Column: Romney campaign needs to ‘go big’

September 29, 2012


— In mid-September 2008, Lehman Brothers collapsed and the bottom fell out of the financial system. Barack Obama handled it coolly. John McCain did not. Obama won the presidency. (Given the country’s condition, he would have won anyway. But this sealed it.)

Four years later, mid-September 2012, the U.S. mission in Benghazi went up in flames, as did Obama’s entire Middle East policy of apology and accommodation. Obama once again played it cool, effectively ignoring the attack and the region-wide American humiliation. “Bumps in the road,” he said. Nodding tamely were the mainstream media, who would have rained a week of vitriol on Mitt Romney had he so casually dismissed the murder of a U.S. ambassador, the raising of the black Salafist flag over four U.S. embassies and the epidemic of virulent anti-American demonstrations from Tunisia to Sri Lanka to Indonesia.

Obama seems not even to understand what happened. He responded with a groveling address to the U.N. General Assembly that contained no less than six denunciations of a crackpot video, while offering cringe-worthy platitudes about the need for governments to live up to the ideals of the U.N.

The U.N. being an institution of surpassing cynicism and mendacity, the speech was so naive it would have made a fine middle-school commencement address. Instead, it was a plaintive plea by the world’s alleged superpower to be treated nicely by a roomful of the most corrupt, repressive, tin-pot regimes on earth.

Yet Romney totally fumbled away the opportunity. Here was a chance to make the straightforward case about where Obama’s feckless approach to the region’s tyrants has brought us, connecting the dots of the disparate attacks as a natural response of the more virulent Islamist elements to a once-hegemonic power in retreat. Instead, Romney did two things:

He issued a two-sentence critique of the initial statement issued by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo on the day the mob attacked. The critique was not only correct but vindicated when the State Department disavowed the embassy statement. However, because the critique was not framed within a larger argument about the misdirection of U.S. Middle East policy, it could be — and was — characterized as a partisan attack on the nation’s leader at a moment of national crisis.

Two weeks later at the Clinton Global Initiative, Romney did make a foreign-policy address. Here was his opportunity. What did he highlight? Reforming foreign aid.

Yes, reforming foreign aid! A worthy topic for a chin-pulling joint luncheon of the League of Women Voters and the Council on Foreign Relations. But as the core of a challenger’s major foreign-policy address amid a Lehman-like collapse of the Obama Doctrine? It makes you think how far ahead Romney would be if he were actually running a campaign. His unwillingness to go big, to go for the larger argument, is simply astonishing.

For six months, he’s been matching Obama small ball for small ball. A hit-and-run critique here, a slogan-of-the-week there. His only momentum came when he chose Paul Ryan and seemed ready to engage on the big stuff: Medicare, entitlements, tax reform, national solvency, a restructured welfare state. Yet he has since retreated to the small and safe.

When you’re behind, however, safe is fatal. Even his counterpunching has gone miniature. Obama has successfully painted Romney as an out of touch, unfeeling plutocrat whose only interest is to cut taxes for the rich. Romney has complained in interviews that it’s not true. He has proposed cutting tax rates, while pledging that the share of the tax burden paid by the rich remains unchanged (by “broadening the base” as in the wildly successful, revenue-neutral Reagan-O’Neill tax reform of 1986).

But how many people know this? Where is the speech that hammers home precisely that point, advocates a reformed tax code that accelerates growth without letting the rich off the hook, and gives lie to the Obama demagoguery about dismantling the social safety net in order to enrich the rich?

Romney has accumulated tons of cash for 30-second ads. But unless they’re placed on the scaffolding of serious speeches making the larger argument, they will be treated as nothing more than tit for tat.

Make the case. Go large. About a foreign policy in ruins. About an archaic, 20th-century welfare state model that guarantees 21st-century insolvency. And about an alternate vision of an unapologetically assertive America abroad unafraid of fundamental structural change at home.

It might just work. And it’s not too late.

— Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.


Liberty_One 5 years, 5 months ago

"Obama’s entire Middle East policy of apology and accommodation"

When you start off with a false premise like this, then everything that follows is just junk.

JonasGrumby 5 years, 5 months ago

Which part of the premise is false? Did you not witness the reaction to events on 9/11/12?

fiddleback 5 years, 5 months ago

Be careful, Liberty. Reminding the talking-point sucklings that Obama is arguably more hawk than dove may cause some heads to explode...

woodscolt 5 years, 5 months ago

If Obama wins this November, he will inherit an even worse economy than the economy he inherited from Bush 4 years ago.

Making it up as you go. Guess thats all you got because this one is over.

Carol Bowen 5 years, 5 months ago

"If Obama wins this November, he will inherit an even worse economy than the economy he inherited from Bush 4 years ago."

Not true. The data points are approximately the same, but the curves in 2008 were going down. The curves in 2012 are going up. Overall, indicators are now going up and improving. I expect another "bump in the road". Possibly related to actions by the Federal Reserve Board. Hopefully, they are on top of this. At least they know more than we do.

Carol Bowen 5 years, 5 months ago

Could the increase in food stamps be because of the increase in unemployed, underemployed, and working poor?

woodscolt 5 years, 5 months ago

absolutely.They are designed as "safety nets" and usage will always increase during downturns in the economy.Even downturns caused by George Bush and passed onto the next president.

Paul R Getto 5 years, 5 months ago

If Obama wins this November, he will inherit an even worse economy than the economy he inherited from Bush 4 years ago.

Huh? you lost me on that one.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 5 months ago

Look at this way. Food stamps bring tax dollars home to help keep the economy flowing. Same with unemployment benefits. Both help keep those fortunate to have jobs on the job. Not a bad idea.

Cutting off food stamps and unemployment benefits is not the answer. Stealing Social Security Insurance and Medicare Insurance is not the answer.

Putting people back to work with tax dollars is the answer. Why? Because very conservative administrations put the people out of jobs therefore government must find ways to re-employ workers. This is what will get the economy back on track plus create other jobs in our communities.

Bottom line is neither Republicans nor Democrats can afford this new breed of conservatives posing as republicans. They do not represent fiscal responsibility only economic chaos.

Maddy Griffin 5 years, 5 months ago

So, if the Regurgicans had produced the jobs they campaigned on there would be less need for unemployment benefits and food stamps, right?"...taken by force"...do you always carry that big spoon with you?

Maddy Griffin 5 years, 5 months ago

Romney campaign needs to Go Home!! Stick a fork in him, he's done.

weeslicket 5 years, 5 months ago

mr. krauthammer seems to be suggesting that the ability to respond to outside events with calm and thoughtfulness are important for a president (or one who is a candidate for the presidency). got it. thank you.

weeslicket 5 years, 5 months ago

mr. krauthammer also states that mr. romney should "actually run a campaign" based upon "serious speeches" because "it might just work. and it’s not too late."

well, good luck with that. mr. romney has been running for the presidency for about 8 years now, and all i really know is that he has "a secret plan" for restoring america's greatness. (reminds me a bit of nixon and vietnam).

Katara 5 years, 5 months ago

Mitt needs to have his liver checked. He is looking a bit jaundiced there.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 5 months ago

What Chuckie means by "go big" is that Romney should be just as hysterically desperate as the column Chuckie just wrote.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 5 years, 5 months ago

Romney is toast. All we have heard from him during the primary campaign is "Defeat Obama" Repeal "Obamacare" ( the Affordable Care Axr for you non-bigots) "I have a plan" (what???)"I can do it batter" (How?).

Niow his "campaign" us tossing out the unbelieveable notion that the president is responsible for turbulance in the Middle East, the deaths of American diplomats, and probably crab grass and the drought.

Thiss guy is a total disaster for the "GOP" much the same way that Palin was for the extremist party. He will be relagated to the dust bin of history by voters.

And who the hell at the J-W thinks that Kraphammer, the NY rabble rouser is something valid for publication in a local newspaper??

beatrice 5 years, 5 months ago

Is he to "go big" and tell us he actually likes CHUNKY peanut butter?

Paul Simon has a song to describe Romney's candidacy:

beatrice 5 years, 5 months ago

Like a picture of him crawling into bed with Ann without wearing his magic underwear?

Katara 5 years, 5 months ago

I'd much rather that than Mitt getting caught dancing with Rafalca.

yourworstnightmare 5 years, 5 months ago

I think what cabbagecudgel means is that Romney needs to lie big and go very negative about Obama' s race and the lie that he is a Muslim.

Carol Bowen 5 years, 5 months ago

Krauthammer is kinda right. So far, his campaign has been anti Obama. He really has no distinctive policy positions of his own. He has spent most of his efforts trying to keep the GOP together. There's not enough time to turn his campaign around and maintain unity in the party. The GOP has always encouraged unity and conformity. It's his albatross.

Carol Bowen 5 years, 5 months ago

Obama should use Ross Perot type graphs to illustrate the improvement. Voters can comprehend those easily, and they would be difficult to refute.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.