Politics, as we all know, is a dirty game.
As Mitt Romney settles into his new role as the prospective Republican nominee and President Obama focuses on his re-election, both sides have begun trading barbs in what will likely be a bloodbath of an election.
Every presidential election features some sort of negative campaigning. Challengers often devote their strategies to detailing why the incumbent has performed poorly and led the country down the wrong track. Mitt Romney has done precisely this: he has taken aim at Obama’s economic record and criticized the policies he has enacted.
President Obama has been hesitant to take a stand on the economy and has, instead, attempted to highlight his foreign policy success and sell the idea that the next four years will result in an improved economy. The President and his aides have begun to fire back at Romney and criticize his flip-flopping, his lack of foreign policy experience, and his record as Governor of Massachusetts. Misleading and distracting voters with personal attacks on Mitt Romney’s wealth and family, however, demonstrate that some Democrats and their pundits have sunk to a new low with their class warfare antics.
Priorities USA Action, a pro-Obama Super PAC, recently released an ad attacking Romney in four critical battleground states: Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and Iowa. The ad attempts to convey the message that Mitt Romney is just another millionaire who is out of touch with the American people. It emphasizes an Obama campaign theme and foreshadows much of the class warfare that is yet to occur this election cycle.
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Paul Begala, a Democratic strategist and the head of Priorities USA Action, added, “Governor Romney made a fortune on the backs of businesses he helped destroy. He profited even while thousands of men and women were fired and lost benefits they were once promised. Mitt Romney wants to double-down on trickle down. The middle class can’t afford his policies.”
The ad clearly attempts to distinguish Romney from other Americans by uniting them through the use of the pronouns such as, “us” and “we”, and placing Romney outside this group, characterizing him as a pawn for the, “wealthiest one percent”. It mentions Romney’s wealth and time as a CEO, and adds that Medicare and education will only be cut for “us”. The ad implies that success for men like Romney comes at the expense of general public’s well-being and future.
While Priorities USA Action’s ad exemplifies the type of attacks Americans have come to expect during the election cycle, there is a fine line between making a political point and getting too personal in politics. It is safe to say that, CNN commentator and Democratic strategist, Hilary Rosen crossed that line with her comments last month about Ann Romney, Mitt Romney’s wife. Rosen said the following in reference to Romney:
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Hilary Rosen’s comments are particularly distasteful considering that Ann Romney has suffered from various illnesses. She is a breast cancer survivor who raised five children and now suffers from debilitating Multiple Sclerosis. Additionally, the insinuation that only women with rich husbands can afford to be housewives is insulting to a lot of women who juggle multiple roles in the home. Until recently, she mostly shied away from the public spotlight and has devoted much of her life to charitable foundations.
I wonder whether Rosen would continue working if she suffered the same medical ailments as Ann Romney, and was fortunate enough to have the same financial security. It should be noted that President Obama, the First Lady, and campaign manager, Jim Messina, all denounced the comments and distanced themselves from Hillary Rosen.
The attacks do not stop at Romney’s wealth and family, however. MSNBC host, Chris Matthews, known for his vocal, liberal views, compared Mitt Romney to Wall Street villain, Gordon Gekko:
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Chris Matthews’ comparison lacks credibility because Gordon Gekko was a corporate raider who was imprisoned for insider trading charges by the film’s end. Mitt Romney has never been involved in such activities, and it is fair to say that his charitable contributions and decision to enter public service refute the notion that he would favor Gekko’s ideology that, “greed is good.”
Each attack on Romney carries the same message: he is rich and therefore, he must not care about ordinary people. This narrative could not be farther from the truth.
Mitt Romney was indeed born into a prosperous family and never had to face the financial struggles that many Americans do today. Yet, his father, George Romney, never went to a college, he was a self-made man who eventually became President of American Motors Corporation, Governor of Michigan, and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Despite growing up in a well-off family, Mitt Romney still did chores and worked summer jobs, even working as a security guard at a Chrysler plant.
He attended Brigham Young University, where he served as a Mormon missionary in France for just over 2 years, at one point injuring his jaw while defending two female missionaries from a group of local rugby players. He graduated with highest honors and gave the commencement speech to the entire university. At Harvard, he was one of only fifteen students selected to enroll in the newly created joint J.D./M.B.A. program at the law and business schools, graduating cum laude.
Romney later joined management consulting firm, Bain & Company. He eventually worked his way up to found Bain Capital, where as CEO he invested in a number of enterprises, including Staples, Domino’s, Brookstone, Sealy, and Sports Authority. It was at Bain that Romney amassed his enormous wealth, estimated to be as much as $250 million.
After the deaths of both of his parents and his unsuccessful bid for U.S. Senate in 1994, Romney became the president and CEO of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, where he revamped operations and helped make the Games widely successful. He was elected Governor of Massachusetts in November of that year, winning 50 percent of the vote.
During his career, he gained a reputation for taking charge of bad situations and turning them around. When Bain & Company faced financial difficulties in 1990, Romney was appointed CEO and made the company profitable again. Prior to the 2002 Winter Olympics, the Organizing Committee was $400 million short of the revenue benchmarks, but by the end of the Games, they had turned a $100 million profit. As Governor of Massachusetts, he faced a $3 billion deficit which he cut in half in his first year. By the last two years of his term, the state enjoyed a $600 million surplus.
One must not forget his charitable donations, either. In the past two years alone, Romney has given over $7 million to charity, including the Church of Latter-day Saints, the Center for the Treatment of Pediatric Multiple Sclerosis, the MS Cure Fund, the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, the Joey Fund for Cystic Fibrosis, and his family’s Tyler Foundation.
The Romneys donate on average about 10 percent more than Americans with comparable incomes. Additionally, 75 percent of those donations were made in cash, which is less tax advantageous. Ann Romney has been involved with charities for children and inner-city youth, as well as Olympic Aid, which provide athletic programs for children in war-torn countries. Both of the Romneys personally donated $1 million to the Olympic Games on top of Mitt Romney’s $1.4 million salary, which he also donated. Upon receiving his father’s inheritance, he donated the money to BYU in his father’s honor. All in all, Mitt Romney has donated more money in the past two years than Barack Obama has made from his books.
There is also the little-known story of when Romney saved a girl’s life.
In 1998, the 14 year-old daughter of one of the Bain Capital partners went missing after attending a rave. Upon hearing the news, Romney shut down Bain operations and flew himself and the company employees to New York City to look for the girl. He got in touch with his business contacts while coordinating efforts with the police, a private investigator, and the media. After speaking with prostitutes, drug dealers, and others, a breakthrough was reached when an anonymous call was made to the tip line. That call was traced to a home in New Jersey, where the girl was found in the basement suffering from drug withdrawal. She was eventually able to return to her family.
Not quite as out of touch as he is portrayed.
It is rather ironic that the backers of a President elected on promises of “hope” and “change” have reverted to dirty politics as usual, now that he is an incumbent with a poor record to defend. The energy and passion that he rode to the presidency in 2008 has eroded as voter patience wears thin. President Obama is aware of this, and knows that he can no longer blame George Bush for all his problems. The only alternative seems to be to demonize a man who, unlike the President, has spent much of his life in the private sector contributing to the economy and giving much of his time and wealth to charitable causes. This strategy is wearing thin on the American people. The President is desperate, and it will take something much more substantial than a smear campaign in order for him to win reelection.
It is comical when detractors, such as Vice President Joe Biden, chastise Romney for having a Swiss Bank account and call him, “out of touch” simply for being wealthy. Romney was born a fortunate man, but he used his own intelligence, business-savvy, and hard work to make his fortune. I never thought that there would be a day in America when wealth and success accomplished through hard work, innovation, and risk-taking would be considered political liabilities. Those attributes are essential to achieving the American Dream.
Political Science ‘13
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