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.

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

(The Root) — It has been a long and tortuous two weeks since the Republicans first began doing the happy dance and attaboying each other after the first presidential debate.

Their guy, Mitt Romney, had whipped that other guy like he owned him. The polls were indicating that Big Mo was on their side. And in the process of his punishing performance, Romney had confirmed what Republicans had been telling each other for four years: That fella occupying the White House was the nation’s first affirmative action president and, by God, that historical disturbance would soon be over. 

All that yee-hawing turned into one big whine and cheese party Tuesday night after the knock-down, drag-out debate, because The POTUS, The Commander-in-Chief, The Leader of the Free World, showed up on Long Island and, in no uncertain terms, demonstrated why Chief Executive Officers are a dime a dozen.

During the bruising debate, Obama and Romney went toe-to-toe over jobs, the Chrysler and GM bailouts, the economy, taxes, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, Planned Parenthood, China, immigration, energy, education and gas prices at the pump and domestic oil production. They even discussed gun control and violence in Chicago.

In this week’s town hall meeting, the tables were turned. 

Unlike the first debate in Denver, where the president was accused of not showing up, this time Romney showed up, but maybe he shouldn’t have. The presidential wannabe made three serious errors:

Sticking to the right’s meme that the president does more apologizing and appeasing than world-leading, Romney charged that it took two weeks before Obama admitted that the murder of three Americans in the United States Embassy in Benghazi, Libya, was a terrorist attack. There is videotape of a White House Rose Garden news conference the day after the murders showing the president describing them as a terrorist act.

In what still remains a too-close-to-call race, Romney’s second mistake was insulting women voters just as polls had indicated that he was gaining ground on Obama’s big lead with them. The Republican not only lorded over the moderator, Candy Crowley, but also misrepresented his efforts while he was Massachusetts’ governor in acquiring “whole binders full of women” as possible candidates to join his Cabinet.