One of the great features of YouTube is that it provides the opportunity to look at footage of old political contests. There are numerous clips from the 1960 presidential campaign, when John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon were locked in what would be the closest presidential election of that century.
In their debates, and even in their individual campaign appearances, the two candidates were always civil, even deferential, toward each other. They operated as opponents, to be sure. But there was clearly mutual respect. Their disagreements remained firmly on the issues and the two never seemed to deviate from taking on one another on the substance of those issues.
In the aftermath of Mitt Romney’s string of victories in three primaries this week, it is clear how long ago 1960 truly was. After winning primaries in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia, Romney has strengthened his grip on the Republican presidential nomination. As he becomes more sure of his position as the presumptive nominee, he becomes more emboldened, and the tone of his remarks become more personal, more strident and more demeaning.
“President Obama thinks he’s doing a good job–I’m not kidding,” Romney said after his primary victories earlier in the week. “It’s enough to make you think that years of flying around on Air Force One, surrounded by an adoring staff of true believers telling you that you’re great and you’re doing a great job–it’s enough to make you think that you might become a little out of touch.”
Is this the way to convert voters, to offer a vision of a path to a more robust economy? What kind of method is this to win voters to the Romney political philosophy? But Romney’s idiotic rants are part of the political culture of the age in which we’re living. There is no attack too personal–particularly aimed at President Barack Obama.
We know this is but a foretaste of what is yet to come. Romney is saddled with the vexing problem of having spent a political career seeking to be all things to all people. In the end, this leaves him looking patently inauthentic to, well, everybody. After all, when you have been on both sides of every issue, from immigration and abortion to health care and global warming, it’s difficult to win voters on the strength of your firm views on the issues.
What’s left to him is the sordid business of personal attacks on the nation’s first African-American president.