Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Romney needs to throw George W. Bush under the bus. Here's how to do it.

The scene:  Denver, October 3, 2012.  The first presidential debate.  Mitt Romney is on the ropes.  Although the uproar over his "47 percent" comments has subsided somewhat, his campaign is still flailing.  It's been doing a better job of communicating in the past couple of weeks, and mercifully the gaffes have subsided, but Romney's message still isn't getting through.  The surprising thing is that with a month to go, Romney trails Obama by only a few points in the polls.  A strong debate tonight could change the race.

Responding to a question about the lousy state of the economy, President Obama essentially blames George W. Bush.  His predecessor, he says, wrecked the economy with a bunch of discredited policies.  He, Obama, is prepared to lead us Forward.  Romney would take us back to the old days.

Here's how Romney should respond:
"The President seems to wish he was running against George W. Bush.  [pause] Let me say something.  George W. Bush is an honorable man.  I respect and deeply appreciate the way he kept our nation safe after 9/11.  But I have some differences with him, particularly regarding some of his economic policies.  My leadership and presidency would be very different from his.  So respectfully, Mr. President, you don't get to run against George W. Bush.  You're running against Mitt Romney."
Then he moves on to more substantive comments about the economy.

Why should Romney do this?

It's a clear message.  It doesn't get much simpler than "I'm not George W. Bush."  And because ROMNEY REPUDIATES BUSH is a process story, the media will report it breathlessly.  It will be the theme of the night.  It will be on the Today show the next morning.  It will cut through the noise to reach less engaged voters.

It's a message Romney needs voters to hear.  George W. Bush left office with terrible approval ratings.  His presidency is widely regarded as a failure, even by many Republicans.  Obama says over and over that Bush's "failed policies" "got us into this mess," and whether that's fair or not, millions of people believe it.  Republicans make fun of Obama for blaming everything on Bush, but the truth is that Obama keeps doing it because it's effective.  Bush is not a figure Romney can afford to be lashed to.  So cut the knot.

It communicates strength.  "I'm my own man" is a statement of strength and, well . . . manliness.  It's something ordinary people can understand and identify with.  Rhetorically, calling Obama out on his run-against-Bush strategy makes Romney look smart and agile.  Obama is undeniably trying to get away with something, but Romney essentially holds up his hand and says affably, but firmly "Sorry, buddy, I'm not gonna let you do that." It could be Romney's there-you-go-again moment.

It doesn't look too disloyal.  Romney wasn't Bush's vice-president, a member of his administration, or a close confidant.  He's not stabbing a mentor in the back; he's stating a policy difference.  Bush can read polls and would probably approve of this move.  Plus, Romney calls him "an honorable man" and praises part of his presidency (the popular part).  Finally, Obama's willingness to throw people under the bus when it suits him has become a bit of a meme, so he's not in a great position to shout "disloyalty!"

For this maneuver to work in a debate, it has to be executed deftly.  If it's bungled, it could do more harm than good.  I'd be shocked if Obama were not prepared for Romney to do this (after all, it's the logical thing for Romney to do!).  Romney should expect Obama to fire back something witty about how Romney sure seems awfully similar to Bush, and Romney should be prepared with a comeback himself.

And of course, Romney should be prepared to say what he would have done differently from Bush.  He doesn't have to get too specific here, and he could use that question to gently ding Bush while pointing out that Democrats share plenty of blame for the financial crisis (Barney Frank and Fannie Mae, anyone?).

But this is my prediction:  If Romney throws Bush under the bus, and does it resolutely and with good humor, the headlines on October 4 will be "Romney: 'I'm No George W. Bush."  Pundits will be tweeting about Romney's "game-changing" debate.  The Obama campaign will be scrambling to respond.  And voters will be taking a new look at this candidate who says he's his own man, not like that other guy they didn't like.

Oh, and George W. Bush will be dusting off the bus tracks.  He'll be fine.

Good Morning

Movie Quote of the Day:
"You're the one who said I could do anything I wanted. This is what I want."
~ Mona Lisa Smile

Song of the Day:
Augustana, "Boston"

Happy Birthday:
Lance Armstrong
Frankie Avalon
Robert Blake
Benjamin Carson
James Gandolfini
Greta Garbo
Samuel Johnson
Agnes De Mille
Jade Pinkett Smith

Monday, September 17, 2012

Good Morning

Quote of the Day: 
"When all this started, I asked myself, 'Am I going to withdraw from the world, like most people do, or am I going to live?' I decided I am going to live or at least try to live the way I want, with dignity, with courage, with humor, with composure."
~ Mitch Albom

Song of the Day:
The Beatles, "Lovely Rita"

Happy Birthday:
Anne Bancroft
James Brady
Mark Brunell
Warren Burger
Marquis de Condorcet
Phil Jackson
Baz Luhrmann
John Ritter
Rita Rudner
David Souter
Hank Williams
William Carlos Williams

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Kitchen Cabinet Turns Ten

Ten years ago today, someone hit "Publish" on this blog for the first time, and the Kitchen Cabinet was born.  My co-bloggers and I were third-year law students with a shocking amount of spare time, and blogging proved to be an entertaining and not entirely worthless way to fill it.

Posting slowed when we graduated and started jobs.  I got married.  The other Kitchen Cabineteers had to stop blogging.   Posting became even less regular in recent years, when my sons were born. 

Yet even when I've been away from the blog, I've felt like it was part of my identity.  I enjoy writing something more challenging than thank-you notes and grocery lists.  And I can always tell myself, when there's an idle thought I want to set loose upon the world, "I should blog about that."  Even if I only sporadically follow through on that threat, at least the outlet saves me from becoming one of those people who post about politics on Facebook (shudder).

The KC doesn't have a lot of readers, but it does have some long-time ones.  We I have enjoyed getting to know you, linking and being linked.  Thank you for being here for this blog's first decade.  I hope you'll join me for another one.