One of the more contentious political episodes of the past week has been an ad run by a pro-Obama PAC making the claim that as CEO of Bain Capital, Mitt Romney killed a man’s wife.
Of course, the ad doesn’t quite say that. The explicit point of the ad is to show that Romney was a heartless corporate vulture. The implicit point, however, was to implicate Romney in the death of a man’s wife because when Bain closed a steel plant, the man lost his health insurance. His wife began to feel ill, but said nothing because they wouldn’t be able to pay the bills without insurance, and by the time she finally went to a doctor she had stage four cancer.
But Mitt Romney no more caused the death of this man’s wife than someone causes an auto accident because they were late leaving the house and got rear-ended going through a particular intersection five minutes later than they otherwise would have.
Regardless, Romney spokesperson Andrea Saul added to the obtuseness of the whole Romney campaign by saying, “Well, if people had been in Massachusetts they would have had health care.”
If Mitt Romney was campaigning for the good of his country and to change the status quo this would be a golden opportunity to change the narrative from Romney as a heartless corporate vulture to Obama as a hypocrite.
But as The Atlantic‘s Conor Friedersdorf mentions, it’s really inexplicable for Obama supporters to harangue anyone for being responsible for another’s death:
“It would be nice if Obama defenders could respond that he’s done everything in his power to minimize civilian casualties, but that isn’t true. Drones that fire missiles, then sometimes fire again when rescuers rush to the scene, or when funerals are held, does not minimize civilian casualties. When a drone program defines ‘all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent,’ the effect is not to minimize civilian casualties, but to maximize the cover the United States has to kill people without raising alarm from outside observers.
Do Obama supporters who cheered this anti-Romney ad understand the sort of commercial that grieving family members of this 16-year-old American boy killed in a CIA drone strike could make?”
The “16-year-old American boy,” of course, was the son of Anwar al-Awlaki, the American citizen informally accused of conspiring with Al Qaeda in Yemen. Neither were formally charged with anything, but both were killed in independent drone strikes.
Unfortunately, the Romney campaign never brought up this point. Instead, their initial recourse was not to carefully condemn the implicit message, but point out the benefits of RomneyCare! However one might interpret Romney’s time at Bain, it is indisputable that President Obama has done more to actually kill people through his executive orders and use of drones, a power that includes the president’s assumed right to kill anyone, even an American citizen, anywhere in the world, without charges or trial.
If the Romney campaign’s befuddled reaction was simple incompetence that would be one thing. But the real reason they’ve made no issue of this is because Romney has made no indication he would rebuff this power. Rather, when the opportunity came up in a Republican debate months ago, Romney suddenly gave Obama the benefit of the doubt saying, “I don’t believe he’s going to abuse” the power to assassinate.
The campaign’s reluctance to raise this issue is not only fecklessness, but a sign that they have nothing better to offer. In other words, the Romney campaign’s message to voters is the Obama Administration has failed, but Romney could do a better job executing the exact same agenda.