Michael Gerson has a sad because a pro-Obama PAC has a mean ad about Mitt Romney making the rounds on the intertubes.
The Obama campaign has targeted and intimidated Republican donors on an Internet enemies list. It has engaged in the juvenile mockery of Mitt Romney’s singing. It has suggested, without evidence, that Romney may have committed the felony of falsifying Federal Election Commission documents. It has speculated, without proof, that Romney has avoided paying taxes. When Joe Biden engages in racially charged hyperbole, he is awkwardly but accurately reflecting the spirit of the 2012 Obama campaign.
But the most vivid accusation (made by a closely associated PAC and embraced by the campaign itself) is that Romney’s ruthless business practices were responsible for the closing of a firm, the loss of a couple’s health insurance and thus the death of a woman from cancer. Except that Romney wasn’t connected to the closing of the firm, the woman continued to have health insurance from another source and her cancer was diagnosed five years after the plant shut down.
Which represents the crossing of an ethical line. If the conduct of the Obama campaign team were universalized, candidates would no longer require any evidence to accuse one another of complicity in a death. To accept this as a new political norm would be to define defamation down.
As Jon Stewart pointed out, the Republicans have launched an economic recovery in this country by demonizing President Obama, calling him everything from a Fascist to a Communist, often in the same press release; they have exploited the birthers and the wingnuts to their advantage; they have lied repeatedly about the cause of the economic collapse under President Bush; they’ve done everything but accuse him of causing the drought in the Midwest — oh, wait — and blown so many dog whistles about race, racism, and race-baiting that PetsMart has run out of stock. So when the Democrats finally — at long last — get their act together and stop standing still like a punching bag, it’s a betrayal and the worst thing in the world?
Cry me a river and set it to music.