Even if you like Barack Obama, we can’t afford Barack ObamaThis is a slightly different formulation of an ongoing Romney refrain. In March, he said:
He's a nice guy, but he's in over his head. We need to have a president who understands the economy if we're going to fix the economy.In January:
We're now on track to retire a guy who's a nice guy but is in over his head.There's no question that Mitt Romney's "nice guy/but in over his head" formulation is condescending and childish, but conservative James Taranto thinks it's a stroke of political genius:
One advantage an incumbent president has when seeking re-election is that he has already persuaded many voters to cast a ballot for him. That means a challenger--or the incumbent himself, by doing a lousy job--has to convince a substantial number to change their minds. Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum will not become president this November without the support of millions who voted for Barack Obama in 2008. [...] It will be easier for them to change their minds if they believe they overestimated Obama's competence rather than that they supported somebody who posed a "foundational" threat to America.In Taranto's view, Romney's rhetorical frame is the appropriate way to accomplish that goal:
"He's a nice guy, but . . ." is exquisitely condescending. It's probably not true: Obama strikes us as a petulant narcissist. But calling someone a "nice guy" is rarely a genuine compliment, and it never is when conjoined by "but." As any man who has ever been rejected by a woman knows, describing someone as "a nice guy, but . . ." is another way of saying he's ineffectual. That is exactly the point Romney is making about Obama.Actually, the phrase "nice guy, but" is anything but exquisite, and using it certainly doesn't reflect a genius political strategy. It's one of the most trite expressions on the planet, and it's hard to see how using it will win Mitt Romney a single vote. It's probably better than calling President Obama an asshole, but that's hardly a powerful argument in its favor.
Nonetheless, Romney (and conservatives) have clearly put a lot of thought into this. For example, Crossroads GPS has come up with a similar formulation, but all that proves is that right-wingers are still world-class overthinkers. If you've convinced yourself that "nice guy, but" is an effective political slogan, then you're probably the kind of person who thinks cutting taxes will balance the budget, that shrinking spending will create jobs, and that attacking Iraq will avenge 9/11.
More than that, however, it suggests that these people are still baffled by Barack Obama. I'll guarantee you that neither Ronald Reagan nor Bill Clinton wasted a moment of time obsessing about something as silly as a "nice guy, but" rhetorical strategy to defeat Jimmy Carter or George H. W. Bush—and neither did their campaign staffs. Yet for some reason, today's conservatives are so bewildered by Obama that they think "nice guy, but" isn't just smart, it's brilliant.
Of course, it's anything but brilliant, especially since it's so transparently insincere. These are guys who hate Barack Obama with such red hot passion that they honestly believe the future of The Republic depends on replacing him with the guy who invented Obamacare. For them, it's not just about what Obama is doing: It's about who he is. And calling him "a nice guy" won't conceal what's truly in their heart.