The Romney Campaign’s Obsession with Tu Quoque
July 17th, 2012

I mentioned earlier the weirdness of Romney defending his decision to not release more of his tax returns by retorting that Obama hasn’t released Fast and Furious documents–which is a strange argument since Romney clearly believes Obama should release more Fast and Furious documents.

Now the Romney campaign has sent out a press release saying, “If Bain is so bad, why did you take $120,000 in campaign cash [from them]?” The gist of Romney’s argument being that Bain gave $120K to Obama and he took the green, so how bad could Bain really be.

Which is fine; it’s a clever argument. Except for one thing–the Romney campaign has been attacking Obama for taking big money donations from fat-cat businesses who (the inference is) profit by gaming the system. Sample Romney press release:

“If you’re a political donor to Barack Obama, you’re going to do fine because you’re going to get a payoff. If you’re a middle class worker, you’re in jeopardy, you’re facing a layoff. ” (7/15)

Which puts Romney in the same place with Bain that he is with his tax returns. Instead of making a coherent argument on his own behalf, the Romney campaign pounds the table and says, Tu quoque. Which traps them, because either Bain is perfectly admirable and all Americans should be proud of the company, or Bain is just another business looking to buy influence so it can profit by gaming the system. (For instance, I don’t know how credible this story is, but here’s an allegation that Bain was taking taxpayer money in New Mexico for the kind of government program most conservatives probably find wasteful and distasteful.)

My suspicion is that over the course of a long campaign, eventually these sorts of rhetorical problems can catch up with a candidate–especially if he’s not a particularly deft and intuitive politician.

The Romney operation must have better answers than tu quoque. If they don’t, then they’re really rolling the dice on the November vote being a pure up-or-down referendum on Obama. Maybe that will work out for them. But that can’t be a high-percentage play.


  1. Nedward July 17, 2012 at 7:27 pm

    When a primary favorite starts in February from a premise of great $$$/infrastructure he inevitably employs in September a mighty battalion of Beltway hack consultants; if not the best money can buy, the most money can attract. That was George W. Bush 12 years ago and Mitt lacks even half the political talent.

    The national party leadership has taken a passive, ad-hoc, here’s-hoping, desperate tack for the past 3 years, on the conviction that wailing about Obama’s “obvious” defects somehow must redound to GOP vote harvest, while they succeed in looking feebler to the contingent who were already going to vote for them. On top of that broader pseudo-strategy the Romney campaign slathers an unimaginative, tetchy icing

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  3. Nedward July 18, 2012 at 5:46 am

    Or to borrow from David Brooks yesterday: Romney is not a daring industrialist; more like a personal trainer