Between ‘Nauseating’ and Fair Game
There’s been a growing sense over the last month that Barack Obama is winning battles but losing the war—until this past week, when he lost the battle too. Governor Mitt Romney, repudiating an effort by the former chairman of a major online brokerage firm to underwrite a $10 million advertisement that raises anew questions about the president’s former minister, equated the tactic to the “character assassination” represented by questions about Romney’s experience with the private-equity company Bain Capital. Aided by a media chronically paranoid about accusations of liberal bias, and then the even more vivid assistance of Obama supporter Newark Mayor Cory Booker along with other Democrats whose ethical logic apparently is as clear-headed as their political logic, Romney’s gambit successfully complicated beyond all due reason the matter of what’s “fair game” in a campaign.
Anything is fair that both is true and has a plausible bearing on how one might conduct his presidency. Even as it’s to 2008 Republican nominee John McCain’s credit that he was unwilling to pursue the line of inquiry in that year’s race, it was perfectly fair to expect Obama—running as someone who would unite the country—to speak to his years-long membership of a congregation headed by a minister who called on God to damn America. Obama did speak to it, of course, on more than one occasion, including the “More Perfect Union” speech in Philadelphia in March of that year, the most thoughtful given by a serious presidential candidate in memory. By the same token, as the president stated at his Chicago press conference on Monday more forcefully than anyone else in his campaign to date, it’s not untoward to expect Romney to answer for Bain and how his management of the firm would inform his management of government, since Romney himself has advanced the Bain credential as part of his résumé for the job he seeks.