As I wrote last night, President Obama’s attack mode during the Boca Raton debate seemed to suggest that he was the challenger trailing in the race rather than the incumbent nursing an alleged lead. But the president’s nasty streak is also displaying itself on the campaign trail, where he has been trying out one-liners about his rival like a would-be comic at open mic night at a comedy club. Last week’s big yuck was his “Romnesia” crack that alludes to the fact that Romney has changed his positions on some issues. Today, he doubled down on that one by saying Romney had “stage 3 Romnesia” at a rally in Delray Beach, Florida.
One might ask what exactly about cancer, a disease whose progress is generally referred to in stages in that manner, is so funny? But even if we are ready to give him a pass for showing bad taste, one has to question the strategy being employed here. For several months, the entire Democratic campaign seemed predicated on derision and demonization of Romney. But in the first presidential debate the GOP candidate blew that effort out of the water, changing not only the direction of the race but rendering much of the Obama campaign’s material obsolete if not completely irrelevant. Yet despite that, the president keeps playing the same losing hand aimed at denigrating an opponent who strikes most Americans as inherently reasonable. That makes one wonder whether the president’s condescending attitude as well as his sarcasm has a lot more to do with his anger at Romney’s strength and staying power than it does with any tactical political plan. More and more, it’s sounding as if President Obama is just plain mad at Romney because of the growing possibility that he’s going to lose the election.
The president has barely contained that anger at Romney in both of the last two debates, in which he often sought to interrupt the Republican as well as talk down to him. Democrats claim this is just natural frustration at Romney’s slippery tactics as he has tacked to the center in the fall campaign. There is something to that, as there is no doubt that Romney has reverted to his natural moderation after a brief stint masquerading as a “severely conservative” candidate in the GOP primaries.
But Romney isn’t the only one who has changed his positions on some issues. Obama claims it’s a myth that he has apologized for America. But as the Washington Free Beacon noted back in August, he has done so repeatedly.
Of course, perhaps the most egregious instance of an Obama course correction that is the equal of anything Romney has ever said, is the way the president has trimmed his sails on Israel. Judging by the way he clung to Israel last night, you would never know that the president had spent his last three years fighting constantly with Israel’s government over settlements, borders and the status of Jerusalem. Nor would you know that he had deliberately snubbed Israel’s prime minister last month in an attempt to avoid pressure to support “red lines” about Iran’s nuclear program. Romnesia, even at stage 3, isn’t much worse than that.
But these inconsistencies aside, the main takeaway from the president’s campaign in an increasing sense of anger and frustration as the polls show him losing ground. There’s still time for him to reverse this trend, but one suspects trying to be the quipster-in-chief isn’t the way to do it.