Today the White House press briefing apparently witnessed quite a clatter about the advertisement by Priorities USA that presents the testimony of Joe Soptic, a former steel worker, who claims that his being laid off after Bain Capital assumed control of his company led to his wife's lack of treatment for and death from cancer. It has now become clear that Mitt Romney was no more connected with Mrs Soptic's death than was Kevin Bacon, yet Jay Carney again and again deflected any suggestion by the press corps that the President should denounce this fraud.
While we had thought that the Clinton Administration epitomized postmodernism, press briefings such as the one today gild the lily by showing that this White House can even spin spin. Far more worrisome than the ad itself--it's not as if we haven't seen and survived outrageous attacks before in American political history--is Jay Carney's supercilious treatment of the matter. With his smile telegraphing a smug certainty that his side only benefits from the controversy, Carney himself did what the Administration has been doing for the past several days in refusing to respond directly to the issue itself. The ad claims quite fraudulently that Romney is partly responsible for Mrs Soptic's death; on the other hand, it is now quite clear that the White House itself is the origin of the lie told in the ad--a lie compounded by the lie given out earlier this week that the White House had no connection to the ad whatsoever. So we are left with a completely bizarre situation of the White House casting opprobrium on Romney for something he never did, while flatly lying about its own behavior.
How to account for this mess? The White House is doing what it's doing because it knows that for the time being, it can only profit from this situation. So far, the White House has managed very successfully to avoid responsibility for any of its bad behavior, intentional or unintentional. With the economy in a dangerous deceleration and fuel prices again on the rise, the White House continues to blame George W. Bush, and the mainstream media utters no protest. In short order, Iran will have a nuclear weapon, which among other things will show the abysmal failure of the President's policy in the Middle East, and again the White House simply refuses to talk about the matter. In the rare moments that anyone pays attention to the deficit, which is rapidly increasing under Obama's tenure, the White House points out that Romney's tax proposals would...wait for it: increase the deficit.
And thus the White House sticks with the tactics that have served it so well over the past several years. Since the mainstream media acquiesced four years ago and refused to hold Obama accountable for any of his shortcomings--from a breathtaking lack of experience to his deeply suspicious associations with people like Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright--the White House knows that the majority of the media will refuse to hold the President responsible for any other mischief he may get up to. That leaves more centrist and conservative news outlets, such as Fox or the Drudge Report, but these institutions have been successfully ghettoized by the Administration and those in the mainstream media in competition with Fox and Drudge. Indeed, just days ago Jay Carney attacked the Drudge Report with a wink and a nod, insinuating for all those in the press room who speak his language that Drudge is an unreliable source, and the Obama Administration has practically made a second career of attacking Fox News. Not only, therefore, does itself never take responsibility for any of it's many failings but it has insulated itself from any criticism by others.
So the White House knows that if the President does not disavow the ad, the press will soon neuter the issue by beginning to report not on the President's lack of response but on the controversy as a controversy, which promotes the matter from being a crisis to which the President should respond to a matter that people are talking about. In the meantime, while people talk about it, the original claim--that Romney killed Mrs Soptic--continues to be made over and over, the claim will continue to run up Mitt Romney's negatives, and the swing states will slip ever further into to the blue column. Romney will lose, and in the warm glow of the second inauguration everyone will forget the filthy politics of the Reelect Obama campaign. And all the while, the lie that Mrs Soptic died because of being without health insurance will bolster support for Obamacare. On the other hand, if this controversy should suddenly grow into a crisis for the President, he can always step in and denounce the ad at any moment, in which case Romney's negatives will have still have increased, and the President will look like the post-partisan shining white knight that in his previous campaign he claimed to be.
The only way to handle such a crisis is for Romney himself to forget himself once and for all. He needs to quit thinking that this election is about him, his record, his resume, his ambition, his kind and moral decency and to engage in the fight filled with the conviction that the campaign is about three things (none of which happens to be Mitt Romney): the nation, which is rapidly deteriorating, the utter incompetence of this president, and the outrageous venality of a White House so desperate to fulfill its lust for power that it not only capitalize on the agonizing death of a good woman but freely, smilingly lie while doing so and about doing so. Romney needs, in short not to defend himself in the matter of Mrs Soptic but to talk fiercely and relentlessly about this situation as one that shows the utter corruption of this Administration. And he needs to select as his running mate not an avuncular Midwestern slice of bland white bread but a person with enough of a vision of what American liberty really means that the Republican ticket can wage a bold, inspiring campaign in the late summer and fall. Mitt Romney has a responsibility to all Republicans and all conservatives to do just that.
Whether Romney has the humility to forget himself and think only about the good of the nation is an open question. We sincerely hope he does. Having sought the nomination for president, he has a responsibility to do everything--within the bounds of honesty--to win the office. If he doesn't, those on the other side will have learned, once again, that the way to gain power and to govern is to lie with impunity, destroy the reputations of good people, and smile--ever so knowingly--while they do so.