Intellectual Honesty in American Politics: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

A Bill Clinton parody account created by the Romney campaign is both clever and yet another sign of what's wrong with American politics.

David Graham points to a Bill Clinton parody Twitter account created by the Romney campaign. On its surface, it’s rather clever. But it’s yet another sign of what’s wrong with American politics.

Following several appearances in which Bill Clinton made glowing remarks about Mitt Romney’s career in business – seeming to undercut the Obama attack against the Republican’s Bain Capital record — the Romney campaign created the @Bill_Clinton12 handle to broadcast some of those comments. They even sent out a press release calling attention to the feed.

It’s a witty and innovative use of social media, although it might have been more powerful if it had been rolled out before a Monday night fundraiser where Clinton said a Romney presidency “would be, in my opinion, calamitous for our country and the world.” It’s a fair bet you won’t see that comment anywhere on the new Twitter feed.

My problem isn’t that it’ll be used dishonestly, cherry picking things Bill Clinton has said that favor Romney or criticize Obama, but that the whole exercise essentially punishes Clinton for having the intellectual honesty to depart from the Official Democratic Party Line when it’s BS.

The same thing happened a couple weeks back when prominent Democrats, including Newark Mayor Cory Booker, former Congressman Harold Ford, and former Obama car czar Steven Rattner, defended Romney from Obama campaign ads claiming that he was callous towards job losses in his days at Bain Capital. Rather than letting the media get the message out for him, thus eliminating that vulnerability months before most people really start to pay attention to the campaign, the Romney campaign put out a video touting these admissions:

Now, of course, using quotes by others in a candidate’s own party against them is nothing new. But, typically, it’s a matter of re-using attacks made by former primary opponents. Or, embarrassing flubs made by the candidate’s surrogates that accidentally undercut their message. Or, better yet, using the candidate’s own past words.

Here, though, the Romney campaign is taking thoughtful comments by Obama supporters, who are intentionally calling out the president for making unfair attacks on Romney, and putting said supporters on the hot seat for the very act of being gracious. Given how little of that quality remains in our politics, I’d much prefer to see it rewarded rather than punished–at least by those on the receiving end.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, Politics 101, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. MBunge says:

    “Romney campaign is taking thoughtful comments by Obama supporters, who are intentionally calling out the president for making unfair attacks on Romney, and putting said supporters on the hot seat for the very act of being gracious.”

    Without being too argumentative, may I point out that one could also describe those Obama supporters as equally in the tank as Romney for the very financial/economic forces the President is talking about? I think this is less about intellectual honesty and more about how many folks in politics are on the same gravy train.

    Mike

  2. Jenos Idanian says:

    If being singled out for “being gracious” is somehow a problem, I would suggest said problem lies with those who are running the “hot seat” — the Obama campaign — and not with the Romney campaign.

  3. gVOR08 says:

    One, the differences between Clinton and Romney have been greatly exaggerated.

    Two, are the differences the result of honesty or of greater dependence by Clinton and Booker on Wall St largess? (I’ll ignore Rattner as a minor figure and Harold Ford as a well known twit.)

    Three, what were you expecting from the Romney campaign? The campaign that famously used a statement by Obama that if the focus is on the economy, we lose, as though it was current – without mentioning that it was in ’08 and Obama was quoting a McCain campaign official. And when called on it, said Obama said the words, we can use them as we like.

    Honestly James, what would it take for you to give up on Romney?

  4. James Joyner says:

    @MBunge: There’s some of that, to be sure. But take Clinton’s most recent comments about extending the “Bush tax cuts.” He just admitted up front that we weren’t going to raise taxes under the current economic circumstances and expressed a preference that Republicans not attempt to make permanent extension the price of getting a deal done.

  5. Dastardly says:

    I think this is less about intellectual honesty and more about how many folks in politics are on the same gravy train.

    Couldn’t agree more. The fact that Private Equity is now one of the few sainted groups that we MUST NOT CRITICIZE is just laughable. It’s bad enough that we all have to be for small business, whatever that means, but at least its the attempt to preserve the “little guy” and probably isn’t just sop to lobbyists, but Private Equity? This is about nothing more than money and has no basis in any real principled discussion of where Private Equity stands on the list of socially valuable institutions.

    The fact that these “leaders” care more about preserving the extravagent wealth creation that rich people make for much richer people than we are for some teachers or assembly line workers to keep a good pension or benefits tells me more about our system than I almost want to know.

  6. MBunge says:

    @James Joyner: “He just admitted up front that we weren’t going to raise taxes under the current economic circumstances and expressed a preference that Republicans not attempt to make permanent extension the price of getting a deal done.”

    And what does that comment actually accomplish, other than making Bill Clinton look good in his own eyes? The issue really isn’t a permanent extension. Obama wants to keep the lower tax rates for the vast majority of people and only raise taxes on those making over $250,000. It is the Republicans who are demanding all or nothing. How is Clinton doing anything but undermining Obama’s negotiating position?

    Mike

  7. Bennett says:

    That Twitter feed isn’t even witty. It’s a circle jerk for those who already hate Obama. Does anyone think that some undecided voter is going to read those and conclude that Romney should be President? At least be funny if you want eyeballs. This basically reeks of the Romney campaign showing that they know how to use hashtags and retweets. “See, we know how this tech stuff works! We aren’t out of date and behind the times!”

  8. WR says:

    @MBunge: Of course, Bill Clinton can’t “admit” we’re not going to raise taxes. To admit means to confess to a truth previously hidden, or to an agenda previously secret, and Bill Clinton has neither. He’s not part of the administration, and he’s got absolutely no role in making this decision. He may predict this, he may believe it, he may even desire it — but to say he’s “admitting” it is to claim he’s revealing some Obama administration secret, when this is obviously not the case.

  9. legion says:

    Whenever any Democrat (or any person, for that matter) conflates “letting the temporary Bush tax cuts expire” with “raising taxes”, you allow the Republicans to define the terms – and the moral tenor – of the entire debate. You give up more than half the playing field before the coin is even tossed. It’s not just incorrect, it’s stupid.

  10. James Joyner says:

    @legion: As a practical matter, someone’s taxes going up 3 percent over what it’s been the past several years is a tax increase. The fact that it’s really a return to some distant “normal” doesn’t change that.

  11. grumpy realist says:

    @James Joyner: Then why did people allow the Republicans to pat themselves so much on the back about how their actions “weren’t going to raise the deficit” when they passed the original temporary tax cuts in the first place?

    The bounce-back was already baked into the plan–you don’t get to now turn around and screech about how this is a “tax hike.”

  12. al-Ameda says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    If being singled out for “being gracious” is somehow a problem, I would suggest said problem lies with those who are running the “hot seat” — the Obama campaign — and not with the Romney campaign.

    Well sure, all the ungraciousness, bitterness and vitriol is emanating from the Democratic side.