We now know more about Barack Obama than we did previously.
Oh, not that he was born in Kenya, or Krypton, or wherever the moronic birthers still prattle on about. And not that he has ruined the economy; it’s more accurate to say that he and the central bankers saved the world. Furthermore, he isn’t a socialist or a tyrant bent on destroying America, as various demagogues â€“ including a number of washed-out Republican presidential hopefuls â€“ like to tell the teeming mouth-breathers. And, no, he’s not a Muslim.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
But President Obama is, come to discover â€“ and forgive the tautology â€“ a cynical politician. Not for selling out environmental interests for the sake of salvaging jobs, although, well â€¦ And not for soft-pedaling regulation and legal scrutiny of the Wall Street pigs who nearly destroyed us, to the ongoing rage of the grungy 99%. And not even for remaining virtually mute about the horrifying spate of gun violence, lest he antagonize undecided gun nuts.
Let’s just ascribe that behavior to presidential pragmatism. In the ebb and flow of politics, you can’t always get what you want. Obama does, after all, face a Tea Party hostage situation in Congress, where the GOP leadership will pass neither a camera emplacement nor a law.
Nonetheless, be not too quick to see the president of the United States as a mere hapless victim of vicious partisan politics. He is also a perpetrator.
For the past 10 days, the president’s Super Pac â€“ Priorities USA Action â€“ has been running a Swiftboat attack on Republican Mitt Romney so grotesque, so dishonest, so debased, as to force you to wonder who this Obama guy is, and whether he has been that guy all along. The ad features a former steel worker named Joe Soptic, recounting the death of his wife from cancer, after Soptic lost his health insurance when Romney’s Bain Capital shut down the steel mill in 2001.
"I don’t think Mitt Romney understands what he’s done to peoples’ lives," Soptic says.
What Soptic doesn’t say, and what the ad leaves out, is that: a) Romney had left Bain Capital for the Salt Lake City Olympics when the plant was shut down; b) Soptic lost his health insurance, but his wife remained covered at her own job; c) she was not diagnosed with cancer till five years later; d) during which interim she held subsequent jobs and other insurance coverage.
Yet, the message is unmistakable: Mitt Romney has blood on his hands.
This is repulsive. The Obama campaign at first claimed to know nothing about Joe Soptic; indeed, Super Pacs â€“ awash in donations from labor unions, corporations, and the wealthy â€“ are statutorily prohibited from coordinating with candidates. But nobody believes that firewall exists. And the campaign was caught in its transparent lie, when someone remembered a Obama 2012 conference call in which Soptic and his sad tale were trotted out by the campaign for the assembled press.
Back in 2004, when a political action committee favoring George W Bush unleashed scurrilous ads accusing Democratic candidate John Kerry of cowardice and treason for the very Vietnam episodes that had gotten him decorated for bravery, Democrats howled with outrage at the smear by Swifboat Veterans for Truth. They howled when George HW Bush trotted out the infamous, race-baiting "Willie Horton" ad against Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis. They howled when John McCain tried to link Senator Barack Obama with domestic terrorist William Ayres.
And well that they should have. Such tactics are beyond obscene. They are depraved.
And so is obliterating inconvenient facts to accuse the presumptive Republican nominee of homicidal neglect.
Once again, in theory, what the Priorities USA Action Super Pac does is independent of the campaign, although the funding entity was founded by the president’s closest associates from previous campaigns. But never mind that. In the past 10 days, the Obama 2012 campaign itself has had every opportunity to condemn the tactics, to reject the slanderous implication, to entirely disavow the sorry episode and demand that the ad be pulled. Instead, from top to bottom, the campaign has offered mealy-mouthed denials. Likewise, the Democratic National Committee and a legion of partisan capos with long spears and short memories. Suddenly, swiftboating suits them just fine.
Meanwhile, the patron saint of hope and change has said not a word. It would have been so easy:
"I am Barack Obama and I emphatically disapprove this message."
But, nope, mum’s the word. And the silence speaks volumes.
Look, choose the candidates you prefer. There are manifest differences between them. But do yourself a favor. Dispense with the hero worship. Believing a politician transcends politics is to guarantee disappointment. Depravity turns out to be an equal opportunity employer.
â€¢ Editor’s note: this article originally stated in error that Soptic’s steel mill closed in 1992; this was amended to 2001 (after Romney had left Bain Capital) at 11.40am (ET) on 14 August 2012
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