Twenty years ago this past May, while campaigning in California, the Sarah Palin of the 1980’s… Vice President Dan Quayle… publicly humiliated himself once again by criticizing TV’s “Murphy Brown” for “having a child out of wedlock.” The man was already a laughing-stock for his endless list of gaffes (most notably “correcting” a Spelling-Bee champion for “misspelling” the word “potato” by insisting he return to the blackboard and tack on the missing “e” to the end), and now, here he was in a battle of wits with a fictional TV character… and losing. But then something interesting happened. Rather than be humiliated over this latest Quayle blooper in a campaign year, the GOP proudly inserted Quayle’s defense of “Family Values” into the Party Platform at their convention that year and made “traditional marriage” integral to their campaign. That was probably the first example I can think of of the GOP turning a major weakness into an “advantage”. And in fact, twenty years on, Republicans are still defending Quayle’s inability to separate fact from fiction as nothing short of visionary. And now it is Mitt Romney’s turn to receive (what I have proudly dubbed) “The Full Quayle”.
Last week, DURING the siege on the American Embassy in Benghazi, Libya, Romney rushed to the microphones to criticize President Obama for a statement released by that same American embassy (not Obama) PRIOR to the attack, disavowing the anti-Muslim video released by an anti-Muslim hate group in the U.S.. Romney accused the president of “sympathizing with the people who attacked [the embassy]” and murdered an American Ambassador. Of course, President Obama never “sympathized” with the people that murdered American citizens, nor did he not fail to “defend American principles”. (I’m assuming “freedom of speech”? Does Romney think the president should have defended the video?) Romney himself expressed the same “sympathies” as Obama in his own response to the riots.
Of course, once the facts came out, Governor Romney was roundly criticized by both the Left AND the Right for “jumping the gun” and for failing the “politics stop at the waters’ edge” test. Add this to his gaffe-a-thon world tour during the Olympics where Romney couldn’t help but insult the nations he visited, and is it any wonder President Obama now leads Gov. Romney by double-digits on “Foreign Policy”?
So what do you do when you make a huge gaffe just seven weeks before an election you’ve never led by more than two-points and now trail by almost four? You go to the Rove playbook and try to turn your opponents’ greatest strength into their greatest weakness (ala “War Hero John Kerry” vs. “Draft dodger George Bush”).
Romney surrogates have spent the last few days trying to claim, “Governor Romney was right” about the Obama Administration’s response to the attacks, even though the “response” Romney criticized was not actually released by the White House, nor was it a “response” at all, but a prophylactic message to discourage violence. Fox “news” hit a new low when they posted the following wildly misleading headline on their website:
The back story: Libyan President Mohamed Magarief publicly condemned the attacks and led a police sweep that has to-date led to the arrest of 50 men connected to the deadly assault on the American Embassy, for which President Obama’s called to express thanks. But if you’re the typical low-information Obama-hating Fox viewer that only reads headlines and doesn’t bother clicking the link to read further because the headline “confirms” everything you already believe about our “Kenyan-Muslim-Terrorists-sympathizing president”, that headline already served its purpose.
Back in college, on a lark, I purchased a copy of the “Weekly World News” (ala “batboy” fame) because a story on the cover claimed “Pit bull Eats Mobile Home” (pitbull attacks were everywhere in the news at the time), only to learn inside that the dog simply chewed through the wall to get to a chihuahua in heat. I note this only because I can no longer tell the difference between Fox “news” and a supermarket tabloid… except maybe that tabloids have higher standards when it comes to the truth. (And is it just me, or does Paul Ryan resemble “Batboy”?)
As NBC’s ubiquitous warzone reporter Richard Engle pointed out several times last week, the violent protests in these cities across the Middle East are surprisingly confined to the area right around the embassies… and not just AMERICAN embassies. Violent mobs have also attacked the British and German embassies as well… who had NOTHING to do with the video and released no such “sympathetic statements” to protesters. They’re just seen as “pro-Western” and therefore “anti-Muslim”. Meanwhile, just a few blocks away from these protests, life continues as normal, with many people in the region just wishing the whole mess would just go away. Believe it our not, ABC’s George Will got this one right yesterday when he said that “the video is being used as a pretext for violence, and if it hadn’t of been the video, it would of been something else.” I think he actually got one right there. And evidence that the deadly embassy attack may of had nothing to with the video continues to grow (it bears pointing out that these anti-video riots are NOT taking place in Afghanistan.)
But Team Romney and his supporters are starting to see the writing on the wall, and have clearly decided this is Mitt’s “Murphy Brown” moment. To hear them tell it, the Middle East is awash in violence, and President Obama has become “Jimmy Carter redux”. But that’s nothing new. Back during the 2008 campaign, Fox-regular Bill Kristol was ALREADY comparing Obama to Jimmy Carter in a video I uploaded to our YouTube archive years ago.
The reality is (of course) devastating to Republicans. If nothing else, President Bush’s move to “democratize the Middle East” (2005 pdf) and paint Iraq as “the first domino” in what they believed would lead to surrounding Muslim nations copying the success of a democratic Iraq, in fact “uncorked the bottle” of anti-U.S. rage over prolonged war & military occupation by the U.S. in the Middle East. America’s standing in the Middle East had never been lower.
The global economic collapse President Bush unleashed on the planet hit the Middle East especially hard. In Tunisia, a man protesting economic hardship and violence against him by his government doused himself in gasoline and set himself on fire in protest. This led to the protests that toppled the Tunisian government, which spread to Egypt protesting similar mistreatment by their own government. As the protests spread, they were dubbed “The Arab Spring”, and neocons quickly tried to give President Bush credit for the “spread of democracy” he predicted would take place as they witnessed the flowering of Iraq (the fact that people were protesting in Iraq (pdf) as well was ignored).
While the Neocons were quick to take credit for “The Arab Spring”, now that those same people are protesting the U.S., suddenly it has become “Obama’s Arab Autumn” (cited during Fox “news” Sunday yesterday). Bush “uncorked the bottle”, but all they found inside were bitter grapes.
They so desperately want this to be Carter/Reagan again. But Obama is not Jimmy Carter, this election is not 1980, and Mitt Romney is definitely not Ronald Reagan. Word to the wise though: All it would take is for Republican governors to go on a Public Sector firing binge in September & October to negate any Private Sector employment gains, and a “hostage situation” in an American embassy, to put the outcome of this election back in the “toss-up” column.
The REAL trick will be stopping the governor from pulling another Quaylism before the election.
(Note: Issues with the videos on our new “Must See Videos” page has been corrected, so if you were experiencing problems before, please try again now. Sorry for any confusion. – Mugsy)
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