By Brigitte L. Nacos
When the going gets tough in election campaigns, especially, when the White House is the prize at the end of the race, it is hardly surprising that candidates and their camps hit each other as hard as possible—often ignoring all rules of fairness and aiming their punches under the belt in the hope to land a knock-out.
President Obama and his surrogates have been hitting former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney hard, particularly with their relentless questions and accusations concerning the GOP candidate’s decisions as head of Bain Capital, his refusal to release more tax returns, and his decision to keep a considerable part of his private fortune abroad.
When the Romney campaign’s counterpunches failed to remove Bain Capital and tax returns from the mass-mediated campaign exchanges, Romney and/or his staffers decided to send a proven attack dog into the rhetorical battle: campaign co-chairman John Sununu, former governor of New Hampshire and disgraced chief-of-staff of President George H.W. Bush.
Yesterday, while speaking about the flaws in Obama’s small business policies during a conference call with reporters, arranged by the Romney campaign, Sununu said: “I wish this president would learn how to be an American.” Although later claiming that he misspoke, he said during an appearance on FOX News earlier in the day that Obama “has no idea how the American system functions, and we shouldn’t be surprised about that, because he spent his early years in Hawaii smoking something, spent the next set of years in Indonesia.”
The implication here was that President Obama is not an American and, given the reference to his years in Indonesia that he may well be a Muslim.
Sununu, a man with a major role in the Romney campaign, expressed the same outlandish ideas as the lunatic fringe of right-wing conservatives that spreads anti-Obama rumors and conspiracy theories about the president’s birth place and religion, and accuses him and his supporters of subversive, un-American objectives and activities. After all, they are convinced, he is an imposter, an illegitimate chief-executive.
More troublesome is that even Mitt Romney seems desperate enough in efforts to distract the media and the electorate from the controversies surrounding his role in Bain Capital, his tax returns, and the locations of his private accounts by alluding to President Obama’s “foreign-ness,” his not being a real American.
During an appearance in Pittsburgh, Romney told an enthusiastic crowd of supporters that Obama gives government credit for individual success, not individuals. This, he said, “is changing the nature of America, changing the nature of what Democrats have fought for and Republicans have fought for. Celebrating success instead of attacking it and denigrating it makes America strong."
And, then, as the applause grew louder, he added, “That's the right course for this country. His course is extraordinarily foreign."
Just like Sununu lecturing of the president that he should learn how to be an American, Romney's “extraordinarily foreign” characterization could have been lifted from the rants of the lunatic fringe that is tireless in perpetuating its conspiracy theories. Obama is not a citizen of the United States, they believe. He is a foreigner.