The Gaffes That Weren't


This should not have been a week of campaign politics.

Others at New Matilda have more insightful things to write about the attacks on American embassies across the Middle East than me. Fact is, I should never have had to mention it at all, had Romney stuck to the traditional gameplan of not using such events to make a political point. But he did. And here we are.

But will Romney actually lose any voters as a result of speaking out? This reporter thinks not. Anyone who would be offended by this kind of thing would never have voted for him anyway. Political strategists still only get one vote.

Will he gain any? This reporter thinks so. Romney’s response to the attacks was a little more nuanced than "this is that guy’s fault", and it tied in rather well with a lot of Americans’ anxieties about Obama: that he belongs to the "blame America first" school of thought, that he apologises for his country rather than defending it. Romney has placed himself as the alternative, which may be enough to encourage some conservatives to bother leaving the house in November and vote for him.

Solemn respectful silence is really something of a gentlemen’s agreement rather than tried and true political strategy. There is potential political gain from any major news event, if you manage it properly. Most just steer clear of it because the political risks are too great and because it is more than a tad unseemly.

But when an attack is as undeniably political as this, do we still hold to that same rule? And if Romney really does believe that Obama’s actions are damaging the nation, is he morally required to stay quiet just because an election is weeks away?

The news media were all over Romney for speaking up too soon. Search "Romney middle east" on Google and the fourth highest suggested search is "Romney middle east gaffe". Countless reports cited (mostly unidentified) Republican sources decrying the remarks.

To this end, I refer you to Rick Santorum’s revealing comments at something called the Values Voters Summit on Saturday: "We will never have the media on our side, ever, in this country. We will never have the elite, smart people on our side".

One other consideration: Romney is losing. Not by much, the polls only have him behind Obama by a point or two, but he is losing. And he is losing in key swing states like Ohio.

This may be a desperate roll of the dice trying to fire up a stagnant campaign, but it’s a craven, calculated roll if Romney doesn’t really believe in what he’s saying.

Meanwhile, in the Midwest
I spent much of last week in Chicago, usually a bastion of support for homegrown hero Barack Obama. I was attending a conference of aluminum traders but didn’t encounter a single supporter of the president.

It was a little surprising. The survival of the auto industry was good for them, as a great proportion of aluminum ends up in news cars. So too, the Obama administration’s new fuel economy standards means that even more aluminum will be going into new cars at the expense of heavier metals like steel.

But they see Romney as more pro-business, and they are businessmen. End of story.

The metals industry is largely based in red states in the south and Midwest, so social factors have a bearing too. One man I spoke to objected primarily to "Obamacare" — he sees it as a program designed to take money from hard-working Americans and give it to people looking for handouts.

I couldn’t help but be amused by how familiar it sounded. It’s 2012, Iran might be going nuclear, gay citizens are pushing for equal rights, public gun violence is peaking and the national deficit is spiralling out of control. But votes still get decided by the same old issues.

Middle class income
Again, the Romney gaffe that wasn’t really a gaffe.

"No one can say my plan is going to raise taxes on middle-income people, because principle number one is (to) keep the burden down on middle-income taxpayers," Romney told the host of Good Morning America on Friday.

"Is $100,000 middle income?" the host asked.

"No, middle income is $200,000 to $250,000 and less," Romney responded.

While the Romney campaign later claimed that the candidate was referencing household income, not individual income, it could have been another damaging blow to Romney’s "I understand your struggles, I used to eat dinner off an ironing board" pitch.

But as the AP also reported: "Obama also has set his definition for ‘middle class’ as families with income of up to $250,000 a year."

Ah, the agony of choice…

A foreigner’s impression
And this time it’s not even mine.

Campaign video of the week
This week’s missive was a little heavy, so here’s a little light relief.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.