Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Clinton is Running as the Un-Elizabeth Warren. The Tactic is Succeeding. For now. (And btw, what DO those polls on gun-control laws show about rural-vs.-urban-area views?)

Marco Rubio spoke today to a large group of Iowa Republican activists and urged them to “turn the page on outdated leaders of both parties“. They agreed to do that, and started chanting “Feel the Bern.”

Senator, You’re No John Kennedy.  You’re Just Clumsily Appropriating a Campaign Line of His [from his 1946 run for Congress], Me, Nov. 1

Rubio, whose policy proposals entail returning to 1920s economic and regulatory policies (presumably because they worked so well)—and, regarding such matters as antitrust law, returning to the pre-Teddy Roosevelt era—claims that what determines whether a candidate would be an outdated leader is the age of the candidate, not his or her proposed policies.  As I said in the above-referenced post, Rubio is 44 and probably would support a 43-year-old Communist Workers Party candidate if one were to run, and step down himself as a candidate.  Policy proposals being irrelevant to the datedness of the candidate, and all.

Okay.  But he’s actually right about one of the older candidates.  Not about her policy proposals, but about her campaign itself.   Hillary Clinton as a candidate is the un-Elizabeth Warren.  She’s running an absurdly retro campaign that employs asinine allegations of sexism, racism, and Commie-ism against her main primary opponent, Bernie Sanders, as her go-to misdirection tactics to avoid talking about the issues that Warren and Sanders both have made their trademark, their political raison d’être: the thoroughly rigged power game that has so thoroughly rigged the economics game. And the legal game.  [Trust me on this.]

We all know by now about Clinton’s claim, repeated on six occasions within a few days, that all of the 76 members of the National Rifle Association’s Board of Directors are women—er, that Bernie Sanders told her, and only her, to stop speaking in a literally loud voice and that he said this because she is a woman. The initial reaction to Clinton’s claim was a bonanza for her among non-millennial women—that is, women who are of a generation in which being a feminist requires automatic adoption or acceptance of any charge of sexism (or for that matter rape).

Having been a victim of sexual harassment myself, I don’t take lightly the real deals—sexual harassment, sexism, rape. Which may be why it so offends me when a career feminist, which is what Clinton is, cries ‘wolf’ about sexism, knowing its Pavlovian pull among fellow feminists.  Especially career ones. And baby boomer ones, for whom it will always be the 1992 election cycle. As it always will be for her.  But the allegation quickly was shown as false.  As was part of her substantive charge against Sanders in the exchange at the Oct. 13 debate in which Sanders had made the comments that she claimed were sexist: a 2005 statute called the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which she criticized Sanders for supporting and which she as a senator from New York voted against, doesn’t provide what she said it provides.  And the state of liability law at the time, and the state of liability now, that pertains to manufacturers and retailers of products other than guns and ammunition is the opposite of what she claimed.

But not to worry.  Having milked all she could from sexism—she also had claimed that a joke by Sanders’ campaign manager that Clinton would make a fine vice presidential nominee, a standard line that presidential primary candidates use about their nearest competitor, and one that Clinton used about Obama in 2008, was, you guessed it, sexist! —and now being limited to talking about actual gun-control proposals, past and present, she went back to the trumped-up ism well.  (I mean, seriously, good grace; she thought Obama was a woman.  But that was then and this is now.)  She accused Sanders of racism for a comment he made at the debate during, you guessed it, the gun legislation exchange.   William Saletan of Slate, who wrote the most thorough article I’ve read on the sexism smear, wrote in an article yesterday titled “Hillary Clinton Is Stepping Up Her Smear Campaign Against Bernie” by now accusing him of, um, racism!  Seriously.  Saletan reports:

Clinton was in Charleston, South Carolina [on Friday], addressing the local NAACP. She spoke against a tragic background: the massacre of nine black people in a Charleston church by a white racist. Naturally, she talked about guns. But she added a new line: “There are some who say that this [gun violence] is an urban problem. Sometimes what they mean by that is: It’s a black problem. But it’s not. It’s not black, it’s not urban. It’s a deep, profound challenge to who we are.”

The idea that urban is code for black has been around a long time. It’s often true. And it’s not necessarily derogatory: In 1920, the National League on Urban Conditions Among Negroes shortened its name to the National Urban League. But why would Clinton suddenly bring up, in a damning tone, people who call guns an urban problem? Who was she talking about? It can’t be the Republican presidential candidates: They haven’t disagreed enough to debate the issue at that level of granularity. The only recent forum in which guns have been discussed as an urban concern is the forum that inspired Clinton’s initial accusation of sexism: the Oct. 13 Democratic debate in Las Vegas. Pull up the transcript of that debate, search for “urban,” and you’ll see whom Clinton is talking about: Sanders.

Actually, though, Sanders didn’t say that gun violence is an urban problem.  He said that people in rural areas are strongly against gun-control legislation.  Here’s Saletan again:

In fact, [Sanders’ comments are] from the same moments of the debate that Clinton had already seized on. In the debate, Sanders began by saying, “As a senator from a rural state, what I can tell Secretary Clinton [is] that all the shouting in the world is not going to do what I would hope all of us want.” A couple of minutes later, Sanders told former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley: “We can raise our voices, but I come from a rural state, and the views on gun control in rural states are different than in urban states, whether we like it or not.” O’Malley insisted that the issue was “not about rural and urban.” Sanders replied: “It’s exactly about rural.” Only one other candidate used the word “urban” during the debate: former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb. A week later, on Oct. 20, Webb quit the campaign. So when Clinton, on Friday, spoke scathingly of people who call guns an “urban problem” but mean it’s a “black problem,” it’s obvious to whom she was referring.

Which is why I’m wondering what the actual poll numbers are on gun-control legislation in, say, Montana, and Maine, and Vermont.  And what the poll numbers are in Illinois, New York, California, and Maryland.  Since hunting is the primary divide, I’m also wondering what the poll numbers are in Michigan’s Upper Penninsula, northern Lower Penninsula, and “Thumb” region (rural; lots and lots of hunters).  And how they compare to southwestern Michigan (urban, suburban).  Because while there is, of course, some cross-over—some urban dwellers oppose gun-control legislation; some rural residents support universal background checks and bans on assault weapons and huge-capacity magazines—it is, very largely, exactly about rural.  Sanders needs to get the poll numbers on this.  And use them.  There aren’t many hunters in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Chicago or San Francisco. There are a lot of hunters in Vermont, Montana and Wyoming.

But he also needs to suggest that Clinton is willing to cheapen the issues of sexism and racism in order to avoid talking about issues concerning the basic power structure in this country and its clear consequences.  And about Republican plans for further, dramatic imbalance.  And about the havoc that the pro-corporate takeover over government beginning more than three decades ago has wreaked on huge swaths of Americans.  In language that does not consist of soundbites and that actually discusses and explains specifics.

I wasn’t kidding when I said Clinton is the un-Elizabeth Warren.  In her campaign tactics at least, Clinton is far more Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Ben Carson and Donald Trump than she is Elizabeth Warren.  Far more.  Notwithstanding the gender difference.  Swap out the-debate-moderators-are-biased-and-asking-improper-questions for Bernie-Sanders-said-“shouting”-to-me-when-talking-about-women-and-men-who-take-opposing-sides-on-gun-legislation, and Bernie-Sanders-said-“urban”-as-code-for-African-American-criminals!”.  And … voila!

Is it just a coincidence that it’s the candidates, Democrat and Republican, with the zillionaire backers and consequently the army of political consultants, who employ these misdirect tactics?  Just askin’.

But really, isn’t Clinton’s gender-and-race fraud more pernicious than the Republicans’ media/moderator-bias gimmick?

It’s a safe bet that Sanders doesn’t think Warren is shouting.  But then, maybe that’s because it’s Warren and female politicians like her—whose gender is not their defining political identity and who in fact never mention it, but who do discuss intricate fiscal, economic and regulatory issues—who are the actual feminists.

Saletan’s article, which is fairly long, goes on to say this:

This line of attack is rich in irony. When Clinton ran for president in 2008, she explicitly used race against Obama. She told USA Today that she should be the Democratic nominee because “I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on.” Clinton cited an article that, in her words, showed “how Sen. Obama’s support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in [Indiana and Pennsylvania] who had not completed college were supporting me.” A reporter asked Clinton whether this argument was racially divisive. “These are the people you have to win if you’re a Democrat,” Clinton replied dismissively. “Everybody knows that.”

Now Clinton accuses others of playing the race card. In Charleston, she told the NAACP, “Some candidates talk in coded racial language about ‘free stuff,’ about ‘takers’ and ‘losers.’ And boy, are they quick to demonize President Obama. This kind of talk has no place in our politics.”

Clinton, too, speaks in code. But in this election, her coded phrases—“some people think we’re shouting,” “some who say that this is an urban problem”—aren’t designed to veil racism. They’re designed to veil her meritless insinuations that her Democratic opponent is sexist and racist. You can argue, based on power or privilege, that playing the race card or sex card from the left isn’t as bad as playing it from the right. But even if you believe that, Clinton’s smears bring discredit on the whole idea of bigotry. If accusations of misogyny and racism are casually thrown at Sanders, voters will conclude that these terms are just rhetoric.

Seven years ago, when Clinton’s own campaign was accused of prejudice, her husband was outraged. “She did not play the race card, but they did,” Bill Clinton said of the Obama campaign. The former president went on: “This is almost like, once you accuse somebody of racism or bigotry or something, the facts become irrelevant.” Three months later, Mr. Clinton was still fuming. “They played the race card on me, and we now know from memos from the campaign and everything that they planned to do it all along,” he protested. “This was used out of context and twisted for political purposes by the Obama campaign to try to breed resentment elsewhere. … You really got to go some to try to portray me as a racist.” Now Hillary Clinton is doing to Sanders what her husband said was done to her. She’s taking Sanders’ remarks out of context and twisting them to breed resentment. You’ve got to twist the facts pretty hard to portray Sanders as a racist or sexist. But politically, it’s easy, because once you start throwing around charges of bigotry, the facts become irrelevant. You’re just another beautiful baiter. And you won’t be silenced.

I remember these incidents well.  I especially remember the “Obama’s support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in [Indiana and Pennsylvania] who had not completed college were supporting” her” comment, because my jaw dropped when I first heard about it.  And because this is exactly what she’s doing again, with her incessant “hardworking families” cliché, repeated again and again by her on the campaign trail this year.

The difference between the “harworking” dog whistle and Sanders’ comment that the level of support for gun-control legislation is very different in rural areas than it is in urban ones is that tSanders’ comment is accurate and is borne out in the polls. And would be borne out in informal converations between Clinton and people in rural areas, should she take another listening tour, one that doesn’t prescreen attendees and keep unscreened folks on the other side of a rope line.

Clinton reaped a poll bonanza from her debate and her Benghazi-hearing media successes.  But only among Democrats.  Her ratings on honesty and trustworthiness, and her general favorability, rose substantially among Democrats, but remained about the same among the public overall.  Which means that among non-Democrats, her ratings decreased.

Which may in turn mean that Democrats who now support her because they think, in light of those performances, that she would be the stronger candidate in the general election may begin to waver.  And others may catch on that there’s a reason why she wants to talk about anything other than what progressive Democrats and many others want most to hear about.

The Saletan article mentions the uber outrage at Sanders that some prominent feminists have expressed as his employing of–gasp!–gender stereotyping about women shouting, and their equally rote outrage at Sanders’ campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, for suggesting that a woman could qualify for vice president but not for, y’know, the actual head of the federal government.

Yup. Good ole Bernie Sanders never would have supported a presidential primary run by Elizabeth Warren, and not run himself, had Warren decided to run.  Uh-uh.  No, Ma’am. No how.  And no way.

Two of the three women have made careers out Feminism, and one of them has never met a sexism or rape allegation that she thought just possibly could be false.  Or, regarding sexism, ridiculous. But really, how many millennial women think it’s a good idea for the first woman who has a real chance to be elected president to engage some sort of word game, trolling for a word or phrase whose meaning, alone or in the context in which it was used, could be tortured to suggest gender stereotyping?  Marco Rubio is right about Hillary Clinton.  And in her instance it does appear to be age-related.  She’s running a ridiculously retro campaign.  And only partly to regain the support of women.  Mostly, to reiterate, it’s in order to avoid addressing the economics-related issues that Sanders, and Warren, raise.

Gun violence is a tremendously important issue.  But it is not the only tremendously important issue. It’s just the only tremendously important issue that seems to offer opportunities for false sexism and racism allegations against Bernie Sanders.

And therefore opportunities to then, in the light of day, reveal Clinton for who she really is after all.

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Making a Difference in American Families’ Lives by Crying ‘Wolf’ about Sexism

“Her campaign has been about how to make a difference in American families’ lives – a cause she’s fought for her entire life,” said [Clinton campaign] spokeswoman, Christina Reynolds. “It’s a shame Senator Sanders’s campaign has decided to make the campaign about political attacks. Voters want to hear about how their candidate will fight for them, not fight each other.”

Bernie Sanders Walking the Line Between Personal Attacks and Political Critiques, Patrick Healy and Maggie Haberman, New York Times, today

Absolutely, Clinton’s campaign has been about how to make a difference in American families’ lives, and voters want to hear about how their candidate will fight for them, not fight each other.  Which is why Clinton three times within two days publicly told those very voters and all the world that Sanders told her, and her alone, that she should stop speaking in a literally loud voice about the issue of gun control legislation, and that he did so because she is a woman and he is sexist.

This will make a difference in American families’ lives.  At least the lives of hardworking ones.

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A Victory for the Reality-Based Community! Oh, Know! Er, Oh, No!

Every four years, the race for the White House ends in accusations of deceit. Each side says the other spent millions of dollars to lie and skew the outcome. This year’s post-election accounts of backstage calculations and fateful turning points continue that tradition. But if you read these accounts carefully, you’ll find a happy surprise beneath the spin and recriminations: Lies failed. Truth prevailed.

Saletan goes on to discuss the several critical points during the campaign that pundits say are what ultimately led to Romney’s defeat, including the impact of Hurricane Sandy and of Romney’s appalling Jeep-jobs-to-China ad in Ohio last week.  You know, the one that said, “Obama took GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy and sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China.”

Saletan points to a delicious comment by a Romney fundraiser to Washington Post reporterPhillip Rucker—“A lot of people feel like Christie hurt, that we definitely lost four or five points between the storm and Chris Christie giving Obama a chance to be bigger than life,” a Romney fundraiser tells Rucker”—and nicely refutes its premise, voiced also by numerous pundits during the last week.  He points out that Obama wasn’t acting, or looking, presidential.  He was instead being presidential; he was performing his job.

Saletan’s article in mostly terrific.  But it—like most of the other pundit assessments—fails to mention the actual key factor for why Hurricane Sandy made it impossible for Romney to win: That the public learned of Romney’s primary-campaign statement that he wanted to remove disaster relief and all sorts of other federal programs as a federal responsibilities and place the responsibility for them on the states.  The very premise of this surely struck a large percentage of the population as nutty.  This ideology was at the very heart of Romney’s campaign, yet most people didn’t know that until a week before the election. 

The Sandy effect, in other words, had less to do with Obama’s “looking presidential” than Obama’s being presidential, as Saletan notes, but that’s because the public learned then pretty much what the difference was between Obama’s idea of what the federal government, rather than the states, should do.

Another important factor was, as this article and many others point out, Romney’s appalling ad last week in Ohio about Chrysler and Jeep, but I think the ad’s importance went even beyond the obvious problem that it intended to perpetuate a clearly erroneous fact.  Everyone in any way connected to the auto industry knows that Chrysler could not have survived at all without its purchase by Fiat.  Everyone who is currently employed because of Chrysler’s continued existence—including employees of Chrysler’s parts suppliers—knows that there would be no Chrysler, and therefore no Jeep jobs to be sent to China, or not—were it not for the sale of Chrysler to Fiat. 

So the ad, in addition to being flatly false in suggesting that the Jeep factory in Toledo was being shuttered, made no sense.  And it made no sense in a way that everyone recognized made no sense.  The ad, although it ran only in Ohio, got lots of publicity nationwide because the auto executives’ stunned and angry refutation, and Obama’s comments in Toledo about the ad, were big political news around the country.

The only conceivable reason that the Romney campaign gambled by putting out an ad that so obviously could backfire exactly as it did is that they already knew they were losing in Ohio and were willing to try, literally, anything.

These two factors, the hurricane and the Toledo Jeep factory, both of them coming in the closing ten days of the campaign, actually summed up the Romney campaign: mendacity as its prime modus operandi,and Tea Party ideology, both of which depend upon a concerted removal from the fact-based world.  

I suspect that it will be a long time before another Republican presidential nominee tries either of these.  At least until he or she is inaugurated. 

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The Mad Hatter For President! (Pleeease, Obama campaign, do a Halloween Fun-House ad. Pleeeease.)

Have you heard the news? Mitt Romney met with editors of the Des Moines Register yesterday and dropped a bombshell. “Romney promises no abortion legislation,” says the Associated Press. “Romney: No abortion legislation,” says Politico. “Romney says no plans to restrict abortion,” says Agence France-Presse.

Nope. That isn’t what Romney said. This is a man with a long history of using technicalities to disguise his abortion views. You have to read his exact words, with attention to the loopholes. So let’s back up and listen to the full audio of Romney’s remarks.

Saletan goes on to summarize what he brilliantly calls Romney’s Massachusetts-pol-days use of escape-clause language on the abortion issue—how he would calculatingly appear to state a position and then, for the sake of political expedience,  renege and point to some hedge he’d included in the contract—er, the campaign promise. 

Saletan concludes his article by warning, “That’s why you need to spot the weasel words up front. In the end, with Romney, they’re all that matters.”

Well, yes. That’s true on every issue, not just on that one.  We’re dealing here with the Mad Hatter.

One of Romney’s sons, Josh, said yesterday in an interview that Obama had lied about Romney’s positions.  The son was restating, but even more clearly, the father’s debate claim that Obama keeps stubbornly claiming that Romney has proposed things that Romney hasn’t proposed.  Except that Romney in fact has, repeatedly, proposed those things—like cutting taxes (not just tax rate, replaced with the closing of loopholes, but tax payments) for the wealthy by 20%.

This Orwellian strategy of saying that the person who says you said something you said is an “obstinate child” (Josh’s phrase) who is “lying” (Josh’s word) is downright scary.  It’s a direct attempt to pervert democracy. 

The news media really, really, really should point that out.  Cleary.  But the Obama campaign needs to, too.  More effectively than it has in the last week. 

And what better than a Halloween fun house—ghosts suddenly jumping out of nowhere; the floor suddenly dropping out from under you; fake smoke and real mirrors that distort your body shape (or his)—to illustrate the point?

Oh, and Romney’s Halloween costume?  The Mad Hatter, of course.  Romney wearing it to go trick-or-treating while spouting lines written by Lewis Carroll.  And by Josh Romney.  Who’s now made himself fair game.

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Romney Says He’ll Shoot Farm Price Supports, Draught Relief and Veterans’ Benefits, Right Along With Big Bird!

Slate’s William Saletan has a terrific article there today, with a terrific title: Tax Evasion: Romney’s preposterous arguments for not telling you which tax breaks he’d abolish.  And, yes, elsewhere, too, mainstream-media folks are showing some morning-after queasiness about their debate verdict, by getting into the “um … huh?” stuff now.
But in pointing out that Nixon really doesn’t have a plan to end the Vietnam War—er, I mean, that Romney doesn’t really have a plan to balance the budget—they’ve been talking mostly about Romney’s refusal to identify the tax loopholes and deductions he’ll end. They haven’t mentioned much Romney’s other demonstration of, um, willingness to be specific about extremely important budget matters: His statement that he’ll end all programs that, in his opinion, aren’t worth borrowing money from China for. 

Which include Medicaid and Sesame Street.  But what other programs?

The effective end of federally supported Medicaid is obviously too serious a subject to joke about, and it needs much more attention from the news media than it’s getting—as well as from the Obama campaign, which should put up ads featuring nursing home residents and nursing home owners; i.e., small-business owners who are jobs creators, to explain the issue.

But Obama also should say—yes, say—when he’s campaign in, maybe, Iowa, eastern Colorado, Wisconsin and North Carolina that Romney doesn’t think farm subsidies, flood insurance, hurricane and tornado disaster relief are worth borrowing money from China from. 

And when campaigning in North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio and, well, everywhere else, he should say that Romney doesn’t think veterans’ benefits are worth borrowing money for China for.  And that that might make it harder to recruit those additional 100,000 people into the armed services that he says he wants to add, although of course he might just have a military draft in mind.  You never know; he’s not all that keen on revealing specifics, after all.  (Does Romney ever think beyond the end of whatever sentence he’s mouthing at the  moment?)

Seriously. The only way to start to nail down Romney’s plans is to start actually filling in his blanks.  Say, outright, that Romney plans to end farm price supports, drought relief, disaster relief and veteran’s benefits.  Romney then will have to say that he has no such plans.  Great! Then say that Romney plans to shut down the FDA and the National Transportation Safety Board; a few hundred deaths from dangerous medications and airplane crashes each year aren’t worth borrowing money from China to prevent.  Not when you have more important needs, such as incessantly spiraling tax cuts for the wealthy. 

Which, despite his Wednesday protestations, he does think are worth borrowing money from China for.

Or here’s another idea: Let’s develop a contest in which the winner accurately predicts Romney’s selections for Programs Worth Borrowing From China For.  And a bonus contest in which the winner correctly calls the tax loopholes and deductions eliminated in Romney’s tax-code revision plan.

The winners will be announced on the same day as the announcement of the Publishers Clearinghouse winner for 2015. The prize?  We can have another contest to guess that.

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Is Romney a Habitual Liar? Or Is He Instead Something Even More Dangerous: God-Awful Stupid? [Updated]

At his press conference, Romney accused Obama of “having that embassy reiterate a statement effectively apologizing for the right of free speech.” Romney claimed that the embassy had said, in his paraphrase, “We stand by our comments that suggest that there’s something wrong with the right of free speech.” This, too, was a Romney lie. The embassy had declared five times in writing that free speech was a universal right.

What made Romney’s statement and press conference disturbing, however, was his repeated use of the words sympathize and apology to conflate three issues the Cairo embassy had carefully separated: bigotry, free speech, and violence. The embassy had stipulated that expressions of bigotry, while wrong, were protected by freedom of speech and didn’t warrant retaliatory violence. Romney, by accusing the embassy of “sympathizing with those who had breached” the compound, equated moral criticism of the Mohammed movie with support for violence. In so doing, Romney embraced the illiberal Islamist mindset that led to the embassy invasion: To declare a movie offensive is to authorize its suppression.

“The Embassy of the United States issued what appeared to be an apology for American principles,” Romney asserted at the press conference. “It’s a terrible course for America to stand in apology for our values. … An apology for America’s values is never the right course.” Lest anyone miss his buzzwords, Romney called the embassy’s comments “a disgraceful statement on the part of our administration to apologize for American values.”

What, exactly, does Romney mean by “American values”? The embassy never apologized for free speech or diplomatic sovereignty. The only American offense it criticized was the movie’s “bigotry” and “efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims.” Does Romney regard this criticism as an “apology for American values”? Is bigotry an American value? Is it weak or un-American to repudiate slurs against Muslims?

I don’t know where you were born, Mr. Romney (just kidding!), but where I come from, there’s nothing more American than recognizing the idiocy of a man’s views and, at the same time, his right to express them. If you can’t tell the difference between those two things, the main threat to our values right now isn’t President Obama, the Egyptians, the Libyans, or our diplomats in Cairo. It’s you.

— William Saletan, Slate, today

The political punditry and news media is finally catching on that Romney’s bizarre modus operandi of habitually mischaracterizing the meanings of basic statements of others (mainly, of course, of Obama) pose the question: Is Romney a habitual liar, or is he instead so dumbfoundingly stupid that he regularly misunderstands even completely clear statements and the definitions of common English-language words, and that he habitually conflates separate concepts and therefore misinterprets even the clearest of statements or comments?

I’ve hoped for a long time that the Obama campaign would pretend to take Romney at his word: Rather than suggest that Romney’s a habitual liar; just point out that, taking him at his word, he’s profoundly, dangerously stupid.

I mean … good grace.

I read somewhere last night—I can’t remember where—that members of Romney’s campaign team told reporters that he was genuinely outraged on Tuesday night by the Cairo embassy’s criticism of “efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims,” and that it was phrase “hurt the religious feelings” that really set him off.

This focus by Romney on a single word or short phrase, removed from its context and redefined—this treatment by Romney of serious issues as cutesy word play—has been a real hallmark of Romney’s campaign throughout.  Hopefully, Obama and the news media will now point out truly dangerous it would be to have a president who either can’t understand and accurately interpret basic words, statements and concepts. Leave it up to Romney to protest that, no, he’s not really that dumb; he’s just playing games about the most serious of matters, presuming that a majority of voters won’t notice. 

The most important aspect of what has transpired in the last two days is that now a majority of voters are likely to notice.

I’m pretty sure that the game’s over, and that Romney lost.

—–

UPDATE: Just to clarify, I want to repost here a comment I made in the Comments thread in response to reader PJR about whether Romney is a liar or instead just stupid.  I wrote:

Romney’s a liar, PJR. A casual, habitual liar.  That’s his modus operandi; it’s what he thinks gets him the love of the Tea Party folks—his bald willingness to regularly lie as a matter of campaign strategy.

My point, though, is to encourage Obama and the media to decide to take Romney at his word—that he’s not lying; he’s just stating things as he understands them.  Which, if so, is a HUGE problem. Even George Bush wasn’t as jaw-droppingly stupid and routinely confused about the meaning of words and statements as Romney either is or feigns. 

The bottom line, I think, is that Romney is a liar and is also too stupid to recognize that eventually people were going to figure that out.

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