Politics

08.24.12

Romney's Birther "Joke" and the Automatic Outrage Machine

I can't say that I am deeply offended by Romney's little birther remark in Michigan today. It was just a joke. Although, as Think Progress points out in a tweet, is something a joke if people don't really laugh but cheer?

But it is worth pointing out and reflecting on the moment when the Republican presidential candidate himself--not Donald Trump, and not some congressional backbencher--decided to embrace or at least play to the birther crowd. Once again, Romney panders to the party's most loathsome elements. Looked at that way, it's kind of disgraceful.

Imagine Obama joking, "No one's ever asked to see my special underwear." Right wingers would instantly seize on that as an example of offensive religious bigotry. Romney would demand an apology, and the story would float around for days.

So far I don't see Obama's people demanding an apology. One aide monitoring the speech gave it the kind of offhand tweet it deserves. The lesson here is about the right wing's automatic outrage machine, how it tries to convert every Democratic slip of the tongue into some assault on middle-American sensibilities. But the person who did that today is Romney. I doubt swing voters were offended by this attempt at humor, but I also doubt it makes them think any better of him.