By Bill Press
Tribune Media Services
As consumers, we know our rights, one of the most important of which is the right to return and exchange. Whether you’re buying a new flat-screen TV from Best Buy, the new iPhone from Apple, or Daniel Silva’s latest spy thriller from Amazon, if you’re not happy with your purchase you can always take it back and exchange it.
More and more Republicans today are wishing the same policy applied to political candidates. Both publicly and privately they admit they’d like to trade Mitt Romney in for somebody who could win.
After all, given the sluggish state of the economy and the most recent dismal job numbers, this should be a “gimme” election for Romney. No president since FDR has won re-election with an economy this bad. Romney should be well ahead in the polls by now.
But, even given ideal conditions, Romney can’t close the deal. After a readily forgettable convention, he’s fallen behind in the national polls. He lags in most of the swing states. His campaign has given up on Pennsylvania and Michigan. Without a clear campaign strategy, he just seems to lurch from one faux pas to the next. And it’s driving conservatives, so desperate to get rid of Obama, crazy.
“If you can’t beat Barack Obama with this record, then shut down the party,” conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham told Republicans. “Shut it down. Start new, with new people.” Reacting to Romney’s failure to capitalize on those disappointing job numbers, columnist George Will piled on: “If the Republican Party cannot win in this environment, it has to get out of politics and find another business.” Even Rush Limbaugh had to admit, “Romney is not the perfect candidate.” But that’s OK, Rush insisted, because Republicans are voting against Obama, and not for Romney. “He may as well be Elmer Fudd as far as we’re concerned.” It’s not a good sign when the leader of the Republican Party compares his party’s presidential candidate to Elmer Fudd.
Romney’s not even talking about jobs, anymore. Ever since he named extreme social conservative Paul Ryan as his running mate, he and Ryan, instead, have been talking about everything but jobs: abortion, rape, contraception, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Which, again, drives conservative pundits nuts. They know Republicans can’t win on Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.
To make matters worse, Romney makes an even bigger fool of himself whenever he ventures into foreign policy. Any suspicion that Romney might be ready to assume the awesome responsibility of leader of the free world vanished this week as soon as he opened his mouth about Libya.
Romney’s first mistake was to speak too soon, without knowing the facts. When word broke of protests outside American embassies in Egypt and Libya, Romney — based on a written statement by our embassy in Cairo — accused President Obama of siding with terrorists. Even though that statement was released before peaceful protests turned into violence. And even though all the statement did was condemn makers of the inflammatory anti-Muslim video which triggered the protests.
His second mistake — after news broke that Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in what appears to be a deliberately-planned terrorist attack against the United States — was not to apologize, but to double-down and again accuse the president of sending “mixed messages” about whose side he was really on.
If that’s not treason, I don’t know what is. By the way, I was in the Rose Garden when President Obama spoke on Libya. He strongly condemned the killings and vowed to bring those responsible to justice. And when Obama vows to track you down and kill you, that’s no mixed message. He means what he says. Ask Osama bin Laden.
Once again, Romney’s ham-handed response frustrated and angered fellow Republicans. Steve Schmidt, senior adviser to John McCain in 2008, said Romney’s comments were a “big mistake and the decision to double down on them was an even bigger mistake.” He and others know what Mitt Romney does not: When America is under attack, it’s time for all Americans to pull together in sorrow, and anger, and determination. It’s no time for cheap, partisan, political attacks.
Every day, it looks more and more like Rick Santorum was right, after all. He said it about Mitt Romney last March: “He is the worst Republican in the country to put up against Barack Obama.”
© 2012 Tribune Media Services, Inc.