Should Mitt Romney have to defend Obama against 'treason' remark? (+video)(Read article summary)
Mitt Romney did not rush to contradict a woman at a town hall who called for President Obama to be tried for treason. He's hardly the first politician not to rush to the aid of an opponent.
This question arises because at a Romney town hall meeting in Cleveland on Monday, a female supporter told the crowd that Mr. Obama is âoperating outside the structure of our Constitutionâ and should be âtried for treason.â
At the time, Mr. Romney let the comment pass. Later, asked by reporters about the âtreasonâ incident, Romney said that âno, of courseâ the president should not be tried for that offense.
Too late, too late! Top Democrats ratcheted their umbrage meters up to âstun.â
Obama spokeswoman Lis Smith said in a statement, âTime after time in this campaign, Mitt Romney has had the opportunity to show that he has the fortitude to stand up to hateful and over-the-line rhetoric and time after time, he has failed to do so.â
Does the Obama team think Romney secretly sympathizes with the call to put their guy in the dock? No, they know better. Theyâre just maneuvering for a tiny bit of rhetorical advantage in a campaign thatâs becoming more personal by the day.
Handling supporters who go over the line isnât easy, after all. Sure, in the 2008 campaign Sen. John McCain did it pretty well. After a rally supporter called Obama an âArabâ who couldnât be trusted, Senator McCain took the mike and said, âNo, maâam, heâs a decent family man.â
But itâs more common for candidates to look on with a strained smile that says, âI hope that person did not say what I think they just said.â
Even some generally liberal commentators sounded as if they thought the blistering Democratic response seemed a touch ... sensitive.
âIt would be nice if we could establish some kind of clear standard for when candidates are and arenât responsible for the things their supporters say, but that isnât going to happen anytime soon, since both campaigns seem to think they profit from jumping on such episodes, perhaps because theyâre easy ways to motivate base supporters,â wrote Greg Sargent on his liberal Plum Line Washington Post blog.
Others added that the problem here is not Romneyâs response per se, but the political culture that produced the womanâs comment. If Donald Trump can question whether the president is legally a US citizen, why canât the rank and file yell âtreasonâ?
âIâm not sure which is worse: the idea that weâre all supposed to care whether or not Mitt Romney adequately knocks down the crazy every time itâs thrust in his face ... or the fact that the crazy is constantly thrust in his face (and that he and other Republican leaders encourage it),â wroteÂ Jonathan Bernstein on his A plain blog about politics.
Conservatives, meanwhile, charged Democrats with hypocrisy.
Interviewed afterward, White House adviser Daniel Pfeiffer said that âofficials shouldnât be responsible for everything said and donât have to serve as the âspeech police.â â
âSo there you have it,â wrote Mr. Howe. âThere is absolutely nothing worse than a man of Governor Romneyâs stature staying quiet while awful things are said about his opponent. This is something that Obama would never find himself on the wrong end of. Unless of course when he was exactly on the other end of it just last year.â