The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

In her Wall Street Journal column Friday morning, preeminent conservative self-satirist Peggy Noonan suggested that Mitt Romney needs to use humor to make his case. “Wit breaks through and sharpens all points,” Noonan wrote in her column Friday. “Another is that it is natural to him.”

Humor is natural to Mitt Romney?


Whether it’s dressing up in a police uniform, joking about layoffs or even cutting off a boy’s hair because it was too long to suit society’s conventions, Mitt Romney’s definition of humor makes as much sense to most Americans as this hawkish pro-Vietnam War protester spending the Vietnam War in a palace in France.

Just hours after Noonan’s column appeared Mitt Romney made what he later called a “joke.” Appearing at a rally in Commerce, Michigan, the soon-to-be GOP nominee said, “Ann was born in Henry Ford Hospital. I was born in Harper Hospital. No one’s ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know this is the place where we were born and raised!”

On Sunday morning, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince  Priebus reiterated that the this was Romney’s attempt to add some “levity” to the campaign.

Republicans are laughing the way that people in power tend to laugh – at other people. It’s the opposite of humor. It’s meant to demean and degrade. It’s the mark of a bully.

Since the day President Obama was inaugurated in 2009, there have been two distinct efforts to delegitimize his presidency. The Republican establishment organized the first. A group of congressional Republicans, including Romney’s choice to be his running mate Paul Ryan, met with Newt Gingrich and GOP message guru Frank Luntz to formulate a policy of complete opposition to everything this president proposed. The party of Nero was basically embracing a policy to reject any fire fighting or rebuilding. The philosophy was: if we act as if we’re the minority, we’ll stay the minority. So just reject everything

While despicable, this bullying did not differ much from the policy Bill Kristol famously suggested for fighting health care reform early in Bill Clinton’s administration: “Simple criticism is insufficient,” Kristol wrote in 1993. No compromise would be tolerated; instead he advisedan aggressive and uncompromising counterstrategy designed to delegitimize the proposal and defeat its partisan purpose.”

The second thread of the effort to bully the president was much more cynical and vile than the establishment’s legislative stonewall. It revolved around race and branding the president as “un-American.”

As the Republican Party’s base rebranded itself as the Tea Party movement,  conservative media outlets began making a case that this president was not legitimate in several ways.

First of all, they suggested he wasn’t properly vetted because John McCain never used Reverend Wright in a political ad. Sarah Palin may have insinuated that Obama was a terrorist sympathizer but no one had sufficiently exploited images of a ranting black preacher. Then right-wing media asserted that Obama’s election wasn’t legitimate because of ACORN registering poor and minority Americans to vote.

But the most persistent thread of the delegitimizing effort is the “birther” movement, which charges the President of the United States with treasonous fraud that would force him out of the office. This movement encompasses the xenophobic assertions that the president is Muslim and in every way “the other” — the same meme mainstreamed by Newt Gingrich as a “Kenyan anti-colonial behavior.”

The birther thread hit its apex in the days before the mission that captured and killed Osama bin Laden, when the President released the much-ballyhooed “long-form birth certificate” birthers had been demanding.

Both the official and unofficial efforts to delegitimize the president are still very much in effect. The GOP refuses any compromise, even as experts guarantee inaction will result in a recession. Only 34 percent of Republicans think the president is Christian, according to a Gallup poll in June. 18 percent believe he’s Muslim.

What Mitt Romney has done in the past few weeks is embrace the official effort to delegitimize the president by selecting one of the architects of the policy—Paul Ryan. He has also gone out of his way to appeal to unofficial attempt to play dirty racial politics by embracing a false charge about welfare that can only be intended to stir racial resentment.

Making his birther “joke” and inviting unrepentant birther Trump to participate in the convention, Romney has sent a signal to all Republicans that he’s willing to use both angles to attack a president who is still well regarded by a majority of Americans.

Romney’s dalliance in racial politics is bound to result in some difficult questions for the former governor. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has a complicated history with race issues, including the fact that black Americans were only allowed into its priesthood beginning in the late Seventies.

How would Mitt feel if the president appeared at a non-Mormon house of worship and said: “It’s nice to be in a church where I could have been a priest before 1978”?

It’s impossible to imagine the president doing anything so blatantly divisive. Especially because the president is actually funny. But that’s the kind of nasty wedge politics Mitt is embracing. And it’s no joke.

Photo by brownpau via Flickr.


Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

Donald Trump
Youtube Screenshot

Allies of former President Donald Trump have advised members of the Republican Party to cool down their inflammatory rhetoric toward the United States Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation following the execution of a search warrant at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida on Monday.

Trump supporters, right-wing pundits, and lawmakers have been whipped into a frenzy over what Trump called a "raid" by federal agents in pursuit of classified documents removed from the White House during Trump's departure from office.

Keep reading... Show less

Former President Donald Trump

Youtube Screenshot

On August 20, 2022, Donald Trump will have been gone from the White House for 19 months. But Trump, unlike other former presidents, hasn’t disappeared from the headlines by any means — and on Monday, August 8, the most prominent topic on cable news was the FBI executing a search warrant at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home in South Florida. Countless Republicans, from Fox News hosts to Trump himself, have been furiously railing against the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). And in an article published by Politico on August 11, reporters Kyle Cheney and Meridith McGraw describe the atmosphere of “paranoia” and suspicion that has become even worse in Trumpworld since the search.

“A wave of concern and even paranoia is gripping parts of Trumpworld as federal investigators tighten their grip on the former president and his inner circle,” Cheney and McGraw explain. “In the wake of news that the FBI agents executed a court-authorized search warrant at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida, Trump’s allies and aides have begun buzzing about a host of potential explanations and worries. Among those being bandied about is that the search was a pretext to fish for other incriminating evidence, that the FBI doctored evidence to support its search warrant — and then planted some incriminating materials and recording devices at Mar-a-Lago for good measure — and even that the timing of the search was meant to be a historical echo of the day President Richard Nixon resigned in 1974.”

Keep reading... Show less
{{ }}