A Campaign of Contempt and Personal Attacks
President Obama is running a campaign advertisement that pointedly asserts that the voters face two distinctly different choices about the future of the country. The president declares that there are significant worldview distinctions between the two candidates -- that he and Gov. Romney have two decidedly different approaches to governance, and that they embrace dramatically different beliefs about America and what it will take to move forward toward a prosperous and successful future.
One would think, then, that as stark as the contrasts are between the two candidates, the election would focus on those differences. The Romney campaign certainly has; Mr. Romney chose a vice presidential running mate who is known for his specificity about how the nation should move forward to address the fiscal challenges of debt, deficit, and entitlements. Mr. Obama, on the other hand, seems to be distancing himself as much as possible from his record as president and what that record reveals regarding his plans and intentions for America's future; instead, he is running a campaign of contempt and personal attacks against Mr. Romney.
The Obama campaign's major attacks against Mr. Romney fall into four categories: (1) his wealth and taxes, (2) his record as a businessman, (3) his "war on women," and (4) his illegal and immoral actions.
Wealth and Taxes - Through hard work, talent, competence, and discipline, Gov. Romney is worth between $190 million and $250 million (despite having given his inheritance from his father away to charity). Such wealth, to hear the president and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid talk, makes Gov. Romney suspect (after all, Mr. Obama doesn't believe that Romney built his businesses himself), and they harangue him to open up all his tax records for public scrutiny. Harry Reid went on the Senate floor to accuse Mr. Romney of avoiding paying his taxes and insists that Mr. Romney must prove he did...as if the IRS wouldn't have had him in court and on his way to jail if he hadn't. In addition to the supposed negligence in paying taxes, Mr. Romney supposedly wants to raise taxes on the middle class while doling out excessive tax breaks for the richest Americans.
Mr. Romney says he has paid at least a 13 percent tax rate, and it is well-known that the Romneys give a huge percentage of their income to their church and to various charities. Clearly, the Obama campaign tactic (which has lost traction since the selection of Paul Ryan as the GOP vice presidential candidate) is a way of distracting the media from talking about the president's dismal economic record and the nation's continued high unemployment rate. By creating class envy ("born with a silver spoon") and raising the possibility of tax evasion, Mr. Obama is trying to create a climate of suspicion about the GOP candidate in regard to his money and his payment of taxes.
Business Practices - Romney is accused of shipping American jobs overseas, and thus, it is implied, he is to blame for the current high unemployment rates. In addition, Mr. Obama's campaign official raised the possibility that Mr. Romney committed a felony by lying to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) about the timeline for his leaving Bain Capital to run the 2002 Olympics. Even though the issue was resolved in Romney's favor when it was brought up during his campaign for Massachusetts governor, and even though The Washington Post and FactCheck.org have disproved the accusation, the president's campaign continues its innuendos.
War on Women - The media hype surrounding the GOP's supposed "war on women" relies almost exclusively on the longstanding GOP opposition to abortion on demand. With the Obama administration's birth control mandate, the Democrats are forcing people of faith to violate their consciences to pay for contraception and abortion. Thus, the "war on women" became a "war against religion" and a matter of religious freedom. When the Republicans fought back to defend the First Amendment rights of Americans and remind the Democrats that easily affordable birth control is readily available, it became obvious to thinking people that the mandate was a political football designed to make people of faith appear bigoted and the GOP appear to be waging a "war against women."
With Congressman Akin's recent gaffe about "legitimate rape" and the subsequent politics of personal destruction, abortion is again front and center in the presidential campaign, with the "war on women" forces making outrageous and false comments about the GOP platform (which has yet to be released) and about the positions of Romney and Ryan.
Illegal and Immoral Actions - Supposedly, Mr. Romney is a murderer, in addition to wanting to eliminate the middle class and gut Medicare. First, let's look at the accusations about taxing the middle class out of existence. Democrats presented "analyses" supposedly showing that the Romney/Ryan tax plan would destroy the middle class by increasing their taxes while virtually eliminating taxes on the "rich." Again, what do you believe: campaign distortions or facts? The Wall Street Journal declared the Romney plan fair and feasible; indeed, the Romney plan includes many of the recommendations that the president ignored from the independent Simpson-Bowles fiscal commission he himself had appointed and charged with reviewing and refining the current tax structure.
A far more serious accusation is the outrageous claim -- in a powerful television ad -- that Romney's decision to close down a steel plant led to both the cancelation of a man's insurance and the cancer death of his wife. Mr. Obama quickly denied association with the advertisement and having any connection with Mr. Joe Soptic, the steelworker making the claims, but facts are stubborn things. It didn't take long for the facts to expose a direct connection between Mr. Soptic and the White House as well as the falsity of both the timeline in the advertisement and essential facts laid out by Mr. Soptic. Again, even Democratic sycophants, like CNN and the mainstream media, condemned the advertisement and refuted its claims with solid facts.
Democratic talking points which get repeated endlessly claim that the Romney/Ryan plan will end up gutting Medicare when, in fact, the president's health care reform will take $700 billion from Medicare to pay for ObamaCare. Even solidly leftist analyses acknowledge that the alarmism is nothing more than campaign hype. In fact, the Ryan plan is modeled after a bipartisan proposal, and it addresses the reality that Medicare is on a path toward insolvency and collapse -- a reality that will happen sooner rather than later, unless hard measures, like those recommended by Ryan, are implemented. Given the reductions in service to seniors that will inevitably follow the $700 billion in Medicare cuts and that will be transferred out of Medicare to pay for the health care reform bill legislation that the president rammed through Congress over the objections of a majority of Americans, it is no wonder that Democrats are trying to change the subject with scare tactics that picture hard-hearted Republicans pushing Grandma in her wheelchair over a cliff. This tried-and-true scare-the-old-folks tactic is being pushed aggressively by Democrats, even though it is contradicted by the clear fact that the Ryan plan, which Romney has endorsed, would not change the Social Security benefits for anyone 55 and older.
These four attacks embody the president's disdain for Mr. Romney (as well as cementing his "unlikeable" image) and accomplish Mr. Obama's goal of turning voters' attention away from his abysmal record to the supposed failures of Mr. Romney. It remains to be seen what percentage of the American public will fall for this sleight-of-hand. Ironically, as the personal attacks and distortions heated up, Mr. Romney ignited unprecedented grassroots enthusiasm when he announced his vice presidential nominee, Paul Ryan. Not only have contributions poured in, but there is a noticeable reinvigoration of the top candidate and his base constituency. So, in spite of the president's contempt for Mr. Romney and the personal attacks leveled at the GOP team, the momentum for now seems to be with the Romney/Ryan ticket as they "boldly go where no man has gone before" in their plan to reform Medicare.
Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse, author of Children at Risk (2010) and Marriage Matters (2012), is a spokesperson for Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee.