By now you’ve probably heard about the Obama campaign’s self-righteous indignation over an ad put out by the Romney camp taking Obama’s words out of context. What his campaign people failed to mention is that the quote in question was Obama quoting an anonymous supporter of John McCain during the 2008 election. So, it was okay for Obama to take the words of an unnamed person and attribute them to John McCain, but it’s not okay for Romney to use those words against Obama today.
Michael Gerson says to get used to the double standard.
Obama’s short, rocket-fueled political career has involved a tension. He has gained a reputation for hope and change while practicing a brass-knuckle style of politics. The University of Chicago professor is also a Chicago politician — as both Hillary Clinton and McCain discovered. More than half of the ads run by Obama’s general-election campaign were negative. McCain was attacked for being “erratic in a crisis” — a thinly veiled reference to his temperament. As president, Obama has asserted that Republicans want the elderly, autistic children and children with Down syndrome to “fend for themselves,” and that the GOP plan is “dirtier air, dirtier water, less people with health insurance.” In what context would these claims be true?
Obama’s campaign team is hardly known for its desire to raise the political tone. “David Axelrod,” says Obama biographer David Mendell, “has always been skillful at creeping into your room in the middle of the night and slicing out your heart, somehow without leaving behind a single fingerprint or drop of blood that ties him or his candidate to the crime.”
Good heart-slicing skills can be useful in presidential politics. But they preclude the option of self-righteousness. The Obama campaign wants to enforce rules on others it does not abide by itself. This does not make the rules outdated or make Romney’s ad right. But it makes Obama a suspect referee.
In all fairness to the Romney campaign, all they did was follow Obama’s advice. He doesn’t expect them to bring a knife to a gun fight, now does he?
Update: Related – Rich Lowery on Obama channeling Truman.