Politics

07.14.12

Mark McKinnon: An Unfair Attack on Mitt Romney’s NAACP Speech

He’s a ‘race-mongering pyromaniac’ just for saying ‘Obamacare’—the word Team Obama is selling on bumper stickers? Why Michael Tomasky belongs in the Double Standard Hall of Fame.

I have to say after thirty years in politics and a good bit of punditry of my own, not much shocks me. But when I read the following this week from a fellow Daily Beast columnist, Michael Tomasky, I was left sputtering: After Romney’s speech to the NAACP, “I think of him as a spineless, disingenuous, supercilious, race-mongering pyromaniac who is very poorly intentioned indeed…”

Sputter.

Now, people can have a lot of legitimate criticisms of Mitt Romney, and I have some of my own, but a “race-mongering pyromaniac?” And the evidence for this incendiary charge? Romney said the word “Obamacare.” That’s it. That’s Tomasky’s whole case upon which he has rendered Romney a racist.

If the term “Obamacare” is a pejorative, racist epithet, then Tomasky needs to rebuke the president of the United States with the same unhinged energy he used in his ugly rant against Romney. The president’s senior advisers and his campaign staff, and even President Obama himself, have embraced “Obamacare” as the now-common name for his legacy legislation, the Affordable Care Act. His campaign site is even making money off of the name “Obamacare,” selling buttons, bumper stickers, and T-shirts emblazoned with the name.

At a fundraiser in Atlanta on March 16, Obama said he didn’t mind the use of the word because it showed he does care:  “You want to call it Obamacare—that’s OK, because I do care.” Obama also used it on March 23 in a tweet: “Happy birthday to Obamacare: two years in, the Affordable Care Act is making millions of Americans’ lives better every day.” And later that day, in another tweet: “If you’re proud of Obamacare and tired of the other side using it as a dirty word, complete this sentence: #ILikeObamacare because...” It also appeared on the landing page headline for Obama’s campaign website:  “I like Obamacare.”

So, it is, apparently, not a BFD. At least not to the president, his campaign, or his supporters. They are proudly using the term “Obamacare.” But when Romney uses in a speech the same phrase the president uses, he is a “race-mongering pyromaniac.”   

Wow. That’s Double Standard Hall of Fame.

Tomasky must not have listened to all of Romney’s words at the NAACP convention or, with a hardened heart or a completely liberal bias, chose not to hear them.

The crowd responded with applause to Romney as he spoke with sincerity: “I hope to represent all Americans... I want to make this a campaign about helping the middle class… Americans of every background are asking when this economy will finally recover—and you, in particular, are entitled to an answer… On Day One, I will begin turning this economy around… ”

These are the very same words I can hear Obama speaking.

Romney admitted with humility: “The Republican Party’s record, by the measures you rightly apply, is not perfect. Any party that claims a perfect record doesn’t know history the way you know it.” And then spoke of the inspiration of his father’s work for civil rights.

Romney’s address was heartfelt and offered important messages on economic opportunity and education, critical needs today not only for African-American families but for all American families.

Mitt Romney is not a racist. This is the kind of invective that is poisoning our public discourse.

While attacking the Republican challenger as spineless, Tomasky is surprised Romney dared speak of repealing Obamacare, still a majority view of the nation and still a likely key issue in the November election. Had Romney not mentioned it, wouldn’t Tomasky have accused him of being “spineless”?

And had Tomasky listened to the speech rather than just read the transcript, he would have heard Romney go off-script to address the boos following his mention of Obamacare. He shared his concerns about the job-market impact of Obamacare, and committed to ensuring access to lower cost, good quality health care with coverage for pre-existing conditions.

Tomasky perhaps cannot admit that Mitt showed a lot of spine for showing up at the event knowing he wouldn’t get much support and would probably get booed. Obama did not even attend the event.

Reasonable people can reasonably disagree on policy. And the audience attending the convention understood that, giving the Republican candidate a standing ovation in the end.

Mitt Romney is not a racist. This is the kind of invective that is poisoning our public discourse. It is designed to be sensational for the sake of being sensational and it is highly irresponsible.  

But Tomasky is right about one thing. We did learn “a great deal about Mitt Romney” through his words—if we chose to listen.

We also learned a lot about Tomasky.