Democrats weren’t long in trying to blame Mitt Romney for the over-the-top denunciation of President Obama by singer Ted Nugent. Nugent told an audience at the national convention of the National Rifle Association that Obama was “vile,” “evil,” and “America-hating” and vowed that “if Barack Obama becomes the president in November again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year.” Subsequently, Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz sought to rally her partisans to pressure Romney to condemn Nugent because he has publicly endorsed the likely GOP nominee.
But rather than allow the kerfuffle to fester, the Romney campaign has quickly responded to the charge. Romney spokesperson Andrea Saul issued a statement today that made it clear the candidate wouldn’t allow himself to be associated with Nugent’s rhetoric.“Divisive language is offensive no matter what side of the political aisle it comes from. Mitt Romney believes everyone needs to be civil,” Saul said.
While lacking the drama that Bill Clinton achieved when he rebuked rapper Sister Souljah for suggesting African-Americans would be justified in killing whites, it still provides Romney with an opportunity to put a little air between intemperate right-wingers and him. In 1992, Clinton seized on Souljah’s comments specifically to prove to the American public that he was moderate and to distance himself from Jesse Jackson who criticized him for his attack on the singer. While Romney doesn’t have quite the same need, he has nothing to lose by establishing an elevated tone in the campaign.
It should also be noted that Wasserman-Schultz should be careful about making too much about the nasty things said by right-wing artists. For every one Nugent on the right, there are a score of left-wing comics, singers and actors who routinely say hateful things about Republicans. If the DNC chair is going to start keeping tabs on the likes of Nugent, she may find herself spending much of the next few months apologizing for comments by liberals.