So it's come to this. Less than 24 hours after airing his latest demonstrably false, racially driven ad about welfare, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney accused President Obama of waging a "campaign of division and anger and hate." By any measure, Romney's is an amazing—and cynically conscious—case of projection. After all, with a wink and a nod Romney has coddled, aided and abetted his Republican Party's birthers and bigots, its union-busters and gay-bashers, its Muslim-haters and misogynists and more. He's insulted people his backers proudly hate as well as many whose support they claim to seek.
Speaking at a rally in Chillicothe, Ohio, Gov. Romney informed his audience that it is in fact Barack Obama who is "dividing us all in groups":
"He demonizes some. He panders to others. His campaign strategy is to smash America apart and then cobble together 51 percent of the pieces. If an American president wins that way, we all lose," Romney said. "So, Mr. President, take your campaign of division and anger and hate back to Chicago, and let us get about rebuilding and reuniting America."That was an unfortunate choice of words. After all, Mitt Romney didn't just refuse to repudiate his Obama birth certificate fabulist Donald Trump. Cobbling together a majority, Romney announced, was what his candidacy was all about:
"You know, I don't agree with all the people who support me and my guess is they don't all agree with everything I believe in," Romney said. "But I need to get 50.1% or more and I'm appreciative to have the help of a lot of good people."No doubt, many of the people Trump claims "are screaming, 'Please don't give that up'" attended Romney's "Dine with the Donald" fundraiser. And if they missed that shindig, they might have joined Trump and Romney at the New York City birthday bash for Mitt's wife, Ann.
It is Ann Romney, by the way, who her husband says "regularly reports to me" about what American women care about. But when one of those women, Sandra Fluke, testified in March to Congress about contraception policy, right-wing storm-trooper Rush Limbaugh called her a "slut." But with a Republican nomination to win, Romney was too cowardly to cross his party's kingmaker:
"I'll just say this, which is, it's not the language I would have used. I'm focusing on the issues I think are significant in the country today, and that's why I'm here talking about jobs and Ohio."Five months later, Romney used the same dodge to avoid risking the ire of the tea party Islamophobes who dominate today's Republican Party. When Minnesota congresswoman and vanquished primary rival Michele Bachmann slandered Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's top aide Huma Abedin as having ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, Romney said and did nothing:
"I'm not going to tell other people what things to talk about. Those are not things that are part of my campaign."Things, apparently, like decency.
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Mitt Romney might have followed the example of John McCain, for whom he wrote off $45 million in campaign loans in his failed bid to secure the number two spot in 2008. McCain, who told an angry GOP rally four years ago that then-Sen. Barack Obama "a decent person and a person you don't have to be scared of as president of the United States," took to the Senate floor last month in Abedin's defense, denouncing "an unwarranted and unfounded attack on an honorable woman, a dedicated American and a loyal public servant." Instead, Romney remained silent, while repeatedly suggesting to his audiences that President Obama is "extraordinarily foreign."
But defending innocent Muslim Americans from the baseless charges his Republican allies isn't part of Mitt Romney's campaign. But that shouldn't have come as a surprise, because during his first White House run Romney made it didn't want Muslims to be part of his Cabinet.
I asked Mr. Romney whether he would consider including qualified Americans of the Islamic faith in his cabinet as advisers on national security matters, given his position that "jihadism" is the principal foreign policy threat facing America today. He answered, "...based on the numbers of American Muslims [as a percentage] in our population, I cannot see that a cabinet position would be justified. But of course, I would imagine that Muslims could serve at lower levels of my administration."Despite Romney's subsequent denials, Greg Sargent and Steve Benen documented other witnesses and other occasions during which Mitt repeated his No Muslims Need Apply policy.
But while Mitt Romney could imagine a Muslim serving "at lower levels of my administration," the former Mormon bishop cannot conceive of nonbelievers as part of the American community.
Given his own membership in a small religious minority, one might expect more openness and tolerance from Romney. But in 2006, he declared that "people in this country want a person of faith to lead them as their president." In December 2007, Gov. Romney upped the ante by insisting "Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom." And in his "Faith in America" speech that month, Mitt seemingly added atheists to his list of those to be excluded from the American community:
"I believe that every faith I have encountered draws its adherents closer to God. And in every faith I have come to know, there are features I wish were in my own: I love the profound ceremony of the Catholic Mass, the approachability of God in the prayers of the Evangelicals, the tenderness of spirit among the Pentecostals, the confident independence of the Lutherans, the ancient traditions of the Jews, unchanged through the ages, and the commitment to frequent prayer of the Muslims."Just as long as those frequent prayers are never heard in President Romney's Cabinet room.
That nonbelievers had no place in leading Mitt Romney's America was remarked upon by conservative commentators at the time. While Ramesh Ponnuru of the National Review asked "what about atheists and agnostics?" David Brooks of the New York Times concluded that Romney "asked people to submerge their religious convictions for the sake of solidarity in a culture war without end." Former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan wondered:
"Why did Mr. Romney not do the obvious thing and include them? My guess: It would have been reported, and some idiots would have seen it and been offended that this Romney character likes to laud atheists. And he would have lost the idiot vote."Mitt Romney decided long ago during his first run for the White House, you can't win the Republican nomination if you lose the idiot vote. And he can't become president of the United States unless he can peel off at least a few points from the Democratic Party's monolithic majority among Jewish voters.
That's why Mitt Romney traveled to Israel. And it's also why in Jerusalem and again on the pages of the National Review Mitt insisted "culture makes all the difference" in understanding "the accomplishments of the people of this nation [Israel]."
But in the United States, it turns out that for Mitt Romney, something else matters much more. In May, Romney explained what "it" was to the graduates of the late Jerry Falwell's Liberty University. During a speech in which he never mentioned the word "Mormon," Mitt tried to explain to his evangelical audience "where we can meet in common purpose." Surely, Romney suggested to applause, they could agree on this:
"Whether the cause is justice for the persecuted, compassion for the needy and the sick, or mercy for the child waiting to be born, there is no greater force for good in the nation than Christian conscience in action."Romney's message—No Jesus, No Dice—must have come as a surprise to the millions of Jews, atheists, agnostics, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs and myriad other non-Christians in the United States of America. But it shouldn't have.
Romney's pandering to the most extreme—and intolerant—wing of his Republican Party shouldn't have been news to Richard Grenell, either. Romney's openly gay national security adviser, who previously served as foreign policy spokesman in President George W. Bush's administration, found himself under furious public assault by reactionary Christian conservatives like Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association. After Romney said and did nothing in his defense, Grenell resigned:
"My ability to speak clearly and forcefully on the issues has been greatly diminished by the hyper-partisan discussion of personal issues that sometimes comes from a presidential campaign."That hyper-partisan discussion came only within Mitt Romney's Republican Party. And he was too scared to stop it. All because, as millions of Hispanic Americans no doubt still astonished by his language of "self-deportatation" could repeat by rote, "I'm running for office, for Pete's sake."
Mitt Romney similarly "expected" to get boos when he went to address to the NAACP, suggesting his real audience wasn't the African-American attendees in the room but the white Republicans watching on Fox News at home. Unable to muster examples of his own commitment to civil rights, Romney instead used his father's instead.
Just last week, Romney tried the same tactic in an interview with Bloomberg News. He spoke of how he learned about leadership from his father:
"I watched him at American Motors as he interacted with not only executives, but workers there. I remember going to Milwaukee as he addressed UAW employees at the Milwaukee stadium and described to them the new profit-sharing program that he and the head of the UAW had put in place."Of course, Mitt's not shy when it comes to revealing his real feelings about the UAW or any other union. As we learned in March, the man who pretends he used to worry about getting a "pink slip" stills gets chuckle thinking about those who did when his father moved AMC jobs from Michigan to Wisconsin. It's no wonder Mitt Romney turned his back on his former home town in 2008, declaring, "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt." Earlier this year, he explained why he opposed to Obama rescue package that saved the U.S. auto industry and with it over a million American jobs:
"I call it crony capitalism. I've taken on union bosses before. I'm happy to take them on again because I happen to believe that you can protect the interests of the American taxpayers and you can protect a great industry like automobiles without having to give in to the UAW, and I sure won't."Mitt Romney may love American cars, just not the people who make them. As it turns out, union members are merely one group who along with African-Americans, Hispanic Americans, gay Americans, Muslim Americans, non-Christians, women's health advocates and so many more make up Mitt Romney's long list of the detested, the disdained, the illegitimate and the ignored. By providing aid and comfort to the enemies of tolerance, Mitt Romney is engaging in the equivalent of drive-by bigotry on his road to the White House.