Never mind the issues, never mind the incumbent’s lamentable record, never mind a trillion dollar stimulus package that stimulated nothing, aside for the national debt; let’s just bash Mitt. And for what, I ask? For being a successful businessman, that’s what, for making money. So far as Obama is concerned the business of America is no longer business, though what it is, beyond debt mounting on debt, I can’t be quite sure.
Obama insisted last week that it was “extremely appropriate” to target Romney for his wealth. It would seem to be ‘extremely appropriate’ to tackle anybody for their wealth or business acumen, no matter how modest. Will the politics of envy carry Obama back to the White House? I have no idea how well this sort of thing plays in the States but it may very well be the only ace left in the President’s shabby and dog-eared pack.
I read in the Spectator that the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) expressed irritation with Obama recently after he told an audience that “If you’ve got a business – you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” Really, who; the Tooth Fairy, perhaps? “What a disappointment to hear President Obama’s revealing comments challenging the significance of America’s entrepreneurs”, said the group president. Not really; for the American free spirit is something Obama knows little or nothing about.
The Obama team are trying to brush Romney with the tar of elitism. But there is elitism and elitism, is there not? There is the elitism of those who have managed to accumulate some understanding of exactly how business works, and there is the elitism of the detached Ivy League intellectual, who seems to understand how nothing works. Detachment may be an admirable in a university common room; in the White House it’s disastrous. Obama, America’s captain, has still to realise that the ship is going down.
After a brief flicker of life earlier this year the American economy has sunk deeper into the doldrums. Reuters reported recently that retail sales fell in June for the third month running. The thing is the man in the Oval Office does not have a clue what to do. There he is, with a reverse Midas-touch, turning all to brass. He is, as Jacob Heilbrunn of the bi-monthly National Interest wrote, a classic man of the left – well-intentioned but incompetent.
I could say something about the present administration’s abysmal failures in foreign policy, failures which may allow al-Qaeda to get hold of chemical weapons in Syria, but I do not believe that American elections are won or lost on these wider issues, as George Bush found out to his cost. No, it’s still the economy, stupid.
That’s Romney’s strongest card, the economy, a game in which he can play with skill and assurance, a game in which, if properly focused, he can trump Obama time and again. And it should not be thought that he is the unreflective voice of the big battalions. Heilbrunn puts the point very well;
Romney has also attacked Obama’s perceived support for ‘crony capitalism’, saying that the President has a dodgy habit of channelling government money back towards the people and businesses who have supported him politically. If Romney can carry on presenting himself as a self-made man who wants to stand up for business big and small, and Obama as an agent of more powerful forces in Washington, this will hinder the President’s attempts to rekindle his popularity. It will also appeal to independent voters and the Tea Party types who embrace free enterprises but view corporate power, particularly Wall Street, with suspicion.
So, negativity shall not prevail. I seem to hear an old crooner here. Yes, here he goes,
You've got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
And latch on to the affirmative
Don't mess with Mister In-Between.
I can only hope that, come November, America will show it has had quite enough of Mister In-Between, Mister I Really Do Not Know Which Way to Turn. That would seem to be an ‘extremely appropriate’ outcome.