As you probably know by now, Mitt Romney failed in his Republican convention speech to devote even a single syllable to the fighting American men and women in harm’s way. I’m highlighting his inexplicable omission for one simple reason:
If a Democratic nominee ever committed such an error, Karl Rove and his gut-punching apparatchiks would wave the flag and ride that incident all the way to election day.
Just imagine how the GOP would howl in orchestrated outrage if a Democratic nominee subsequently sought to defend himself by insisting that the U.S. troops aren’t worthy of mention. The GOP ad copy would write itself. The viral email traffic would be busier than the air space over O’Hare.
And that’s why Romney’s error of omission – and his inept defense last Friday on Fox News – is so important.
Host Bret Baier broached the topic: “Do you regret opening up this line of (Democratic) attack, now a recurring attack, by leaving out (the troops) in the speech?”
Romney’s reply: “I only regret you repeating it day in and day out. Because when you give a speech, you don’t give a laundry list. You talk about the things that you think are important.”
He went on to talk up his plans to boost the military budget, but what he initially said was sufficient to boggle the mind. The jury is still out on whether Romney is the worst candidate-communicator in modern memory – Bob Dole in 1996 may still own the prize – but just consider the thrust of those quoted words:
1. The troops fighting for America are just another item on a laundry list.
2. Lauding the troops who are risking their lives is not sufficiently important.
3. He resents being asked about it in the first place.
Romney undoubtedly cares about the troops (let’s grant him that). But, politically speaking, an aspiring commander-in-chief can ill afford to ignore them on his big night – 30 million people were watching – and then subsequently consign them to a “laundry list.” Imagine the Republican outrage if candidate Obama had ever behaved that way in 2008. Heck, the conservative haters tried to take him down for not wearing a flag pin, and for supposedly “palling around with terrorists.”
The bottom line is, Romney and his tin-eared speechwriters gave the Democrats an enormous opening; and at last week’s convention, the Democrats happily drove through it in a fleet of armored vehicles. But it was Fox News, attuned as always to patriotic iconography, that asked Romney the big question last Friday – after all, if a Democratic nominee had ever ignored the troops, Fox would flog it for months – and it was this furious commentary, posted after the convention address, that really put the hit on Mitt:
“In his speech accepting his party’s nomination to be commander-in-chief, Mitt Romney said not a word about the war in Afghanistan. Nor did he utter a word of appreciation to the troops fighting there, or to those who have fought there. Nor for that matter were there thanks for those who fought in Iraq, another conflict that went unmentioned. Leave aside the question of the political wisdom of Romney’s silence . . . What about the civic propriety of a presidential nominee failing even to mention, in his acceptance speech, a war we’re fighting and our young men and women who are fighting it? Has it ever happened that we’ve been at war and a presidential nominee has ignored, in this kind of major and formal speech, the war and our warriors?”
So wrote Bill Kristol, the frequently fact-challenged keeper of the militarist conservative flame. Kristol would be the first to denounce any Democrat who implicitly dissed the troops, and, rest assured, he’d consider such an omission to be something far worse than a breach of “civic propriety.” But his willingness to rip into Romney, a mere two hours after the guy’s big speech, is fresh evidence that the conservative base remains less than fully enthused about the GOP nominee. With just 57 days left on the clock, and the polls (even GOP-friendly Rasmussen) showing a pro-Obama post-convention bounce, Romney may want to add that particular item to his laundry list.
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