Hoping the third time’s the charm: Kevin Drum commented on our second post about the “Swiss bank account” line of attack. For Drum’s take, and those of his commenters, just click here.
Nothing we say is meant as a criticism of Drum’s post, with which we semi-agree. (Although, in truth, we never much care about candidates' financial statements.)
That said, our basic reactions are unchanged. Speaking more slowly, we'll try to state them, hoping our third try's the charm:
First, we’re unconvinced that these character attacks will work. Although of course they could.
Second, we smell desperation in the air—and the smell grew more pungent last night as MSNBC sponsored extremely obscure ruminations about when Romney “really” left Bain.
Why do we smell desperation? In part, this is why:
In yesterday’s New York Times, Richard Oppel fact-checked an ad by Obama. In the process, he described some of Romney’s most basic proposals.
Romney’s proposals are simply astounding. Here’s part of what Oppel wrote:
OPPEL (7/12/12): One of the ad’s main claims—that Mr. Romney’s plan would raise taxes for 18 million working families—is accurate, according to data from the nonpartisan Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center. Assuming the extension of the Bush-era tax cuts and alternative minimum tax relief, those taxpayers who would see their federal tax bills rise under the Romney plan (almost 11 percent of all filers) would have an average increase of $885, the center found. The overwhelming number of people in this category make less than $50,000...Especially given the state of income inequality, those highlighted proposals are astounding. Almost surely, these are the craziest basic proposals in modern campaign history.
The ad does not mention that about 118 million filers would get a tax cut under the Romney plan. That includes nearly everyone making $100,000 or more...
The ad’s other main claim—that “millionaires” would get a 25 percent cut in their average tax rate—is also accurate, the data suggests. According to Roberton Williams, senior fellow at the Urban-Brookings center, the average federal tax rate on incomes over $1 million would fall to 23.3 percent from 31.4 percent under the Romney plan, a roughly one-quarter decline.
Even in this state of heightened inequality, Romney would raise taxes on 18 million families with low or moderate incomes. At the same time, he would give a very large tax cut to those whose incomes exceed $1 million.
Nearly everyone making over $100,000 would also get a tax cut.
Those are the most astounding proposals in modern campaign history. They fly in the face of the need for more revenue. They fly in the face of the very low tax rates currently paid by high earners.
We’ll guarantee you that very few voters are familiar with these proposals. Even fewer understand the surrounding facts which make them so astounding.
Yes, we know—Oppel is discussing an ad from Obama. And yet, the Democratic Party and its cable hacks are now talking almost exclusively about a (former) Swiss bank account and Romney’s date of departure from Bain.
Last night, the claims on MSNBC were so far in the weeds that the kudzu couldn’t get there. Presumably, these conversations were pleasing to true believers, who know how to view them.
For ourselves, we find it hard to believe that these ruminations will prove effective with other voters, although that could always be wrong.
For whatever reason, the Democratic Party seems to have decided that it can’t communicate about basic policy matters. Romney’s basic proposals are astounding—the craziest in modern campaign history. But our team is now working from this script: Noun verb Swiss bank account.
Will that be effective? We don’t know. It smells like desperation to us.
Traditionally, campaigns launch free-swinging character attacks when they see their chances fading. In effect, these attacks are “Hail Mary's.”
We have been getting that “Hail Mary” feeling as we’ve watched these recent attacks. And by the way, how well founded are these attacks? In this morning’s New York Times, the basic reporting is casting doubt on the gravamen of the attacks about Romney’s exit from Bain.
Last night, the same objections to Obama’s line were strong on CNN.
Meanwhile, is something actually wrong with the fact that Romney once had a Swiss bank account? We don’t know, but we feel unsure that the public will care. And even in Wednesday’s Times editorial, Romney’s potential explanations were abundantly clear. Are we sure there's a real issue here?
Maybe something more will emerge. But we’re amazed to see a (former) Swiss bank account trumping those crazy proposals.
Disinformation has ruled our world for at least several decades. Perhaps we’ve reached the point where Democrats can’t make headway on policy matters, even against basic proposals which are nearly insane.
We’d be happy to see more disclosure from Romney—but Romney’s proposals are crazy. When we talk about Swiss bank accounts in the face of such lunacy, what does that choice mean?
Last night, even the kudzu couldn’t find Lawrence. Will persuadable voters go that deep in the weeds? Everything is possible, but our lizard ain’t quite saying yes.