Team Obama: As Nasty as They Want to Be
By Chris Stirewalt
“I don’t think Mitt Romney understands what he’s done to people’s lives by closing the plant.”
-- Former steelworker Joe Soptic speaking about his wife’s 2006 cancer death in a new ad by the Obama-backed political action committee Priorities USA.
President Obama opened the general election ad wars with an ad calling soon-to-be Republican nominee a “vampire” because a steel plant partly owned by the firm of which Romney was CEO went bankrupt after Romney had moved on.
Power Play wondered where one would go from there. Now we know.
The political action committee endorsed by the president and led by a former top Obama aide is running an ad suggesting that Romney caused a woman to die of cancer.
The claim will likely require the expansion of various truth-o-meters and a nose extension for the Washington Post’s Pinocchio.
Romney left the firm before the mill went bankrupt, the mill would have almost certainly bankrupted sooner without intervention, the woman was diagnosed five years after the closure, she reportedly had insurance coverage for part of the time her husband was unemployed, etc.
But the rule for 2012 is that all this truth squad stuff matters little, especially to allied outside groups. What matters is that Priorities USA is going to blanket the airwaves in swing states with an ad that says Romney stripped a family of its insurance causing the mother to forgo preventative medical care and then die.
Not true? So what?
While Romney is punching away on policy issues, whacking Obama for undoing parts of the 1996 welfare reforms or his stimulus program, Team Obama is making it very personal, with relentless attacks on Romney’s character.
But counting on a pliant press corps, Obama knows that he will pay a lesser price than Romney would for being so nasty.
Romney pulls Pinocchio’s nose himself with ads on Obama’s record in office, including his current attack on Obama’s effort to change the landmark 1996 welfare overhaul by executive order.
The intensely personal nature of Team Obama’s work on Romney, though, should seemingly be more striking to the political press. While Romney has accused Obama of fecklessness on foreign policy and other issues, he has mainly stuck to policy issues. For Obama it is all about Romney the man, and the president really seems to despise him.
Obama, who has given the green light for members of his cabinet to attend fundraisers for the political action committee, can claim that he’s not directing the attacks himself, but the proximity here is too great to overlook.
But will Obama feel obliged to disown his allies? Will there be an outcry in the press over an ad so vicious and so personal?
So far, the Obama campaign and the White House haven’t disowned the remarkable claims of the Senate majority leader who accuses Romney of not paying taxes for a decade. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney actually echoed Harry Reid for a second day on Tuesday, encouraging Romney to answer the charge by dumping all of his tax returns.
Perhaps in this case, the White House and campaign will suggest that Romney should prove he did not kill Mrs. Soptic.