WASHINGTON – Mitt Romney vs Barack Obama is not exactly Jefferson-Adams or
No Harry Truman or Bill Clinton here, let alone FDR or
Reagan. Indeed, it’s arguable that neither party is fielding its strongest
candidate. Hillary Clinton would run far better than Obama. True, her
secretaryship of state may not remotely qualify as Kissingerian or Achesonian,
but she’s not Obama. She carries none of his economic baggage.
unsullied by the last three and a half years.
Similarly, the Republican
bench had several candidates stronger than Romney, but they chose not to run.
Indeed, one measure of the weakness of the two finalists is this: The more each
disappears from view, the better he fares. Obama prospered when he was below
radar during the Republican primaries. Now that they’re over and he’s back out
front, his fortunes have receded.
He is constantly on the campaign trail.
His frantic fund-raising – 160 events to date – alternates with swing-state
rallies where the long-gone charisma of 2008 has been replaced by systematic
special-interest pandering, from cut-rate loans for indentured students to free
contraceptives for women (the denial of which constitutes a “war” on
Then came the rush of bad news: terrible May unemployment numbers,
a crushing Democratic defeat in Wisconsin, and that curious revolt of the
surrogates, as Bill Clinton, Deval Patrick and Cory Booker – all dispatched to
promote Obama – ended up contradicting, undermining or deploring Obama’s
anti-business attacks on Romney.
Obama’s instinctive response? Get back
out on the air. Call an impromptu Friday news conference.
And proceed to
commit the gaffe of the year: “The private sector is doing fine.”
didn’t just expose Obama to precisely the out-of-touchness charge he is trying
to hang on Romney. It betrayed his core political philosophy.
trying to attribute high unemployment to a paucity of government workers and to
suggest that the solution was to pad the public rolls. In doing so, though, he
fatally undid his many previous protestations of being a fiscally prudent
He thus positioned himself as, once again, the
big-government liberal of 2009, convinced that what the ailing economy needs is
yet another bout of government expansion. A serious political misstep,
considering the fate of the last stimulus: the weakest recovery since the Great
Depression with private sector growth a minuscule 1.2 percent.
not the end of the tribulations that provoked a front-page Washington Post story
beginning: “Is it time for Democrats to panic?” The sleeper issue is the cascade
of White House leaks that have exposed significant details of the cyberattacks
on Iran, the drone war against al-Qaida, the double-agent in Yemen and the
Osama bin Laden raid and its aftermath.
This is not leak-business as
usual. “I have never seen it worse,” said Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, 11
years on the Intelligence Committee.
These revelations, clearly meant to
make Obama look the heroic warrior, could prove highly toxic if current
investigations bear out Sen. John McCain’s charges of leaks tolerated, if not
encouraged, by a campaigning president placing his own image above the nation’s
security. After all, Feinstein herself stated that these exposures were
endangering American lives, weakening US security and poisoning relations with
other intelligence services.
Quite an indictment. Where it goes, no one
knows. Much will hinge on whether Eric Holder’s Justice Department will stifle
the investigation he has now handed over to two in-house prosecutors.
whether Republicans and principled Democrats will insist on a genuinely
Nonetheless, there is nothing inexorable about the
current Obama slide. The race remains 50-50.
after a primary campaign that blew the political equivalent of a seven-run lead
has now given way to Democratic demoralization at the squandering of their
subsequent post-primary advantage.
What remains is a solid, stolid,
gaffe-prone challenger for whom conservatism is a second language versus an
incumbent with a record he cannot run on and signature policies – Obamacare, the
stimulus, cap-and-trade – he dare hardly mention.
A quite dispiriting
spectacle. And more than a bit confusing. Why, just this week the estimable Jeb
Bush averred that the Republican Party had become so rigidly right-wing that
today it couldn’t even nominate Ronald Reagan.
Huh? It just nominated
Mitt Romney who lives a good 14 nautical miles to the left of Ronald
Goodness. Four more months of this campaign and we will all be
Charles Krauthammer’s email address is
firstname.lastname@example.org.(c) 2012, The Washington Post Writers Group