Mitt Romney and the Politics of Disrespect

In the second debate, he used a losing strategy that's a GOP staple: belittling the black president.

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After the dustup had settled and Barack Hussein Obama had wiped the smirk off Willard Mitt Romney's face, you could tell Republicans knew that this time their Great Right Hope had been bested like Jack Johnson over James Jeffries.

They fell into the default position, creating a narrative to suit their personal beliefs and biases. There was no way that the man whom Romney-campaign co-chair John Sununu had characterized following the first debate as incompetent, "lazy and detached" was AWOL at this second one. The presidential debate turned out to be a racist's worst nightmare: an intelligent, knowledgeable black man with authority.

The opposition wanted their caricature back.

Rather than facing the truth, they blamed the moderator, Crowley, for daring to ask the kind of follow-up questions that Romney had been ducking throughout his candidacy. They complained about the president treating the presidential candidate rudely in what was no less than an alpha dogfight.

After two solid years of Republican obstructionism -- whose "Country Second" approach to its first and foremost goal of making Obama a one-termer has been laced with a heavy dose of lying about who Obama was and what Obama did or did not do -- the right had come to believe its own propaganda. And Romney, the Etch-a-Sketch candidate, has managed to be both victim and victimizer. In the Denver debate, Romney all but called the president a boy.

While boldly defending his tax plan by saying he won't cut taxes for the rich, Romney accused the POTUS of misrepresenting his economic plan. "Look, I've got five boys," Romney said to Obama. "I'm used to people saying something that's not always true but just keep repeating it and ultimately hoping I'll believe it."

In this week's debate, Romney disrespected the man and his office while trying to put Obama in his place -- again. At one point, in the tone of a nasty boss rebuking one of his employees, Romney told the president not to interrupt him. "You'll get your chance in a moment. I'm still speaking," adding, "I'm still speaking." Romney continued with, "That wasn't a question. That was a statement."

Belittling the president has become a favorite pastime among conservatives since Obama took office. According to them, he is the dupe of a racist Christian minister and a secret Muslim as well. They've characterized the president as someone who can't think on his feet or speak intelligently without the aid of a teleprompter. He's also been made out to be a Marxist who can't understand the American economic system. He's the "food stamp president" who single-handedly has destroyed the American way of life.

And harkening back to those dear old days of the antebellum South when slaves had to produce papers to prove they weren't runaways, America's first black president was forced last year to produced his birth certificate to prove he is not an illegal citizen. Maybe the optics of their treatment haven't fully occurred to Republicans. Or maybe they don't care. But if the most powerful man on the planet, who happens to be black, can't get their respect, what does that say to the rest of the nation's 42 million African Americans?

Here's hoping that as the president serves his second term, Republicans will give that a second thought.