Political Animal


October 25, 2012 5:44 PM Obama Stones Romney

By Ed Kilgore

As you may have heard by now, Rolling Stone has just published an interview (with essay) of the president by historian Douglas Brinkley, and like most Rolling Stone interviews with presidents, it will get a lot of attention. Conservatives are already beginning to hyperventilate over this passage:

“You know, kids have good instincts,” Obama offered. “They look at the other guy and say, ‘Well, that’s a bullshitter, I can tell.’”

My gut feeling is that this remark, like Jimmy Carter’s “I’ll whip his ass” remark about Ted Kennedy in 1980, will be deemed an acceptably mild obscenity uttered in the heat of battle. But given Mitt Romney’s own thin skin, it could have unfathomable repercussions in RomneyLand.

Much of what Obama said in the interview was campaign boilerplate, though he certainly did slap down the idea that Mitt Romney is best understood as a weathervane rather than as the champion of an extremist ideology:

[W]hat I’m absolutely sure about is that we’ve got the better argument. And Governor Romney understands that. It’s the reason why, after a year and a half of campaigning on plans that very clearly were going to involve $5 trillion worth of tax cuts, he’s trying to fog up the issues, because he knows that the American people aren’t buying what he’s selling….
But understand, there’s no doubt that what he has campaigned on for the last year is what he believes, because we’ve seen it before.

Take that, Matt Bai!

Reading the whole piece very quickly (I may have more to say tomorrow), perhaps the most startling thing came not from Obama but from Brinkley, who came away from the interview (which presumably included some off-the-record exchanges) convinced that after dealing with unemployment and the basic direction of the economy, Obama would make action to deal with climate change his top second-term priority:

While Obama doesn’t wear an Inconvenient Truth T-shirt, he nevertheless understands that environmentalism makes for good business in the 21st century. The high seas and savage winds of fossil-fuel abuse are upon us. Obama has made clear that addressing climate change is the issue of most long-term consequence facing not only America but human civilization itself.

Maybe this is wishful thinking by Brinkley, but if (as I happen to think) there is substantial truth behind it, it’s all the more shocking that it’s a subject that’s off the table during the stretch drive of this campaign. But then again, as a child could tell you, there’s a lot of BS going on.

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.


  • sjw on October 25, 2012 5:57 PM:

    Liar, sleezeball, Nixonesque, sure, but "bullshitter"? No, that word has never come to my mind.

  • Doug on October 25, 2012 5:59 PM:

    I suspect selling intelligent responses in the guise of promoting "green" energy production, and thus job creation, will be major component of any plans President Obama and his advisors have concerning climate change. Unfortunately, there are too many people, many of whom vote, who somehow have the impression that "government spending" is inherently wasteful (whereEVER did they get that idea?).
    Which leads me to believe that the non-existance of climate change during the campaign is, at least on Mr. Obama's part, merely a tactical response during a political campaign.

  • emjayay on October 25, 2012 6:32 PM:

    I think it is reasonable to assume that Obama is fairly intelligent and open minded. So, when virtually every scientist on earth who has studied any aspect of climate comes to the same horrendous conclusion, he probably figures they are right. He's just too political, and always politically careful, to talk about it. I think.

    Romney is also reasonably intelligent, but neither open minded nor principled. Who knows what he thinks, but obviously if he's elected will propound whatever the majority, or most highly funded, Republicans say. And who knows what he really thinks. That Romney or any other politician imagines they are entitled to have any kind of legitimate opinion on a complex scientific issue that actual scientists have reached a total consensus on is absurd. Romney has endorsed of course more domestic fossil fuel extraction, making for lower prices (OK, it really wouldn't make much difference, but he thinks Americans think it would) including "clean coal" which I'm pretty sure doesn't actually exist.

    So Obama: some hope of moving to save the Earth. Romney: no hope.

    Of course in just a few decades when NYC is underwater and Florida disappears, we will take action one way or another. As I have suggested before, that will include bombing any coal burning plant in China if they don't close it down tomorrow, maybe dropping a hydrogen bomb in whatever volcano that seems likely to erupt to get it going, dedicating half our electrical generation to run CO2 removal and sequestration facilities (however that would work), planting trees everywhere, killing all the cows, and who knows what other emergency measures. Because ignorant head in the sand ideology or not, fossil fuel burning climate change is real and is guaranteed to be catastrophic.

  • hells littlest angel on October 25, 2012 6:39 PM:

    By the brilliant Harry G Frankfurt definition, a bullshitter is exactly what Romney is. However, Obama's use of this term will demonstrate to right-wingers that he is a ghetto thug, just as Bush calling Adam Nagourney an asshole demonstrated that Bush was a down-to-earth regular guy.

  • anonymous on October 25, 2012 6:43 PM:

    People expect so much of the president.

    I used to run a building as a provider, administering and directing staff, keeping up with Joint Commission standards and Medicare regulations.. And it was all I could do to keep up. Z

    Can you imagine running an entire country...

  • Ronald on October 25, 2012 6:43 PM:

    One thing that people seem to overlook-
    if we reduce the amount of oil we have to import, then the middle east isn't as big of a deal in regards to instability in that region having a major impact on the US economy.
    A rise in the speculative price of a barrel of oil has a direct impact on so many other things.

    There are other things to help with CO2 removal from a scientific point of view. Yes, we need to invest in them, but the real boon to our military and financial stability comes from removing the US from the teat of Middle East oil

  • Ben on October 25, 2012 6:54 PM:

    I really hope Republicans decide to get their knickers in a bunch, thus prolonging the story, over whether or not their candidate is a liar. All because POTUS hurt their fee-fees with an expletive! Talk about losing the bitch-slap narrative (Josh Marshall, stand up and salute).

  • Snarki, child of Loki on October 25, 2012 9:02 PM:

    Ben: the current batch of rightwing conservitards don't seem to be terribly strong in the "self control" department, so you might get your wish.

    IF they can get past the ADD long enough to notice, that is.

  • g on October 25, 2012 9:12 PM:

    Cue the pearl-clutching.

  • Citizen Alan on October 25, 2012 10:25 PM:

    There is no upside to Obama talking about conservation or the environment. Everyone who cares in the slightest about the issue already knows he will be better over the next four years than Romney by several orders of magnitude, so if he talks about green policies, all he'll be doing is stoking the fears of the know-nothing pig people who think that Solyndra is a scandal, that the Keystone Pipeline is a good idea, and that global warming is a U.N. conspiracy. The best thing we on the left can do for the environment is hold the line long enough for a few million Teabagger freaks to die of old age (should probably only take a few years) and then aggressively pursue a Manhattan Project for green technology.

  • Grumpy on October 25, 2012 10:36 PM:

    "Obama has made clear that addressing climate change is the issue of most long-term consequence..."

    In fact, it's so consequential he came this close to mentioning climate change during the debates. But didn't.

  • Susan Kraemer on October 26, 2012 2:06 AM:

    As someone who covered the details of the investments in clean energy under Obama since 2008, it is extremely clear he knows exactly how important it is. So not riling up what someone called the pig people is just saving energy to do what needs to get done..

    He has been simply knuckling down and doing what he can outside of congress, from an executive order to federal agencies to cut their emissions 28% by 2020 (huge part of economy) (ever wonder why the military is now investing in gigawatts of solar and investigating camelina, etc, for jet fuel?) to doubling renewable energy on the grid, doubling mileage for vehicles, shutting coal plants through the EPA.

  • Renai on October 26, 2012 3:41 AM:

    I really wouldn't expect that topic to be broached by Obama, and of course not by Romney.

    Obama has an undeserved reputation for being divisive. Climate change is equally divisive. The political climate in general is divisive...how much vinegar needs to be thrown on the Obama salad before he becomes unpalatable to too many people to win the election?

    That climate change is in Obama's sights for the second term is right and proper. Not discussing it now means he might get a second term to work on it.

    What we know for certain is Mitt Romney will not only NOT work on it, he'll be advocating for continuation of the underlying problems generating climate change. It's so sweet how he's been allowed to skirt that issue, among all the others he's also been given a pass on.

  • Marko on October 26, 2012 7:45 AM:

    A presidential candidate that won't disclose at least 5 years of tax returns? Yeah, I call bullshit, too.

  • Richard Thomas on October 26, 2012 8:37 AM:

    Isn't Obama's not campaigning on climate change simply political? If he opens up on it it will give the Romney team the chance to fulminate loudly about it and divert attention from his weaknesses across pretty well all other fields. After all, climate change may be the one area where Romney might have been consistent.

  • BillFromPA on October 26, 2012 9:39 AM:

    I doubt that the apparently off the cuff 'bullshitter' remark was, well, off the cuff. Obama took this opportunity to call Romney exactly what he is, without the fig leaf phrases such as 'that's not accurate', 'not true, Governor' etc. Willard is a effin' liar, Obama just called him that right before the election and any repug attempt to throw a hissy fit only draws attention the the charge that all but the 'Baggers know is true.