Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Silent Treatment

Mitt Romney has been encouraged by conservatives to take bold steps to combat the Obama Disinformation Machine, and today he announced an unprecedented move in modern campaigning.  Despite the obvious risks, the GOP standard bearer for 2012 has decided to suspend all campaign communications.  Effective immediately, he will stop talking and his campaign will no longer release any statements until after Election Day 2012.  He has decided that this represents his best path to victory in November.

Romney has been moving towards this decision for some time, as he has complained to staffers and the press about his words being taken out of context or twisted.

“One of the things I found in a short campaign against Ted Kennedy,” said Romney earlier this year, “was that when I said, for instance, that I wanted to eliminate the Department of Education, that was used to suggest I don’t care about education. So I think it’s important for me to point out that I anticipate that there will be departments and agencies that will either be eliminated or combined with other agencies.”

"I'm going to take a lot of departments in Washington, and agencies, and combine them. Some eliminate, but I'm probably not going to lay out just exactly which ones are going to go."

Romney’s problem with his words being taken out of context is relatively new, since his campaign championed the technique as recently as this spring when he ran a series of ads featuring audio of Obama saying: "If we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose."

This potential damning quote was lifted shamelessly out of context, since this was Obama quoting a McCain aide in 2008 and was a regular part of Obama’s stump speech that year.  Eric Fehrnstrom, a senior Romney adviser, said that “the use of the language in that ad was intentional”, and that its use, while deceptive and misleading in a material way, was “fair game” since the words actually came out of the President’s mouth, a rather broad interpretation of “fair game”.  Nevertheless, when the technique was turned on Romney, he bristled.

The change in strategy to remain absolutely silent until Election Day is seen as a dramatic reaction to voices within his own party that saw his attempts at being as vague as possible as not going far enough. 

The campaign’s vague responses, essentially saying nothing, to pressing national questions were only generating more questions.  During the GOP primary, Romney released his plan to cut all tax rates by 20% and establish a top individual rate of 28%, but could not explain the plan’s impact on the deficit.  He tried to argue that he would cut unspecified federal programs over time to maintain fiscal discipline, but that led to even more questions.

Romney kept at it with generalities, but within his inner circle, he was moving closer to his ‘silence is golden’ approach to campaigning.  His speech began to contain less and less substance.  His claim that closing loopholes, improving efficiency and rooting out fraud and abuse would counterbalance the cost of his tax proposals were quickly seen as meaningless political babble.  His approach to Afghanistan could be summed up by his plan to “listen to the generals on the ground.”  He had not taken a public position on the Fair Pay Act, the DREAM Act, or the DISCLOSE Act.  He has not taken a firm position on sequestration.  Some believed that his decision to go dark had already been made.

In the end, Romney had run out of safe topics, and he admitted as much during his final press conference of the campaign season today.

“I’m a former governor who can’t discuss my tenure.  I’m a former CEO of Bain who can’t discuss his role as the organization’s leader.  I’m a wealthy man who needs to downplay his own wealth.  I’m the godfather of Obamacare, and I can’t mention that.  I want to cut taxes for the rich but can’t reveal my own taxes.  I’m running out of things to say anyway.”

“Every time I say anything, I’m questioned.  If I release my tax returns, I’ll be attacked.  If I don’t I’ll be attacked.  If I take a position on any issue, the Obama machine will highlight how wrong my position is.  It’s outrageous and Un-American.”

Romney ended the last press conference with, “So from now on, no comment.”

He returned to the podium for one final thought:

“I am not Barack Obama.  I don’t see why that isn’t good enough.”

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