Mitt Romney is running against a different man than the Pied Piper of "transformational change" who danced and floated to victory against John McCain in the 2008 presidential election. Romney's opponent is that man's clone -- scaled down to one-eighth the size. He's a much smaller and distinctly meaner version of the Barack Obama of four years ago, and he knows how to fight in only one way -- small and dirty.
Instead of promising to heal the earth, cause the oceans to recede, and create "new industries and millions of new jobs that pay well and can't ever be outsourced," President Mini-Me is constantly on the attack -- but only over the most trivial or irrelevant of issues. And there is not bit of truth he won't bend or break.
As the Wall Street Journal commented in its lead editorial on April 26:
One of Mr. Romney's trickiest challenges will be how to handle Mr. Obama's, er, veracity. More than any President we've seen, this incumbent is willing to say things that aren't in the same area code as the truth. He gives himself credit for the natural gas drilling boom, the deficits are still Mr. Bush's fault, Mr. Obama has never raised taxes, and "green jobs" in his dream economy are blooming by the millions.
In fairness to President Mini-Me, one may recall the old legal adage: When the law is on your side, you argue the law; when you have the facts, you argue the facts; and when you have neither, you pound the table.
And so the president goes around the country pounding the table on issues that are totally misleading or grossly overstated. He goes around righting wrongs that exist only within the overwrought imagination of liberals whose minds are permanently stuck in the righteous and indignant mode of thought.
Last week, the president was at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to promise more loan forgiveness to college students -- as if universal free (i.e. government-paid) college education were the next urgently-needed entitlement… and as if the guarantee of spending four years in college at government expense might solve the problem of extraordinarily high unemployment among college graduates and others under the age of 30.
With his habit of pulling "facts" out of the air, the president claimed that the nationalization of the student loan market two years ago had somehow "saved" billions of dollars -- money that might otherwise have gone to privately owned banks in the form of profits. Why should anyone in his right mind think that the worker bees in the Department of Education would do a better job of processing and making loans than their counterparts in the nation's banks?
It's too bad one of the students didn't have the wit to ask the president whether a more profitable bank sector might result in more jobs for graduating students.
A week earlier, President Mimi-Me was pounding the table on another pseudo-issue -- in promising to do battle against unidentified speculators said to be manipulating oil and gas prices.
"So today," he proclaimed in the Rose Garden, "we're announcing new steps to strengthen oversight of energy markets… I call on Congress to pass a package of measures to crack down on illegal activity and hold accountable those who manipulate the market for private gain at the expense of millions of working families."
Is there a staler joke in all of politics than the notion that politicians can drive down prices at the gas pump by going after speculators?
Maybe someone will explain to the president that speculators actually play an important role in stabilizing many markets, including the oil market. It is their willingness to take risk that allows others (including utilities and the millions of working families served by them) to control or avoid risk.
Not that he would listen.
Clearly, this is a president who needs every diversion he can find from running on the record of his first four years in office. And the last thing he wants is to do a 180-degree turn in embracing market-based as opposed to government-directed decision-making.
That is why he and his supporters have conjured up a whole series of diversionary issues over the past few weeks.
First, the administration went out of its way to pick a fight with social and economicconservatives who were sure to be offended by the Department of Health and Human Service edict that employers, including religious organizations, must cover the cost of contraception in their health plans. Apart from any moral objections to the edict, why should the federal government tell employers and employees what their health insurance has to cover? Still more, why would the government intervene to cover such a small cost (contraceptive pills hardly fall under the category of a catastrophic expense requiring insurance protection)?
What the brouhaha over contraception has done is to shift the larger debate over Obamacare and the future of the nation's health care system into a boiling teapot of false accusations to the effect that Republicans and conservatives are waging a "war on women" in opposing a senseless (and, indeed, a mischievous) government edict.
Then there was the rush-to-judgment over the death of Trayvon Martin -- allowing gleeful leftists to call anyone a racist who did not join the lynch mob of those who leapt to the conclusion that his slaying must be and could only be a racially-motivated hate crime.
Finally, there is the "Buffett Rule," which the president mentions at every stop -- as if it would make a huge difference in setting the country on the road to fiscal probity as well as "social justice." The Buffett Rule would oblige those earning more than $1 million to pay at least 30% of their annual income taxes, whether it was earned income (already taxed at a 35 percent marginal rate) or capital gains (now taxed at 15%).
According to the president's White House National Economic Council, this proposal would do little or nothing to bring down the federal deficit. It would raise a mere $4 to $5 billion a year in new revenue.
Worst of all, in doubling the capital gains rate, the "Buffett Rule" would represent a major new tax on investment coming in the midst of what has already proved to be the weakest economic recovery in the past 60 years.
But no matter.
The Buffett Rule does one thing rather well: It allows President Mini-Me to talk about "fairness" and to wage class warfare against top earners while diverting attention from his own record of economic ineptitude and failure.
The Wall Street Journal concluded its editorial by saying:
Mr. Romney can't let the President get away with this, or Mr. Obama will conjure a vision of unreality that enough voters might believe. The challenger has to find a way to mock the mirage of an "economy built to last" without sounding arch or personal. He needs his own vision of Reagan's "there he goes again."
I would say let President Obama pound the table all he wants -- given that he has neither the facts nor any understanding of what it will take to fix an ailing economy on his side. The more the president dissociates himself from the candidate he was four years ago, the better it will be for Romney -- and the country. Mini-Me will be his own worst enemy.