Political Animal


July 17, 2012 3:46 PM Nasty As They Wanna Be

By Ed Kilgore

One of the prevailing assumptions about the presidential campaign has been that there would be a division of labor between the Romney campaign and the big conservative Super-PACs, whereby the former would promote some sort of “positive” message and the latter would savagely attack the president (much as Mitt’s Super-PACs did to his opponents during the primaries—or at least opponents not named “Ron Paul”).

You have to wonder about that division of labor given the recent utterances of official Romney surrogates, via a report from BuzzFeed’s McKay Coppins:

In a brutal campaign conference call Tuesday organized by Mitt Romney’s campaign, several of the candidate’s surrogates went after President Obama with fiery attacks accusing him of socialism, and being un-American.
“I wish this president would learn how to be an American,” said former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu said toward the beginning of the call. Asked later to explain his comment, Sununu said he was referring to Obama’s economic philosophy, and apologized for not being clearer.
Sununu also said that by asserting Romney had committed a felony, the Obama campaign was inviting an investigation into its own “Chicago-style” politics. He concluded the call by calling Obama’s campaign “clearly and unequivocally liars….”
Earlier Tuesday, Sununu made several of the charges in an interview with Fox News, suggesting that his words on the conference call were part of a new Romney campaign effort to turn the focus of the race away from questions about his time at Bain Capitol.
“He has no idea how the American system functions,” Sununu told Fox. “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, another set of years in Indonesia, and, frankly, when he came to the U.S., he worked as a community organizer, which is a socialized structure, and then got into politics in Chicago.”

All righty then. Now even if you figure the Bain attacks are an existential threat to Team Mitt, and are appropriate for the campaign itself because they strike at the core of Romney’s Bain-centered “positive” message, this is pretty uninhibited stuff. And even if Sununu went off script (which is unlikely), you don’t put a guy like him out there unless you want some really hammer-headed talk. So the mystery remains: what kind of messaging might conceivably be off-limits to the campaign but not to the Super-PACs? The mind reels.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • schtick on July 17, 2012 3:54 PM:

    And I wish the tealiban would stick to facts.

  • c u n d gulag on July 17, 2012 4:00 PM:

    Over a half-dozen dog-whistle's!

    So, congratulations, Mr. Sununu!
    You're today's winner of Konfederate Keno!!!

    And you did it without resorting to the old, time-tested, "N*GGER!!!"


    "N*GGER!!!" screams, coming soon.
    Very soon!

  • T2 on July 17, 2012 4:01 PM:

    as the Obama spokesperson said, this is Romney getting desperate a month before he's even nominated. Sununu is a moron, a GOP hitman with no reputation to lose, but he is only the first wave. I don't think there is anything off-limits when you start the fight by calling a sitting president un-american and a socialist.
    Romney gave a very animated (for him) speech today, some of which was carried live on MSNBC (or whatever it is now). A pretty impressive list of distorted facts and figures mixed with outright lies, but nevertheless delivered as if he meant business, for a change. He will need to bring that everyday from now on to stay in the game. If the Media is going to broadcast him without making any attempt to correct his statements...why not go for it. And hire every slimy GOP operative in DC to double-down on every distortion. One notable thing about todays speech....not one shred of policy escaped his lips.....just Obama is a loser over and over.

  • Gandalf on July 17, 2012 4:04 PM:

    Sununu is an asshole. He has always been an asshole and he will always be an asshole. How completely moronic do you have to be to say that a guy who got elected president of the united states doesn't know how the american system works. Maybe Sununu thinks that central american dictators know how the american system works and that's what we need here.

  • stormskies on July 17, 2012 4:07 PM:

    Sununu is nothing more than a shit stain in the back of Lucifer's pants .. that's why the rancid abscess of his 'soul' stinks so much .....

  • Daryl McCullough on July 17, 2012 4:09 PM:

    What sort of stuff are they leaving to the super-PACs? Maybe accusations that Obama used the CIA to assassinate Michael Jackson and Andy Griffith.

    Make that: he used IRS agents...

  • Mark Rubin on July 17, 2012 4:20 PM:

    Flailing, as in drowning, sinking, going down, etc.

  • g on July 17, 2012 4:21 PM:

    Sunnunu has slipped the bonds of decent behavior. He should be shunned by decent human beings. Which means that Republicans will embrace him with fervor.

  • Celui on July 17, 2012 4:22 PM:

    So--Obama "doesn't even know what the 'American System' is"???? Just what, please, is 'The American System'? From a thorough reading of the analyses of the "Robber Baron" era, one would conclude that the 'American System' is wealth beyond measure, gained, not earned, by the oppression of minorities, the disenfranchised, and the immigrant laborers who are discarded quickly when the wealth accumulates to a certain level. What is 'The American System'? The Tammany Hall 'Honest Graft'? The Jim Crow South? The 'Manifest Destiny' that destroyed countless native Americans? What is the 'American System'? Wealth for wealth's sake, disregard for the poor, loopholes conceived and perpetrated by those bought and sold?

    What is 'The American System'???

  • ComradeAnon on July 17, 2012 4:26 PM:

    Yeah. Add c u n d gulag's prediction to the pile. I bet we'll get at least a "That Black Man" out of them.

  • Mimikatz on July 17, 2012 4:27 PM:

    Romney was just so unprepared for the Bain attacks, it is kind of hardto fathom. As Greg Sargent said yesterday, he apparently has a tendency to overreact to score some short-term advantage in a way that does damage to his long-term interests. The Obama people either knew this or at least divined from the primary debates that Mitt was very thin-skinned and just started putting this stuff out to see what Mitt would do, and he hasn't disappointed.

    Mitt is just making it worse and worse for himself. He's just so Bain.

    Don't miss this video. http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/07/17/1110970/-New-video-You-re-So-Bain-Wow

  • 4jkb4ia on July 17, 2012 4:30 PM:

    Harvard Law School, which seems to do perfectly well teaching people how the American system functions, has been conveniently left out of this bit of biography.

    Ed Gillespie evidently wants to be quoted in the NYT saying that Obama has "Chicago-style economics", which can have more than one meaning.... (4jkb4ia's sister-at-the-CBO graduated from the Harris School)

  • dalloway on July 17, 2012 4:31 PM:

    Sununu's inane comment did just what it was supposed to: it changed the conversation from Bain to what he said. In basketball, they call it an intentional foul, most often used when you're down by a lot with only a few seconds to play -- yes, you pay a price for the foul, but you gotta get that ball back.

  • Erik on July 17, 2012 4:33 PM:

    I think there's a real reason for the aggression to come directly from the campaign, and you've even alluded to it. The campaign really does see the Bain attacks as an existential threat.

    The non-coordination clause may be tissue-thin, but it does prevent the campaign from calling the Super-PACs and saying "Do something NOW to distract the media!" When the goal is to stop losing the media cycle, the only resources that can be brought to fight are directly associated with the campaign, thus Sununu's attack. The Super PACs will weigh in eventually, but it will take at least a few days if not longer.

    You may question whether going on a wild attack will actually accomplish what they want and sufficiently distract the media. But if they feel that's their only option and that it must be done immediately, this is the only way they can reliably do it.

  • DAY on July 17, 2012 4:33 PM:

    Next up: Limbaugh recycles his "Chelsey the White house dog" rant.

    -there's a pair of nappy headed pickaninnys, playing with Bo, a black and white foreign dog on the White House lawn. Don't fall in the water melon patch!

  • Diane Rodriguez on July 17, 2012 4:33 PM:

    The mystery of what's in Romney's heart is solved. This stuff only fires up the Obama haters who would never vote for him anyway. Romney can’t distance himself from Sununu and he has thrown himself off the cliff of any semblance of moral high ground. Now the question is how long before he just gives in and starts shouting “he’s Black – how dare you choose him over me ( as Charles Pierce so eloquently puts it) Bitches!” His desperation is palpable.

  • internet tough guy on July 17, 2012 4:41 PM:

    Mitt's convention speech is going to be...interesting. I think a good preview would running Pat Buchanan's '92 speech through Auto-Tune, though, to be fair, Auto-Tune might sound more authentic than the actual speech.

  • Josef K on July 17, 2012 4:50 PM:

    I try to imagine what kind of attacks Obama surrogates might offer to match those of Sununu, and am coming up blank. Romney's such a pathetic candidate he just has to speak and you're immediately turned off. Given this, plus his already visible flaws as a human being, campaign trash talk about him just doesn't work.

    Guess that means we're in for a few months of non-stop bolivation and empty promises on the GOP's side.

  • SYSPROG on July 17, 2012 4:54 PM:

    PSSSSSSSST...a REAL American knows that Hawaii has been a state since 1959.

  • grambo59 on July 17, 2012 5:00 PM:

    I need to know what kind of American name is Sununu?

    I'm surprised he hasn't changed it to a real American name.

  • Rick B on July 17, 2012 5:03 PM:

    I'm somewhat surprised at the extremist language out of the Romney camp so early, but C U N D has it pegged. That's where they are going. They are already about 90% of the way to peak extremism. This before Romney gets the official nomination.

    Erik (4:33) explains it. They saw Romney's experience at Bain his credentials for election, and now they feel a real existential threat in the attacks on Bain. It was attacks on Romney's Bain record that beat Romney for Senate, too. Since Romney's record as governor is off limits (it'll weaken his tea party support in an election which is shaping up as a contest to turn out the base) and Romney can't run on his charm and charisma, he's in real trouble already.

    On top of that Romney's staff appears quite incompetent. The misspelling of America is only one example. Also they seem to be incapable of taking the lessons of history in prior elections, to include his Senate race. "Bain" has been their big gun and they have no real reserves.

    Going negative worked for Romney in the primaries, but he was faced there with the escapees from the Republican clown car. Now he's up against an A-Team, and his frustration is clear in the nature of his campaign.

    Limbaugh is going to get a workout this fall.

  • T-Rex on July 17, 2012 5:26 PM:

    Sununu is and always has been a foul-mouthed, foul tempered loose cannon, and was probably sent out by Team Romney for just that reason. Now will someone, in the media or on the Obama team or ANYONE, please call him out for lying blatantly about the accusation of "felonies?" What was actually said was that if Romney lied on his SEC reports it WOULD HAVE BEEN a felony, but he probably didn't, being to smart to do that. Which means instead that he was being disingenuous, at best, when he claimed to have left Bain in 1999. Lying to the American people is a fine old political tradition, but not a felony, unless of course Clinton does it and Republicans control Congress, in which case it's an impeachable offense.

  • Ron Byers on July 17, 2012 6:15 PM:

    g on July 17, 2012 4:21 PM:

    "Sunnunu has slipped the bonds of decent behavior. He should be shunned by decent human beings. Which means that cable news will embrace him with fervor."

    There I fixed it for you.

  • H-Bob on July 17, 2012 7:21 PM:

    Wouldn't "smoking something" make Obama far more like most Americans than Mitt's abstinence-only behavior ?

  • Doug on July 17, 2012 8:37 PM:

    Celiu, the "American System" was a platform of the Democratic-Republican party back in the early 1800s. It proposed government spending on public works (roads, canals), setting up a National University and encourging the settling of the Old Northwest and Louisiana Purchase territories via those canals and roads mentioned earlier among other things.
    Definitely NOT something any modern-day Republicn would support, so I have no idea why Sununu was using it.//EoS//

    Sununu's outburst is just another example of the desperation of the Romney campaign. Romney's whole campaign has been based on how his "experience" at Bain qualifies him to be President. Romney has already divorced himself from his term as Governor of MA, take away Bain and what has he got? He dare not use the Olympics as a sample of his business "experience", because with the massive Federal, state and local government funding THAT might easily be worse for is campaign than Bain.
    There's also that "tribe" thing I see mentioned so often here and elsewhere. If there's one member of the Republican "tribe" that is treated, and certainly considers itself, as more important than ANY other, it's corporations. Undoubtedly because, without corporations THERE IS NO REPUBLICAN PARTY!
    Democrats could, as best as I can tell, survive, locally AND nationally, without unions, but the Republicans couldn't survive, certainly on a national level, without the vast amount of funds it receives from corporations. It's those funds that allows the GOP to win in any but the most local of elections. Attacking a corporation, even a corporation such as Bain, is seen as an existential threat to that funding and will provoke outbursts such as Sununnu's.
    Well, that and the fact Sununnu's an ass...

  • TCinLA on July 17, 2012 9:32 PM:

    Romney is the perfect representative of that part of White America whose only "advantage" was the accident of their birth, an advantage that has become less and less useful, to the point they now see themselves threatened as existentially by the coming demographics change as Romney does when he gets nailed as he has been.

    Cornered animals are vicious, and we are just starting to see the viciousness come out.

  • lgerard on July 18, 2012 12:20 AM:

    “He has no idea how the American system functions”

    Sununu certainly understood how the American system functions....you stick the taxpayers with the bill for your billionaire lifestyle, and then lie about it.

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  • Stephen on July 18, 2012 8:51 AM:

    “He has no idea how the American system functions,” Sununu told Fox. “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, another set of years in Indonesia, and, frankly, when he came to the U.S., he worked as a community organizer, which is a socialized structure, and then got into politics in Chicago.”

    They sound desperate and scared.

    Makes me believe now more than ever that there is something damning in Mitt's tax returns.

  • Wally on July 18, 2012 1:09 PM:

    Dalloway has it right I am sorry to say. Sununu did this to change the media attention from Bain to anything else. And since the media has a childlike attentions span....

    I think most here agree that this was done because the Bain attacks were viewed by the Romney campaign as successful. But just look at Meme-randum today. No more Bain stories. Sununu killed them, apologized and promised to return to throwing any shit on the wall he can find. (BTW, this is Sununu junior, continuing the proud tradition of Dad, the original hatchet man.)

    Reporters do care that Sununu is an ass. They also care that Dennis Rodman, Donald Trump, Snookie and Roger Clemens are asses. But those reporters do love to interview, quote, and write about those same asses.

    Can we have a Charlie Sheen for Obama press conference? At a bar preferably.

  • RaflW on July 18, 2012 3:39 PM:

    One notable thing about today's speech....not one shred of policy escaped his lips.....just Obama is a loser over and over.

    And that message is a looser. It will motivate the base, but Mitt has to win independents to win the election. He has no vision. He has no plan. He has nothing to offer except how horrible Obama is.

    Mitt is totally off message at this point. He may think he's hitting Obama on the economy, but he's just spewing anger. Shiny-teeth Mormon anger, sure, but it's clear that he's been moved to personal animosity now.

    That animosity that Gramps displayed in a debate, the one where they could pace around the ring, I think really hurt McCain.

    The 'centrist', low-info people still want a veneer of "my good friend" crap in politics. One of Obama's weakest points in 2008, I think, was the "you're likeable enough" moment to HRC.

    But now Obama is drawing out Mitt's anger and a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ressentiment">ressentiment and it will harm candidate Mitt for the mushy middle.