Monday, August 30, 2004

ROMNEY BEHAVES HIMSELF. Give Mitt Romney this much: at least you can take him out in public. Our silky-smooth governor always says exactly what he wants to say, and no more. And he would never say anything that would call into question his nice-guy reputation. Of course, there are those of us who happen to think that waging war on poor families and gay couples isn't something that a nice guy would do, but I'm talking about manners here, not substance.

Anyway, I was watching this morning's Fox & Friends a little while ago - yes, I am spending a great deal of time with the Fox News Channel, for reasons that will become evident later this week - when on came Romney for some chit-chat. It wasn't long before E.D. Hill and boys were baiting Romney with their favorite subject: the phony Swifties, whose lies about John Kerry's military service are being kept alive at this point solely by right-wing talk radio, the Internet, and the Fox News Channel. (That is to say, by no one who has actually done any reporting on the matter.)

Romney started off shakily, saying that the whole thing was a "mistake ... on both sides of the aisle," adding that Kerry "really brought on a lot of this on himself" by basing so much of his campaign on his record as a Vietnam War veteran.

Really, Governor? Has Kerry made too much of his military service? Probably, at least so far as it has kept him from talking more specifically about what kind of a president he would be. Does that mean it's his fault that he's been subjected to weeks of lies about the medals he won and circumstances under which he won them? Er, isn't the answer to that obvious?

But then Romney settled down and said:

But fundamentally John Kerry served his country with honor and pride. He's heroic for having fought there. Anybody who found themselves under enemy fire, in harm's way, is someone whom I respect. And I think the people who are attacking him for his Vietnam service are making a mistake. I think it's wrong. I wish they wouldn't do so. I don't know what it's going to do politically.

Not bad - similar to the position that George W. Bush has taken, only a bit more fleshed-out and coherent.

Naturally, Romney also attacked Kerry for having "not followed the example of Bob Dole" in resigning from the Senate (Kerry instead appears to have followed the example of Bush, who did not resign as governor of Texas in 2000), and for wanting to "go back to the politics of weakness and uncertainty and vacillation." But obviously that's well within the bounds of proper political discourse.

What's interesting about this - and my apologies for taking so long to get to the point - is how the Republicans are reaping the benefit of having it both ways with regard to the lying Swifties. Their vicious accusations - which have been almost entirely discredited - have presumably had a lot to do with Kerry's recent drop in the polls. Meanwhile, Republicans such as Bush and Romney take the high road.

You could give credit to Romney for good manners. In fact, though, whether he knows it or not, he's playing a role that only helps to further the Swifties' ongoing assault on Kerry. After all, sliming is a lot less effective if it ends up hitting the intended beneficiaries in the face. By denouncing that which is helping them, Bush and Romney are playing a very old game.

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