More on the Mitt Laden Smackdown


This paragraph from Jon Meacham’s piece on the fight over the bin Laden ad captures quite a lot …

Republicans are — forgive the cliché — shocked, shocked to discover that a presidential contender is “politicizing” an important national event. In this sense, “politicizing” might be best translated as “beating us up and we don’t have anything much to say to stop it.” The ad itself raises intriguing, substantive, legitimate questions — and the ferocious, sputtering Republican reaction is proof positive that they know it, or at least suspect it.

As does this one …

Here, however, is the issue. Since at least 1968, Democrats have traditionally been more circumspect than their Republican foes in presidential politics. The lesson of the Clinton years and of Obama’s win of both the nomination and the general election in 2008 is that Democrats need to be as tough as JFK was (tough was a favorite Kennedy term). Is the bin Laden ad fair to Romney? No, not really. But politics is not for the faint of heart.

It’s approached in a very different way. But in the second graph, Meacham is making a similar point to the one I made this morning. The President isn’t trying to be fair. He’s trying to make Romney look weak — two mutually incompatible goals. (In that sense, as the programmers might say, taking it to the level of actually mentioning Romney’s name is a feature not a bug.) He’s trying to demonstrate Romney’s inability to defend the country by demonstrating his inability to defend himself. If you don’t get that, you’re listening to the libretto but not the score.


Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of