In back-to-back appearances Friday, Mitt Romney taught a master class in the time-honored tradition of the “do as I say, not as I do” approach to negative campaigning.
Asked by a reporter to respond to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) continued claim to have an “extremely credible” source who says the presumptive GOP nominee didn’t pay taxes for ten years, Romney dismissed the charge. He then launched into a full-scale attack on what he says is the Obama campaign’s dishonest campaign tactics:
This is a time when—I actually took the president at his word when he called me after I became the presumptive Republican nominee. He said, ‘You know this is going to be an important campaign on the direction of the country. And a debate for the direction of the country. I had hoped it would be a debate about the direction of the country. What we’re seeing instead is one attack after the other — misleading, false attacks. That by Harry Reid is one of them. The president’s ads saying I’m going to raise taxes on the middle class? That’s patently, simply false. By the way the president has now raised taxes on the middle class, as so determined by the Supreme Court. That being said, the president — well he has ads out there about my stance on life. Which are also wrong, and they know they’re wrong. This is a time to have a debate about the direction of the country, not a time to have a whole series of attacks that are misguided, inaccurate, untrue and detract from the real issues that America faces.
Disregarding the specific charges Romney makes — fact checkers side with him on the abortion ad he mentions, for example — the general gist of his comment is a criticism of Obama for using “misguided, inaccurate, untrue” attacks against him.
It’s a laudable goal, but a strange complaint for Romney to make. His campaign is one of the only ones in recent memory that actually reveled in the practice of using out of context quotes in attack ads, and much of its recent focus has been on the inaccurate claim that Obama told small business owners they aren’t responsible for their success.
Romney doubled down on that charge in a speech that came just minutes before his complaint about Democratic campaign tactics.
“The president the other day, you heard what he said. I couldn’t believe what he said. It may go down as the most famous quote of his entire presidency,” Romney said. “He said, ‘if you have a business, you didn’t build that, someone did that for you.”
Romney’s not the first candidate to try this. Since there’s been negative campaigning there has been candidates who campaign negatively while attacking their opponent for doing the same thing. But with Romney’s own campaign hinging so greatly on an out-of-context Obama quote, the call for cleaned up campaign messaging has an especially odd ring to it.