Romney Camp Strays Near Birther Turf With Attack on Obama's Legitimacy as an American
Apparently, the Obama campaign's relentless offensive on questions regarding Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's tenure at Bain Capital has the Romney camp desperate to change the subject.
Here's Politico's Dylan Byers, reporting on a conference call with reporters that featured Romney surrogate John Sununu, the former New Hampshire governor and Bush administration official:
"I wish this president would learn how to be an American," Sununu, the former governor of New Hampshire, said at the beginning of the call.
Sununu would later try to walk back the remark, claiming he was referring to the President's economic philosophy, though it hardly seemed to matter.
Earlier today in an interview on New Hampshire radio station, Sununu made a similar claim. Interviewed on the Paul Wescott Show, Sununu stated (as reported by Business Insider):
It's not just that he doesn't understand the private sector — he doesn't understand America. He doesn't understand the formula that has created the American dream, where people risk, sometimes taking second and third mortgages on their houses to start a business and then go out and hire people.
For those not hip to right-wing code, allow me to suggest that this is a dog whistle not just to birthers, but to those on the right who might see Obama's international background as less than American, not to mention those who don't count black people as filling out the ranks of "real Americans." And, of course, those who don't view Hawaii as part of America, but rather as an exotic colonial outpost.
Here's Sununu talking (emphasis added by me) on Fox News this morning (via Politico):
He has no idea how the American system functions, and we shouldn't be surprised about that, because he spent his early years in Hawaii smoking something, spent the next set of years in Indonesia, and when he came to the U.S. worked as a community organizer -- which is a socialized structure -- and then got into politics in Chicago.
In response, Obama campaign spokesperson Lis Smith issued the following statement:
The Romney campaign has officially gone off the deep end. The question is what else they’ll pull to avoid answering serious questions about Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital and investments in foreign tax havens and offshore accounts. This meltdown and over-the-top rhetoric won’t make things better -- it only calls attention to how desperate they are to change the conversation.
The Romney campaign's counter-attack on Obama consists of accusations that the administration used stimulus money to reward Obama campaign donors. Whatever grains of truth exist in that accusation, it's pretty weak considering that however untoward, it's standard operating procedure that campaign donors enjoy greater access to the politicians they support -- a problem on both sides of the aisle. So on the one hand, you have a bipartisan problem, and on the other, two issues particular to Mitt Romney: his refusal to release a comprehensive file of his tax returns, and apparent prevarication about his role at Bain Capital from 1999-2002.
On a press call with reporters yesterday, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, fresh from his loss at the hands of the Supreme Court on the legality of the mandate in the Affordable Care Act, tried to lay out his case condemning the Obama administration for an Energy Department program that, as part of stimulus spending, awarded loans and grants to green energy manufacturers.
It shouldn't surprise anyone that executives of green energy enterprises would back Obama, who promised to jump start the green energy sector. You'll recall that George W. Bush enjoyed quite the support from "Kenny Boy" Lay, CEO of Enron, who was rewarded with inclusion in sekrit strategery meetings with Vice President Dick Cheney on the administration's energy policy, which involved a lot of drilling in nature preserves, clear-cutting of forests, and attempts to deregulate the energy sector.
Cuccinelli, during the press call, complained that Fisker Automotive, which was rewarded a $529 million loan for the development of an electric car slated for manufacture in Delaware, had left its American plant empty and was planning to manufacture overseas. What Cuccinelli failed to mention was that the Obama Energy Department suspended Fisker's loan because of noncompliance, and Fisker threatened to manufacture overseas if the balance of the loan was not forthcoming.
Today, Sununu upped the ante, hinting that the administration's actions were felonious.
I asked Cuccinelli, during yesterday's call, whether the "cronyism" counterattack wasn't just an attempt to change the subject. In a long answer, transcribed at the bottom of this post, Cuccinelli never expressly denied that it was. From Cuccinelli's answer:
Well, every race is about an awful lot of questions, especially the presidential race, where you've got a thousand different domestic policy aspects, and foreign policy aspects on top of it. Certainly, Gov. Romney believes that given all of those things, getting the economy moving is Priority One, and that dumping taxpayer dollars to the benefit of your political cronies not only doesn't help achieve that, it actually makes our deficit worse, it detracts from that possibility, and that is the distraction.
Of course there's really only one way to fix that little bipartisan problem: public financing of campaigns and the banning of all private money in campaigns. Wonder where Gov. Romney stands on that idea?
Transcription of Cuccinelli's complete answer to my question, in which I suggested that, given the bipartisan nature of the cronyism problem in government, the Romney campaign's offensive on the topic just might, maybe be seen as an attempt to change the subject.
CUCCINELLI: Well, every race is about an awful lot of questions, especially the presidential race, where you've got a thousand different domestic policy aspects, and foreign policy aspects on top of it. Certainly, Gov. Romney believes that given all of those things, getting the economy moving is Priority One, and that dumping taxpayer dollars to the benefit of your political cronies not only doesn't help achieve that, it actually makes our deficit worse, it detracts from that possibility, and that is the distraction. The focus ought to be on the top problem as the American people see it, and that is the economy. And this kind of political cronyism detracts from a president in office -- his ability to get the economy going, to start getting the deficit under control, which has an impact on the ability of government to function long-term. All of those are legitimate questions but it's hard to get by these sorts of basic elements of unfairness to everyone else in America except Obama's political bundlers while everybody else in America's economy sputters and goes down the tube.
It's like Vice President Biden said in Iowa a couple of weeks ago, it's a depression for millions and millions of Americans. And yet they keep pouring hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions of dollars, at a time into business of their political supporters, their political bundlers, their political cronies -- all while not prioritizing the economy. You know, there might be a more legitimate concern if, from Day One, President Obama had made fixing the economy his top priority, but he didn't. What he made his top priority is political payoffs. That's what that stimulus bill was, less than a month in; that's where a lot of this money came from for all of these crony benefits -- it came from that bill. He didn't waste any time at all. It's a new land speed record in political cronyism, was that stimulus bill. A President Romney will make the economy Job One on Day One. And the middle class will have an advocate in the White House to get the economy moving, get them hired, and start rebuilding their family nest eggs, which have been just absolutely gutted in recent years.
So, I think while there are plenty of things to talk about, what we're talking about now is President Obama's first priority, and that was political payoffs to his cronies. A president Romney as measured by what he does when he arrives as president, will be to get the economy going. That's the major comparison here.