This ad by the Barack Obama campaign dumped fuel on the fire.
Connor Simpson at The Atlantic:
The Obama campaign's latest ad takes you on an offshore vacation to hot button destinations like Mexico, China, Switzerland, India, Bermuda, and the Cayman Islands while being serenaded by the man with the smoothest voice in America, Mitt Romney. [...]Jim Galloway at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
"Obama's best ad of the year," says CNN's Paul Begala. "Don't really get why everyone is saying this obama ad is so great, the guy whos singing america the beautiful does not have a great voice," says Gawker's Max Read. "An instant classic," says Rolling Stone's Tim Dickison. "For those who have long said Obama is weak, appeasing, useless politician, watch this brutal ad," advised Andrew Sullivan. "U watch this new, brilliant ad for Obama & u go, 'Wow, the Dems are acting like they want 2 win. Is that possible?'" says Michael Moore.
Call a man a liar. Imply that he’s a felon. But there’s nothing crueler than putting a fellow’s singing on display.The ad is effective on a variety of levels, from reinforcing Romney's awkwardness to strengthening the theme that Romney's secretive finances and tenure at Bain Capital are part of the financial sector culture that brought this economy to its knees.
Using a candidate's singing voice in an ad is nothing new (Republicans can complain all they want, but the RNC did the same thing to President Obama back in February). Meanwhile, Kaith Laing at The Hill says the Obama camp isn't backing down:
"Of course the President wants to have a highbrow debate about these policy issues and what the American people actually care about," [Deputy Communications Director Jen Psaki] said.Paul Krugman at The New York Times:
"We know that Mitt Romney is leading with his business credentials as his top qualification for being president," Psaki continued. "And we think that it's completely justified to raise questions -- we have, many outside groups have, many media outlets have -- about why he had an account in Switzerland, why he had investments in the Cayman Islands, what exactly this corporation was in Bermuda. And the American people deserve to know more about it."
Psaki’s comments were in defense of a new ad, which is expected to run in nine swing states and continues the campaign’s attacks on Romney, accusing him of helping companies move jobs overseas and calling on him to disclose more information about his offshore holdings.
There is, predictably, a mini-backlash against the Obama campaign’s focus on Bain. Some of it is coming from the Very Serious People, who think that we should be discussing their usual preoccupations. But some of it is coming from progressives, some of whom are apparently uncomfortable with the notion of going after Romney the man and wish that the White House would focus solely on Romney’s policy proposals.James Walcott at Vanity Fair:
This is remarkably naive. I agree that the awfulness of Romney’s policy proposals is the main argument against his candidacy. But the Bain focus isn’t a diversion from that issue, it’s complementary. Given the realities of politics — and of the news media, as I’ll explain in a minute — any critique of Romney’s policies has to make use of his biography.
What's brilliant about "Firms" isn't so much the way it mails home the irony of Romney murdering "America the Beautiful" with his toneless, tuneless voice on the soundtrack as info flashcards remind us of all the jobs Bain Capital shipped overseas and how much money Romney's stashed in tax havens such as Bermuda and the Cayman Islands, though it is a clever, damaging juxtaposition that takes Romney's chief asset as a candidate--his halo of executive achievement--and hangs it around his neck like a choke collar. Very Rovian, that.Meanwhile, probably the award for most counter-productive analysis of the week goes to NPR and James Fallows who equate the Obama campaign's Bain tactics to the "swiftboating" of Mitt Romney:
No, what's genius is the initial transition between President Obama striding a few steps at the White House and cutting to Mitt making with song...the contrast between Obama's vocal and physical gravitas and Mitt's goofiness is hilarious, devastating, emasculating. It's like going from The Shawshank Redemption to Jerry Lewis in The Nutty Professor when the Buddy Love spell wears off, from Sidney Poitier in In the Heat of the Night to Fred MacMurray in Son of Flubber. And the fact that this ad is approved by Obama gives it much more authority and pow than if it were just something cooked up at the editing console by some bright operatives hoping the video would go YouTube viral. It's a smackdown from the man himself, not some Democratic front group, thus sending a much stronger message.
It's clear that the Obama campaign's strategy is to hit Romney hard early, define and diminish him in the public imagination with cartoon clarity, and send him into the Republican convention with a Dan Quayle deer-in-the-headlights look that conveys the unbearable lightness of completely lost.
And what the Obama campaign is doing on the basis of this Bain imbroglio is something similar to what George W. Bush was doing to John Kerry back in 2004 in the episode known as swiftboating. And by that, I mean making something that a candidate has assumed to be his strength, which, in John Kerry's case was his military background, into a weakness.The swiftboating of John Kerry wasn't just a jujutsu tactic. It was a vile smear campaign and it's wrong to even bring that term and all of its negative connotations into the debate. I get what Fallows is trying to say (and he's usually spot-on in his political analysis) but he could have made his point about turning strength into weakness without validating one of the most immoral tactics against a war hero in recent politics.
RAZ: And so if the Obama campaign can make Mitt Romney's business background not the presumed basis of his campaign, but instead a source of controversy, a source of potential weakness for him, that really does make problems in the campaign for the Romney team.
So if the Obama campaign is swiftboating, as you say, Mitt Romney - I mean, one of the criticisms of John Kerry was that he didn't respond to this back in 2004, and Romney is only started to respond to it.
FALLOWS: Exactly. And I should make clear, in saying swiftboating, I'm not asserting that these are false accusations. I'm just saying they have this jujitsu effect. And it's actually surprising the Romney team is not better prepared for them than it is. Number one, because they've had the last eight years since the John Kerry episode. Number two, over the last year, this is what Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry and others were using as their angle of attack on Mitt Romney's business background too.
TJ Walker at Forbes had 35 questions that Romney must answer:
5. You earned at least $100,000 as an executive from Bain in 2001 and 2002, separate from investment earnings according to filings with State of Massachusetts. Can you give an example of anyone else you personally know getting a six figure income, not dividend or investment return, but actual income, from a company they had nothing to do with?From the National Journal:
6. What did you do for this $100,000 salary you earned from Bain in both 2000 and 2001?
7. If you did nothing to earn this salary, did the Bain managers violate their fiduciary duty by paying you a salary for no discernible reason?
Bain Capital has been a source of stress for Mitt Romney's campaign ever since the primaries, and the Obama campaign exploited his vulnerabilities - first with a relentless ad campaign portraying Romney as an outsourcer, and then by highlighting a Boston Globe report that suggested Romney worked at Bain longer than advertised (and more importantly, when many of the scrutinized business dealings took place).Jim Edwards at Business Insider:
The Romney campaign, known for their aggressiveness, seemed stuck in a defensive crouch in parrying the attacks. Instead of defending his work at Bain, Team Romney was forced to employ semantic arguments over when he was employed. Its ads on television called Obama a liar, but didn't respond to the underlying charges.
But even as the Bain attacks have been effective, the polling on the race has barely budged. Romney looks to have taken a hit from the attacks, but there's not much evidence these undecided voters are flocking to Obama in response.
Mitt Romney's dissembling explanation of when he left Bain Capital bears a striking resemblance to President Clinton's disastrous "is" moment during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, which many regard as the lowest point of the Clinton Administration.