I wonder if Bill Burton and crew knew about this and greenlit the smear anyway or if they didn’t care enough to even find out. Why would they?
In answer, yes, Burton & co likely knew the ad was hokum from the first frame to the last, and green lit it anyway. Why would they, knowing that it’s likely to fall apart in short order? Didn’t they think that even CNN would have to throw a flag at some point?
The Obama campaign has read the economic numbers, and they are aware of the history. Incumbent presidents in the kind of economy that we’re in right now don’t win.
The Obama team ran four years ago selling a product that didn’t exist. They created a hologram dream candidate, multi-racial, capable of great oratorical performances as long as he stuck to the script, with not much of a legislative record that could be used against him, and with a career prior to politics that could be made to sound romantic rather than fringe. He was a teacher! He organized communities! He cared. They marketed this product the way Hollywood might market a movie: “In a world..where a country is divided by race, and by wealth, and by a long and drawn-out war…comes a man…the perfect man…post-racial…post-partisan…promising peace. That man…is Barack Obama.” Cut to smiling, waving young man, flash bulbs pop as the adoring crowd roars, fade to black.
People voted for Obama because they got caught up in the emotions of electing the first black president, the young man who had reportedly taken Harvard by storm, the bright fresh face with no long political career and the baggage that builds up around even the best and most principled political actor. Obama was a mass-marketed president to a country that wanted to feel good, and didn’t want to do its homework on the man who wanted to lead them. He smiled broadly, said nice things, and got handed the keys to the country.
But now, that same team has to sell a very real and very damaged product. They know they can’t sell that product on its own merits. They know that Obama has had too many revealing and unscripted moments, the latest killer line being “You didn’t build that!” His job performance has been poor, and the people who elected him four years ago are skeptical of him now. Four years ago they wanted to feel good. Now, they just want jobs and to know that the future holds the promise of something good.
Team Obama knows that the hollow man from 2008 is a real candidate now, and that he is not a particularly good one. They have seen him up close more than the rest of us have, and they know that he is an ideologue incapable of real leadership. But they have to keep him in power to keep themselves in power.
The “Mitt killed my wife!” ad isn’t about truth. Bill Burton & co did enough research to find Mr. Joe Soptic. They did enough research to craft an ad from the man’s sad story. They did enough research to know that Mrs. Soptic died seven years after Romney left Bain, they know that Bain tried to save GST, and they know that an Obama bundler was the person who ultimately shut GST down. They did the research, they brought the ad forward, and they know more than any of the fact-checkers know, that the ad is a lie.
And they don’t care.
The ad is out there. The uninformed are seeing it in their facebook feeds, twinned up with the latest from MoveOn or whichever smear group is running in parallel today. People will see the ad, and most of them will not see the CNN, PolitiFact or Washington Post fact-checks that declare the ad a total fraud. Out in the wild, the ad is intended do its job of toxifying Romney just enough to peel off a few of his voters and ramp up hate for him among Obama’s voters. That’s the point of the ad, not to tell anything that’s true, but just to stir the pot, sully Romney and depress his potential vote.
As I wrote yesterday, we’re dealing with something in the Obama campaign that we haven’t seen much at the top of American life, except in the worst moments of the Clinton era. We’re dealing with a president who is entirely without any sense of ethics, honor or morals. He has lived a lie for most if not all of his life, hiding his true political convictions in gauzy language that makes him appear reasonable and moderate. Having lived a lie, what’s one more lie, in the service of keeping himself in power? What’s one more lie if, in Obama’s mind, it accomplishes the “good” of keeping Romney out of power?
The danger for the Obama camp is that they risk going over a tipping point. There is a point at which the negativity becomes absurd, and instead of depressing the opponent’s vote, angers the opponent’s supporters and draws the undecided over to the opponent’s side. No one can really put a finger on where that point is, but it’s real and we saw the effect of reaching that point in the Texas Senate run-off last week. The Dewhurst campaign went too far into negative territory, no one really believed their last-minute attacks, and the backlash ended up ensuring that Cruz would win running away. Obama risks the same dynamic hitting him.
The Obama campaign has gone from accusing Romney of boyhood bullying to adulthood felony, to being a murderer in all but name. What accusation is left to throw at him? There aren’t many, but rest assured that the Obama campaign and its allies will find one.