let me just say, though, that it doesn’t work for me. Deliberately and flagrantly taking words out of context is one of the quickest ways to turn me against you. There’s a lot of gray area in politics, but such a blatant and knowing lie says more about the person employing it than the candidate they employ it against.

I don’t care much for Romney. I’d prefer to have someone better to vote for. But all of his opponents seem determined to show me they’re worse than Romney. I had some respect for Huntsman before this. I don’t now. I think this is why Romney is the frontrunner, frankly. It’s not that anyone really thinks he’s the best candidate. It’s just that all the others are bent on proving themselves to be even less desirable. Romney is likely to become the default candidate, the “at least he’s not _____” option.

I want to be an informed citizen, but it’s crap like this that makes me question the value of that course. If we have to put up with ten more months of this sort of crap I’m tempted to go into hiding for the next nine.

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UPDATE: Now here is someone worth listening to: Daniel Gross – The Real Problem With Romney’s ‘Fire People’ Gaffe. Even taken in context, there are problems with Romney’s analysis, even if it was off the cuff. How easy is it to fire your health insurance provider? As someone who has bought personal and family insurance while out of work, I found it easier to just pay up when they switched me to a higher premium program just because they discontinued the one I was on, rather than go out looking for a new carrier.

Perhaps he is saying that it should be easier to fire your insurance company and get a new one, but this is still a much more valid criticism than what we’re seeing out there.