Media/GOP treating Trump same as Romney post-Benghazi

NeverTrump Republicans are indulging a fantasy that if only the Republican Party had a "normal" candidate, if only Trump behaved in a "polished" way, the nominee and the party at large would avoid a lot of P.R./media headaches.  But this is contrary to what actually happened a mere four years ago.

On the morning of September 12, 2012, hours after the attack in Benghazi, Buzzfeed ran a headline "Foreign Policy Hands Voice Disbelief at Romney Cairo Statement."  The critique was that Romney's statement after the attack was wrong.  The sub-headline read: “'Bungle… utter disaster… not ready for prime time… not presidential… Lehman moment.' And that’s just the Republicans."

Here is a portion of the hit job by Ben Smith:

“It’s bad,” said a former aide to McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. “Just on a factual level that the statement was not a response.” A third Republican, a former Bush State Depart official, told BuzzFeed, “It wasn’t presidential of Romney to go political immediately.”

ABC News had a headline "Obama Says Romney 'Shoots First and Aims Later.'"  The report said, "[S]ome prominent Republicans joined in questioning Romney's timing.  Richard Armitage, the former deputy secretary of state under Republican President George W. Bush said Romney 'will find out that first reports from the battlefield are always incorrect… This should be his mantra, so he can speak in a deliberate manner, and not have to repent at his leisure later.'"  The story noted that "Republican vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan, who spoke in De Pere, Wisc., was also less overtly political than Romney."

A day earlier, the lead-in to a Politico item read, "Mitt Romney is getting the full John Kerry treatment on national security – and some top Republicans are alarmed."

Sounds familiar?

The New York Times painted Romney in a bad light, starting with a headline "Romney's Criticism of Obama Post-Benghazi Is Furiously Returned." The Times' report lamented that "[r]ather than back away, Romney doubled down" and his comments "ended up putting Mr. Romney on the defensive as he sought to define his differences with the president and demonstrate his bona fides as a potential commander in chief."

The Times even admitted why the media picked on Romney: "The debate over his comments drew attention from questions about how Mr. Obama had managed the popular uprisings in the Arab world, the aftermath of the war in Libya and the broader battle against Islamic extremists."  Basically, the concept that statements from the GOP nominee are used by media to divert attention away from Obama did not start with Trump being too "wild."

And as always, some smarty Republicans piled on Romney to the Times: 

“I would probably have waited 12 or 24 hours and put out a more comprehensive statement,” said Representative Peter T. King, a New York Republican and chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. “When something tragic happens and a quick statement is made, it can be interpreted as political.”

John Ullyot, a Republican strategist, said it was a self-inflicted wound: “It’s developed into another distraction that has put foreign policy – not a strong suit for the G.O.P. ticket this time front and center in an uncomfortable way in a campaign that is becoming less and less about the administration’s job record.”

To top it off, "Republicans like Speaker John A. Boehner and Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, kept their distance from Mr. Romney's comments," noted the Times.

The bottom line is the GOP lost the popular vote in five of the six last presidential elections before Trump was the nominee.  The GOP was unable to win the House for forty years even before it became the party of Trump.  Despite its current majorities, the GOP keeps losing the public debate on policy and repeatedly caves on legislation such as the Homeland Security budget, Obamacare, Planned Parenthood, Omnibus, the Iran deal, and TPP just to name a few things from 2015.

Clinton inherited a booming economy from Bush and left behind a bust, and the Bush economy was doing fine until a year after the Democrats won the House/Senate in 2006, yet in 2012 more people blamed Bush than Obama for the weak economy created when Obama was a senator in the majority.  In fact, the Bush name the name of the only GOP presidents the last thirty years was essentially banned at the GOP convention in 2012.  How was the GOP going to win 2012 or 2016 when they are ashamed of their last two elected nominees?

The GOP has a message problem, a unity problem, and a throwing-under-the-bus problem from well before Trump showed up.  The party run by a Group of Putzes (GOP) will continue spinning in neutral until it adapts tactic from the Dems: be united in message, go on offense, and turn the tables on the opponent regardless of the issue.

Yossi Gestetner is on Twitter @YossiGestetner.