The latest push by Mitt Romney’s supporters to show him being vindicated over the last year really just shows what was wrong with his campaign in the first place.
A BuzzFeed article by McKay Coppins looking back on Mitt Romney’s ill-fated campaign for the presidency has caused quite a stir this week. The article quotes of number of high level backers and confidants of the former Massachusetts governor claiming that events since the 2012 election have vindicated Romney’s once controversial and mocked stances. As Romney’s former finance director Spencer Zwick put it, “Mitt was actually right when he talked about Russia, and he was actually right when he talked about how hard it was going to be to implement Obamacare, and he was actually right when he talked about the economy.” But instead of proving that Romney was right, the article really just continues to illustrate some of Romney’s biggest political flaws and how poorly run his campaign really was.
One of Romney’s biggest flaws was his inability to articulate specific policies to address specific problems in America’s foreign or domestic policy. A classic example was his continual announcements that Obama’s foreign policy was “unraveling” often “right before our eyes.” Now what this means might be obvious to those inside the conservative information feedback loop, but to the rest of us it doesn’t seem to mean much of anything. Does this mean Al Qaeda is a bigger threat than in 2007? That Egypt would be a perfect democracy if McCain was president? That Canada is about to invade? I never was able to puzzle it out, and I suspect that while a lot of voters may have been open to specific attacks about Obama’s foreign policy record, they didn’t respond well to vague platitudes.
This type of vague criticism was echoed in the BuzzFeed piece by people like Robert O’Brien one of Romney’s foreign policy advisers, “Well guess what. With all of these foreign policy initiatives — Syria, Iran, [Edward] Snowden — who’s out there causing problems for America? It’s Putin and the Russians.” Leaving aside whether or not national security leaks or the Syrian Civil War was “caused” by “Putin and the Russians” these sorts of points fall right back into the vagueness problem that trouble Romney during the campaign. If Russia really is the problem what would Romney do about it? Restart the Cold War? Launch another grain embargo? Call them a “New Evil Empire?” Again, your guess is as good as mind.
A number of observers have taken to calling this vagueness as being part of a “policy gap” that has opened up recently between democratic and republican politicians. Simply put, the GOP has recently taken to focusing more on symbolic gestures than on advancing substantive conservative policy solutions to national problems. A classic example of this would be voting in the House of Representatives 40 times to repeal Obamacare while never coming up with an alternative health care proposal. This type of style over substance was a hallmark of Romney’s campaign, especially when it came to foreign policy, and the fact that his advisers’ criticism still haven’t gotten past this shows how deep rooted this problem really was for Romney.
In addition to lacking substance, members of the Romney clique then go on to start complain about Obama’s campaign engaging in, well politics. A huge beef they still have is how the media treated the infamous 2008 New York Times op-ed written by Romney where he called for American auto companies to be sent through managed bankruptcy rather than rescued by the federal government, as they ultimately and successfully were. Romney’s old campaign spokesman Ryan Williams complained that, “The president took the title of that op-ed, which of course was written by editors of the New York Times, and used it to say Gov. Romney was being insensitive about his own home city.” I suppose this is technically correct, but it is also completely irrelevant. Of course the president seized on this example and didn’t take the time to point out who wrote the headline. Assuming that the Obama campaign or the media would bend over backwards to treat the headline in some sort of “fair and balanced” way betrays a shockingly high level of political incompetence when it comes to Romney’s high level advisers.
Mitt Romney lost the presidential election of 2012 for many reasons. But while a greatest hits list of Romney screw ups could go on for pages, media bias and a poor timing of events were not among them. However, a campaign high command completely out of touch with reality and the country they sought to govern should certainly be among the top ten.
Photo by Charles Dharapak/AP